The reason athletes spend countless hours in the gym to train their bodies is to prepare for one precise moment in which they show their strength, power, and force to secure victory. This moment of truth in which you show your ultimate physical attributes is called peaking. It is the moment a bodybuilder’s entire training calendar is built around.
Now, the success of your peak depends pretty much on various factors, including your training, sleep, and diet. But the most important factor is perhaps how well you schedule and structure your taper as it can help you peak at the time you want.
What Is Tapering?
Tapering is referred to as a progressive but planned reduction in the training intensity, volume, and frequency. In other words, this process is a strategic ‘deload’ to promote overall strength and power boost. This move tends to be strategic because it is much more than merely reducing your workout intensity. Tapers usually occur immediately before a competition. Other strategic tapers are a part of the average gym regimen and usually occur every 4-6 weeks.
How Does A Taper Work?
To be able to taper, you first have to train hard and perform better; and then you have to understand the concept of training stimulus and fatigue. When you exercise, you mainly aim for two things:
- Improve your baseline fitness level
- Induce some fatigue in the body
Training-induced fatigue and stress send your body into a recovery phase, during which your performance and endurance increase. As a result, you can lift more weight, increase the number of reps, jump higher, and run faster after a bout of training.
Having that said, combining multiple bouts of training may sketch a different story unless you strategize your tapers well to harvest the desired benefits. This is because when you connect these bouts, fatigue gets the better of your ability to recover, leading to an overall performance decline. In such a scenario, scaling back your load is a way to taper, which allows your body to recover and compensate. As a result, you get to a new fitness level.
Why Do You Need To Taper?
Tapering and peaking are pretty much interrelated when it comes to maximizing strength and resultant performance. For instance, a successful taper can lead to a 6% performance increase. If you think it is not enough, consider the fact that even 1/10th of a percent might translate into a difference between the first and third position in a professional competition.
In simple words, tapering is a vital step in training if you are prepping for a competition. However, it may be optional or even unnecessary if you are just a fitness enthusiast looking to maintain overall fitness. General fitness doesn’t need fatigue to be induced more often. But then, it all boils down to whether you want to challenge yourself by inducing fatigue and then tapering and peaking.
How to Taper
You can taper through many ways. Remember, the tapering protocols you should follow may not be the same as those for the others. For instance, you may need to reduce training frequency, while your peer or competitor may be recommended to reduce their number of steps or reps.
However, you may still need to go with the same intensity. This is because maintaining intensity helps preserve your strength and the required fitness level. On the other hand, maintaining the training volume while reducing the workout intensity may lead to fatigue when you do not really need it.
Another point to ponder is the length of a taper and the sport you taper for. The tapering protocols for a lifter will be different from those for a sprinter.
Generally, stronger athletes will need to taper for at least three weeks. On the other hand, less advanced athletes may need to taper for a week. Lifters usually need to taper for 1-2 weeks to achieve the ability to peak at the time of need.
Here is a summary of the steps you must perform to taper successfully.
- First off, identify your competition. This is what your training regimen is built around.
- Reduce the number of sets on accessory movements at the start of the taper.
- In the second week of the taper, reduce the number of reps when performing main movements.
- In the third and final week of the taper, reduce your training intensity further. However, avoid being absent from the gym.
When tapering, make sure that you are not training for failure. All your reps should be fast and smooth. Drop your weights and head to the exit the moment you feel your form has started to break down.
Tapering and peaking generally break the training momentum, which is typically characterized by pushing the mind and body limits. This presents a challenge for professional fitness trainers as they have to practice restraint from going with full intensity. The best way to counter this pitfall is to stop and take a moment to focus on the bigger picture. Think of your long-term goals, you will not give in to the temptation to train for failure.
Measuring your workout can go a long way toward concluding a successful taper and achieving peak performance levels. One of the best ways to measure your performance is to use Vitruve, the VBT tool to help you scale up or down your workout frequency and speed according to your fitness requirements. This tool employs a linear encoder that connects with the barbell to measure its movements from different aspects. This device can be wirelessly tethered to a smartphone or tablet, where you will see your workout metrics.