What is tapering and how can I use it?

A common performance enhancement technique used by both athletes and coaches is tapering, whereby training intensity (therefore, internal stress) is drastically reduced 7-21 days pre-competition. Research has shown that tapering can influence numerous physiological factors that positively impact performance, including a delay in blood lactate accumulation, an increase in muscle glycogen levels and an increase in the number of oxidative enzymes found in the blood stream and in muscle fibres.

Tapering can be controlled with the following variables: the frequency of sessions per week, the intensity of each session, the volume of training (duration of each session) and the duration of the taper. So… why taper and not simply reduce training volume? Simple! Research has demonstrated that tapering has been shown to increase muscular power and decrease muscular fatigue whereas reducing training volume has not.

Whilst planning tapering to improve performance, it is highly recommended to follow the following points: Training should be reduced in an incremental fashion, ultimately leading to a 60-90% reduction. Training intensities should be in zone 3 (approximately 90% VO2max) with sufficient rest in-between. Training frequency should not be reduced by more than 20%, as an attempt to practice the biomechanical requirements of the sport.

As training volume and intensities are drastically reduced during a tapering period, athletes must be encouraged to confirm plans with coaches.

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