In January 2008, I introduced readers to the concept of periodization, a process for developing training plan specificity. Periodization is the process of dividing an annual training plan into smaller phases, each defined with precise training volumes, intensity levels, and frequencies of preparation. Through this process, a coach and player can design a training program leading an athlete to be at his best when peak performance is desired.
This involves a normal routine, an overload, and a taper. A taper is a reduction of the volume and frequency of training, but not the intensity levels of the training, prior to a competition. Taper occurs a certain number of days before a major competition, normally 10 to 28 days before. In this article, I will focus on taper and address the components of an overload phase, which precedes the taper.
“The plan calls for a gradual reduction in training volume (expressed in 1000 m increments). Michael’s average volume during the heart of the season would be 6000 m in the morning and 7000 in the afternoon. The formal taper program begins 20 days out and follows a two week period where the volume was gradually reduced by about 20 percent over peak levels. However, the intensity of the work remains constant.”
—Coach Bob Bowman speaking about Michael Phelps’ 2007 World Championship preparations in which he won seven gold medals and broke five world records.
The goal of a taper is to reduce both accumulated the psychological and physiological stress and fatigue associated with an ongoing and long-term daily training routine. Without a reduction in volume and ...
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