An Athletes guide to Tapering for Peak Performance

As it gets closer and closer to competition time dialling back your training in order to freshen up and unlock your fitness improvements requires you to dial back the training and dial up the rest.

Fatigue masks fitness, when we achieve peak performance we aren't actually at peak fitness but peak freshness.

With all tapering, the goal is to allow an athlete more recovery time and space in their week to freshen up before competition. While it is admirable to want to train and train and train, rest is still a vital part of the equation.

You can’t drop to zero training though and become fused with the couch, so what is the best method for staying fit and strong while still allowing some rest and regeneration to occur?

The 100:90:50 peaking protocol

Our prefered method of tapering for performance is a protocol where you maintain training frequency (100%), slightly reduce intensity (90%), and substantially reduce training volume (50%).

This is known as the 100:90:50 peaking protocol.


Maintain 100% frequency

Frequency is how often you are training, and come deload time (for most athletes) keeping frequency at 100% of normal is the best way to keep you in rhythm both physically and mentally.

Changing up your routine as you get ready for a finals campaign or major event is not a great idea. Keep your routine familiar.

Maintain 90% (or higher) intensity

Studies are continually showing that tapers, where the intensity of training stays high, are significantly better than when intensity is dialled back.

  • Maintenance of peak strength and power.
    Fatigue of any type is ultimately due to the inability to maintain power. Given power is force x velocity it makes zero sense to cut out the strength training.
  • Hold onto your enzymes.
    You can read more about sport specific fitness here but the summary is that true sport specific fitness is all about anaerobic capacity and repeat sprint ability. The anaerobic systems key limiting factor is not in the making of energy but in removing all the waste products that build up (hydrogen ions and inorganic phosphate for example). Removing these and keeping the muscles internal environment happy and non-acidic is one of the keys to maintaining that high power output late in the game/race and it’s primarily the job of enzymes to deal with these by-products. The sad reality is these enzymes are incredibly disloyal and start to waste away within only 48 hours. Keep them high by keeping the high-intensity fitness work in the schedule

Reduce to 50% volume

A volume reduction of about 50% is the secret sauce to an effective taper.

Cut your reps/sets/time/distance in (roughly) half.

Do the same warm up, cool down, keep the rest periods the same. Just do half the actual work sets.


4x6 @100kg lift could can become one of the following:

  • 4x3 @100kg
  • 2x6 @100kg

A 4x6 @100m @90% sprint session can become:

  • 4x3 @100m @90%
  • 2x6 @100m @90%
  • 4x6 @50m @90%

A 4x3 minutes @85% laps can become:

  • 2x 3 minutes @85%
  • 4x 1.5 minutes @85%

It’s a little trickier for team sports and skill training but cutting high-intensity drills and scrimmages shorter, incorporating more frequent drink breaks, shorter total session length or adding more stationary drills can all be ways of reducing volume.


You should finish the session feeling a little frustrated like it was a bit too easy and almost a waste of time.

It wasn't a waste, cool down, go home and rest up. Mission accomplished. Training is 100% the best way to get better.