If you are reading this blog, you workout so that you can perform at your peak during your most important competitions of the year. Knowing when and how to back-off from your weight room training is huge for bringing out your best performance, when it is needed most!
What is Peaking for Competition?
Like the video above describes, peaking is the act of ensuring that you are at the top of the curve during your most important competitions (like Nationals for example).
The challenge is balancing rest/recovery with maintaining a training stimulus.
All training is reversible. When you stop strength training, you get weaker; when you stop jumping on a regular basis, you don’t jump as high.
Stop training too early before competition, and you risk losing your hard earned strength and athleticism when you need it most.
As much as I enjoy sun and sand…if you spend all summer relaxing at the beach, you can’t expect to be as strong or jumping as high you are at the end of a full season of training.
On the flip side, if you keep training right until the day of competition then you risk being tired or sore during play.
Stop too early and you are weak and slow, stop too late and you are tired and sore. So when is the right time to back off on training?
How quickly do I lose the results of my hard work?
Mike Young, the Vancouver whitecaps strength coach, posted this on his blog outlining detraining time frames:
Physiological markers of fitness and performance can drop off with as little as 5 days of deconditioning. 5 days…that’s a long weekend holiday.
He goes on to explain that different time frames for de-training exist for different physiological characteristics.
Days 1-2: Beta-endorphin and adrenaline levels drop. Mood is affected negatively.
Days 3-5: Muscles lose elasticity. Aerobic capabilities drop off 5% by the fifth day off.
Days 7-9: Body’s ability to use oxygen (VO2 max) drops by 10%. Less oxygenated blood is pumped with each beat.
Day 10: Body’s metabolic rate begins to drop. Eat less or you’ll gain weight.
Days 11-13: Maximum heart rate and cardiac output decline by 15%. Muscle tone sees first appreciable loss.
Days 14-16: Mitochondrial activity (energy production) in muscle cells begins to decrease rapidly. Loss of muscle mass, strength and metabolic rate occurs.
Days 17-19: Body becomes less efficient at thermoregulation. You are forced to spend excess energy cooling off.
Days 20-21: VO2 max has dropped by about 20%.
Days 22-25: 10-15% loss of muscle mass and that lost mass is replaced by fat.
Days 27-29: Muscle strength drops by as much as 30%.
The above assumes that you are doing ZERO training during that time frame. In reality, coaches tend to pile on extra practice in the weeks leading up to major competitions, and that must be accounted for when planning weight training workouts.
Just tell me the answer… when do I stop working out before Nationals?
If you are really strong and have 3+ years of training under your belt, then tapering can be a complex process that lasts a month or more.
Thankfully, it’s a little simpler for most of my clients who are still yet to hit their 18th birthday and only have a year or two at most of training under their belt. Here’s the process that has shown to work great for us.
3 Weeks before a major competition:
Train as usual. If you stop at this point, you will likely see decreases in performance by the time competition rolls around. Now is not the time to change up your program, as introducing new exercises is usually accompanied by additional soreness.
2 Weeks before a major competition:
Decrease volume on strength exercises, but maintain intensity.
Often athletes make the mistake of ‘taking it easy’ during their workout by using less weight than they are used to. An example of a poor choice would be completing your lunges with 20lb weights as opposed to the 35’s you usually use.
Using sub maximal weights doesn’t put the body under enough stress that recognizes it needs to maintain its strength.
A much better option is to decrease the total volume. Rather than doing 3-4 sets of lunges, do 1-2 sets.
The same principle can be applied regardless of where on the strength/velocity continuum you are working. Keep the intensity the same, but decrease the number of sets you do of each exercise.
1 Week before a major competition:
Use this time to rest and recover. In addition to the obvious foam rolling, sleeping, and recovery emphasis, any training that takes place outside of practice should excite the nervous system more than fatigue muscles.
If you must train… you can keep a small amount of the low weight, high speed exercises like body weight jumps, medicine ball throws etc. in your program.
Keep your workouts short. You should be energized as you leave the gym rather than exhausted! There will be plenty of time for more training next off season!
If you liked this article, share it with your friends and don’t forget to check out the top 5 training errors that kill athleticism!