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What is a Taper?

And when do you need to put one into your training?

If you’ve been training consistently for a few weeks, you may have come across a point in time where your body feels a little beat up. Your sleep is unchanged, nutrition unchanged but yet feels like you’ve just been through a workout from hell. Have you ever experienced any of the following:

  • Feeling tired even when you’ve had 7-8 hours sleep
  • Taking a little longer to recover from work outs
  • Failing to hit old personal bests

It might be your body telling you to take a break.

But when I say break, I’m not giving you permission to drop everything and watch YouTube video’s all day (unless they’re from my channel! Subscribe HERE). A taper/deload doesn’t mean a complete break from training.

A taper or deload is simply a period in your training where we reduce our training to allow the body to rest.

Tapers and deloads are utilised in athletic performance all the time. A 100m sprinter will often have very hard training sessions, then one week out from competition their coaches will drop their sessions in various ways. Maybe a reduction in number of practice sprints, number of gym sessions, or maybe the intensity of the overall session. There is a method to this and it has to do with periodization and adaptation to training.

During the weeks leading to the race, the sprinter would be undergoing a heavy and intense training program. His/her body is being pushed to the absolute limit in order to get stronger and more explosive. But we don’t get stronger in the gym or on the track, we get stronger during our rest period. During our rest the body is going through a process of growth and repair, but also adaptation. By the next session it’s hoped that the sprinter has adapted and become accustomed to the intensity of previous sessions and can now work at an even higher intensity – to continue growth.

A deload would be required when training volume (the total amount of workouts as well as the intensity) has increased so high that the athlete is starting to break down or plateau with improvement. A deload can vary in duration but traditionally it lasts for about a week. This will give our sprinter enough time to recharge the batteries, give the nervous system a bit of a break, focus on recovery – all of which will help with adaptation and improvement in the future.

During the deloads for my clients, we simply reduce the sets or reps for their workouts in that week. So if they were doing 4 sets of 8 reps for bench press, we’d deload to 2 sets of 8 reps. Same weight, just a reduction in sets. This allows them to still lift ‘heavy’ but the decreased volume will allow the body to not take too much fatigue from that week and can focus on recovery. During this week we also spend lots of time on foam rolling and relaxation techniques.

So to wrap it all up, a taper/deload is a period of time (about a week) where we reduce the volume and/or intensity of our training to allow our body to recover fully and in turn – adapt and grow. Try adding one in every 4-6 weeks, focus on your nutrition and recovery methods during this period and see the results!

Also guys I just wanted to quickly tell you that registration for my next 16 week Challenge opens soon! If you’re looking to not only get stronger and leaner but also smarter along the way visit the Coaching Page and fill out an expression of interest form.

Reality is that I don’t take on everyone – this is because coaching is a relationship and we need to gel well. So successful applicants will be contacted. To stay in contact and ask me any questions why don’t you join my VIP Facebook Group? I guarantee you’ll learn something new in 6.71284 seconds upon entry. Request access HERE

Christopher Watts

Author Christopher Watts

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