After 5 weeks of stressing over minutes and scores and training and everything else that is involved with the Opens, we can all finally relax. Farewell to the beginning of the 2013 season. Looking forward from here, in just over 1 year after opening its doors, Reebok CrossFit Back Bay managed to place two teams into the Regionals competition!!!!!!!!!!!! We did it!!!!!!!!! Every rep, every PR, and every effort counted towards the fantastic success of our gym. We are delighted and thankful that you were all part of this and also for everyone who competed, cheered, was invovled. From here, there are a few things you guys need to do now…
Here is the fourth and last part of Coach Justin’s strength write up. If you didn’t get to read the first three parts…do so. They are all quick and very informative reads…
Peaking athletes for competition AKA how and when to taper
Our final discussion on strength programming will revolve around the tapering phase or “pre-competition” phase of an athlete’s program. This phase is arguably more important than the preparatory phase because it allows an athlete to focus on recovery and ultimately peaking their performance for a major competition. We will also end with a brief discussion on the role and importance of accessory exercises for the Olympic lifts.
What is a tapering phase and how does it work?
The typical program for a competitive weightlifter will involve a couple months of ramping up training volume. This period is known as the “preparatory” phase and will typically tax the athlete’s body, mind, and nervous system to a point near total failure. Advanced athletes will typically complain of colds and diarrhea during the most volume-intensive periods of this phase. If this volume continues, it would be in no way sustainable for the athlete. Therefore, following the preparatory phase there must be a “pre-competition” or tapering phase. This phase will involve far less volume and far more intensity (more max lifts and typically no more than 2 reps per set). This continues up until the final week before competition in which the athlete will perform a training session involving both low volume and low intensity. This allows the athlete’s body, mind, and nervous system to reset somewhat so that they are at their highest performing potential for the competition. In training phases without a competition, there must still be a tapering phase which acts as a transition between preparatory phases so that the athlete can recover, effectively reducing symptoms of over-training. In long seasons with multiple competitions, it is impossible for an athlete to reach a 100% peak multiple times. Therefore, it is important to pick one major competition per season for the athlete to reach their fullest potential. In our case, this competition is the CrossFit Games (or Regionals for athletes with a smaller chance at qualifying for the Games).
Why must we taper?
As mentioned, tapering is essential to prevent over-training and to allow an athlete to reach their highest potential. This is the reason that we as coaches cannot have you constantly increasing training volume in an effort to “outwork” your opponents. The phrase “train smarter, not harder” is very applicable when it comes to tapering periods of heavy volume. Tapering does not need to be done with a competition in mind — for example, we taper many times in training that ultimately builds up to Regionals and the Games. This phase is relatively short and allows the body to reset, while total training volume increases from one preparatory phase to the next all the way up until the Games. This is a common practice which allows an athlete to gradually increase their strength and conditioning while minimizing injury and excess fatigue. I cannot stress the following point enough: proper recovery is infinitely more important than what happens during training sessions. This is why proper training practices must include tapering and de-loading periods.
Accessory exercises, how often and when?
There are a series of accessory exercises which can be added to a training program to increase strength and proficiency with the Olympic lifts, and I would like to end our discussion with a very brief overview. Things like squatting, pressing, and segmented portions of the Olympic lifts are absolutely essential for improving one’s abilities with the Olympic lifts themselves. For this reason, these exercises are written in as a direct component of a successful training program. The ultimate goal is to minimize the number of accessory exercises (with the exception of squats) as an athlete becomes more technically advanced. Most importantly, accessory exercises count towards total training volume! For this reason, try not to add too many of them on your own without the permission and involvement of your coach. A general rule of thumb is that pressing can only be performed twice a week while heavy dead lifts can only be performed once while still maintaining optimal recovery.
Hopefully these discussions have been helpful in giving you a better idea of how a strength program should be designed in order to achieve the desired results in a competitive athlete. Hopefully it will also answer your questions about why we perform strength work in the fashion we do at Reebok CrossFit Back Bay. Any further questions, comments, or concerns can be sent directly to me at email@example.com