Peaking and Tapering
There are many ways to set up a taper for individual athletes. It is important to comprehend that each athlete will peak or taper in a different manner. During the last program prior to competition, dropping volume is a very simple way to trigger a peak, but many questions need to be answered prior to setting up the competing athlete.
-What is the event in question?
-How important is this meet?
-What is my current training volume?
The event in question will dictate a lot of things. The three sports I will address are Olympic lifting, Strongman and Powerlifting.
In each of these if the meet is of limited importance overall you will likely only want to cut tonnage down to 70-75% the week prior to the event, and most of the volume will be completed at the beginning of the week. If the meet is something of large importance, take for example US Senior Nationals, you will drop a great percentage of volume. Many athletes will see good results when dropping to 70-80% of volume two weeks out from competition and then cutting to 45-60% of volume one week prior to competition.
Powerlifting variations can provide a 7-10 day window for deadlifts, a 3-5 day window for squats and a 2-4 day window for presses. When addressing a peak specifically for pulls (deadlifts) we recommend drastically cutting volume out on exercises pulled from below the knee 7-10 days out. We have seen positive results with only 10-15% of pulling volume from below the knee.
In Olympic weightlifting, some athletes respond well by peaking with variation lifts that will keep intensity lower, while others peak well by only focusing on competitive lifts. Squat volume would be low to minimal but intensity could vary dependent upon the athlete’s reaction. During the week of competition, 80-90% of the work should be done 3-5 days out from competition. The 1-3 days prior would be the lifts and in their entirety however probably not greater than 85-90% intensity.
Strong man will be highly dependent on the lifts in question. Though you will likely see stones and might be best to be limited to 10 to 7 days out for most of the volume similar to the deadlift. Any volume from rack pulls or above the knee pulls should be cut entirely, 3-5 days out from competition. When 1-2 weeks out, the competitor should be sure to focus on the competitive movements of the Strongman event, to ensure any technical inefficiencies are handled properly. The 1-3 days prior would be the lifts and in their entirety however probably not greater than 80% intensity. The 1-3 days prior would be the lifts and in their entirety however probably not greater than 75% intensity also 1 to 5 times on a 60 second medley to maintain muscular endurance for events.
Concluding remarks: In the end, the coach and the athlete will have to come up with the best formula for the individual as people are highly individual in their ability to peak. It is best to go in with a method written down, detailing the intricacies to learn lessons from each peak in hopes to modify and fine-tune the program for optimal peaks in the future.