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Tapering strategies to enhance maximal strength

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In the lead up to a competition Powerlifters and Weightlifters are always looking for an edge to ensure they perform at their peak on the day.

In a collaborative research project with researchers from Auckland University of Technology, Massey University, Bond University, and, UCOL’s Dr Hayden Pritchard and Dr Bob Stewart, the sport and exercise scientists have identified that reductions in training volume, with maintained or small increases in training intensity, seem most effective for improving muscular strength for competitions1

Taking a break following a period of hard training may also play a role, with less than one week being optimal for performance maintenance, and two to four days appearing to be optimal for enhanced maximal muscular strength.

Known as tapering, the process of reduction of training load is well known, yet until now there has been limited research specifically related to maximal strength for application in weightlifting or powerlifting.

While previously a major reliance on only anecdotal evidence was available for optimal tapering strategies, this research adds some scientific support for the strategies mentioned above. The research also explored the relationship between muscle strength, fitness and fatigue, including the role of complete muscle recovery, greater neural activation, and an enhanced anabolic environment2.

The findings have application not only to strength-based sports, but may assist sports that are primarily aerobically based. Coaches seeking an edge to support their clients perform their best at competitions now have the scientific grounding to be able to incorporate tapering into their training schedules effectively.

1Effects and Mechanisms of Tapering in Maximizing Muscular Strength (PDF Download available from ResearchGate)

2Tapering Strategies to Enhance Maximal Strength (PDF Download available from TUWHERA).

Image above is by Victor Freitas courtesy of unsplash.com.

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