Erholung vor dem Wettkampf: Tapern – Klar, aber wie?

Taper is an effective method to recover from a high training load and to optimally prepare for a competition. The benefits of tapering have already been proven in numerous scientific studies. But what is the optimal length and what should training look like in the taper phase?

In a study, Canadian scientists compared different tapering methods using a training model and examined the results in the training practice of triathletes.

Two different tapering methods were investigated: a stepped tapering, in which the training load was reduced at the beginning of the 14-day taper phase and then kept constant, and a tapering method, in which the training load was reduced exponentially (i.e. a lot at the beginning and little at the end) over 14 days . The training was reduced so that after 5 days 50% of the normal training load was reached. In addition, a distinction was made between a slow (50% of the normal training load after 8 days) and a fast (50% of the normal training load after 4 days) reduced method for the exponential tapering methods.

The results show that all test groups were able to increase their performance through tapering. Exponential tapering was significantly more effective than stepped tapering. In addition, the scientists were able to show that greater progress in performance can be achieved with a rapid, exponential reduction in training load.

But what does this mean for training practice?

Implementing the tapering methods used in the study in a training plan naturally requires sports science background knowledge and mathematical skills. First of all, it is important to know that the training load is made up of the factors of training duration, training intensity and training frequency . In order to reduce the training load, you have the option of reducing the number of training hours per week or training less intensively. The first option has proven to be significantly more effective for optimal tapering in numerous studies.

The following training example shows what a taper phase could look like:

An athlete trains an average of 17.5 hours per week (average 2.5 hours per day) in the last six weeks before the taper phase. In the subsequent 10-day taper phase before his main competition, he wants to reduce the amount of training by around 50% every 5 days. The training intensity is maintained. So in the first five days of the taper phase he has to train for a total of about 9 hours. From day 5 to 10 of the taper phase, he trains for a total of around 6.5 hours. In the taper phase, he reduces his training volume by 40%.

The optimal length of the taper phase depends on many individual factors, the amount of training, the level of performance and also the length of the competition. In most cases, 8 to 14 days have turned out to be optimal. The reduction in training load should be between 40 and 60%. With very high training volumes, this value can also be higher. With an individually optimal taper strategy, performance increases of up to 3% can be achieved.

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