I was lucky enough to recently be present at a keynote presentation by Inigo Mujika at the ACSA Conference (he has some good videos on this blog). He is someone that has helped me form many of my views on tapering. The last phase before competition is the tapering phase. In this phase you can make a performance gain of 0.5-6%. If the taper is preceded by a short overreaching period (planned over training), the gains during the taper can move towards the upper end. In this post I will outline tips to optimise your taper.
The equation for performance has been simply put as performance = fitness – fatigue. The best taper will maintain or improve fitness (via super compensation), whilst minimising fatigue. The main way we reduce fatigue is by reducing training volume, but training frequency and intensity should be maintained as much as possible. Maintaining intensity will help with maintaining or improving the fitness qualities during the taper. The tricky thing with GS tapering is how to define intensity, ie – as a percentage of heart rate or as the weight of the kettlebell lifted. I think in this case a better option during the taper is to use the competition weight as much as possible. Maintaining training frequency will help you maintain your ‘touch’ or technique. Hopefully, this will ensure you have the most efficient technique on the day of the competition.
Inigo Mujka suggests there are four different ways to reduce your volume, or structure your taper. There is a step taper, linear taper, exponential fast decay or slow decay. Very simply, the tapers could work like this – step taper, this might involve cutting the volume by 50% for two weeks, as the name implies linear would have a constant gradual drop in volume, whereas exponential would have a variable drop in volume. Exponential may be the most useful, however tapering is different for everyone so you need to find what works for you.
If you choose to include an overreaching phase in your preparation you should be careful the first time you want to implement it. You may wish to add a few extra sessions or increase the duration of your current ones over 7-14 days and progressively work up to 28 days. Generally, a taper will work well over 14 days, however if you included an over reaching phase you should increase this to 21-28 days. Don’t get to carried away with the overreaching. GS involves relatively few movements, so it can be very easy to get overuse injuries.
So to summarise, generally a normal taper should take roughly 14 days, but if you overreach beforehand it should be increased to allow the body to supercompensate. Training frequency and intensity should be maintained. Below are some practical ways to use an exponential taper, as well as a few tips to improve your taper:
Stop cross training 14 days out or 21-28 (if overreaching), reduce volume or cut out accessory movements, whilst maintaining normal GS volume/frequency and intensity.
14-7 days out – slightly reduce volume of GS, whilst maintaining frequency/intensity,
7-0 days out – low volume of GS, still maintaining frequency/intensity (for most sessions).