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The LHP Guide to Meet Tapering (Part 2)

Welcome back to part 2 of this blog series, where we will look at tapering and deloading into a meet without losing adaptations. Let's jump right in.

(If you need to refer back to Part 1, click here.)

Tapering & Deloading Without Losing Adaptations

To get the most out of a peaking phase, it should follow volume and preparatory phases. Without the rest of the cycle, peaking doesn’t have the same effect. That said, the other training phases are a topic for another post. This series assumes you have already correctly implemented these phases. A good coach will construct a meet peak and taper using the guidelines discussed in this series as a sort of "base model." Then, as you prepare for more meets, they will adjust accordingly based on your performance. The longer you stay with a coach, the better they are able to get to know you, your body and your brain, and what does or doesn’t work for you. Using Goldilocks and the 3 bears as an analogy, you may have to try a few strategies before finding the one that is "just right" for you. You may also find that what works for one meet prep may not work (or not work as well) for another--but this is another topic for another time.

Detraining and Overtraining Into Meet Day

The two most common mistakes powerlifters make in the last few weeks before a meet are de-training into a meet and overtraining into a meet. Both result in a less than stellar performance on meet day (note: this doesn't mean you'll have a horrible meet, it just won't be as great as it could have been). Detraining into a meet basically means that a lifter has taken too much rest, whether it be because they took too much time off of lifting completely(this is when that whole week off can come back to bite you), or just tapered too aggressively--usually by not using enough intensity or volume in the last few weeks, or dropping intensity too soon. This results in a loss of those nueromuscular "strength" adaptations, and usually everything will end up feeling very heavy on meet day. (There are other factors that can have the same effect--dehydration, for example, but we'll get to that in the next post.) Let's think back to that sliding scale from Part 1. Lighter female lifters who are new to competing are the most likely to come into a meet detrained, often because their meet prep advice came from a larger male friend or significant other. In part 1, we learned that lighter lifters, female lifters, and newer lifters will need to push their training closer to meet day to hold onto strength adaptations until they hit the platform. Heavier lifters, male lifters, and those with a higher training age will need the most dramatic deload/taper. This is where lifters and/or their coaches will need to make like Goldilocks and figure out which bowl of porridge is "just right."

On the flip side, many powerlifters also OVER train into a meet. This is usually caused by training too much volume or intensity (or both) too close to meet day, but can also be affected by nutrition (especially caloric intake), hydration, stress levels, phase of menstrual cycle (females only, obviously), and sleep. We'll save those other things for the next post, but the takeaway here is that the lifter goes into meet day still fatigued, and will not perform as well. There are many ways to combat this issue--my go to is autoregulation. While there are many ways to autoregulate training, in this context I am referring to controlling training intensity on a daily basis rather than forcing a linear progression, which can often lead to overreaching too early (or overreaching at all, if overreaching wasn't part of the plan).

Using autoregulation to keep intensity at the desired level, whether it's RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion), RIR (Reps In Reserve), or another method, allows the lifter and coach to take more variables into account in a given training session. This can go both ways--it allows the lifter to take advantage of good days as well as make the most of bad days while keeping intensity relative. For examp