By Coach Evan

What you’re in for:

  • ~550 words
  • 2-3 minutes reading time

The aim of this post: to provide a quick, easily digested guide as to how to maximise your performance at a sporting competition. Like a pop tart, but more educational… and re-usable..?

Note – this is likely to be most specific to those who are entering powerlifting meets. For sports such as olympic weightlifting, track and field sports or combat sports, we don’t recommend that you try and prepare yourself. Due to the amount of skill involved in performing these at a high level, it’s probably best that you hire a coach.

Pre-Competition – What’s The Aim Of Your Training?

In the period shortly before a competition, the aim of your training is simple – to maximize performance at the competition. In the context of the powerlifter, this is pretty simple – you wanna lift the most on the platform, right?

Generally, this is done by means of a ‘taper’. When looking to maximise your performance, the tapering phase becomes pretty damn important – in fact, it’s one of the most important components of an athlete’s training cycle (Hooper, 1998).

The Taper

We can define the taper as “a non-linear reduction in training load in attempt to reduce the stress of daily training and optimize performance” (Mujika, 2000). This handy little graph demonstrates this visually – the height of the blocks on the top represents the total training volume, and the peak in the line below represents the day of the competition.


Load for peaking

The “Realization or peaking” block represents our taper.

What A Taper Looks Like In Reality

So, a real life taper.

When attempting to optimize performance, we need to:
– Reduce training load to bring down levels of fatigue and allow fitness to elevate (Mujika, 1996)
– Maintain or slightly elevate intensity to prevent detrainting (Houmard, 1994)
– Keep training as specific to competition as possible

Having read some books (I love me some training literature), we can come up with the following recommendations that I’ve adapted from Bompa (2009), Mujika (2003), and Bosquet (2002)’s findings:

– Utilize between 1 and 4 weeks based upon the needs of the individual. Weaker individuals are likely to need less of a taper, whereas much stronger individuals (who require a much higher training load to progress) are likely to need a slightly longer taper.

Maintain or increase training intensity. In the context of a powerlifting meet, this tends to wind up as you doing singles at 90%+ of your 1RM for a given lift.

Reduce training volume by 40%-60%. By upping the training intensity, you have to decrease the number of sets and reps you do in order to decrease the total volume. An example of this would be going from 8 sets of 3 at 85%, to 10 singles at 90%.

Maintain or slightly reduce training frequency. If there’s one movement in particular which particularly fatigues you, it might be an idea to reduce the frequency with which you train it during the taper.

Keep program variables highly specific including rep ranges used, rest periods, exercise selection, and exercise order. In the context of a powerlifting meet, you want your training directly before the competition to mimic the environment of the competition as much as possible.

These recommendations are not strict, just foundations to keep in mind when designing your program. Cater to the needs of the individual and be specific in all areas of your program and you’ll likely see a great performance on competition day.