Articles
Tapering for Olympic Weightlifting Competition
Greg Everett



All the fancy, productive training in the world doesn’t mean much if you can’t put it all together in competition and demonstrate the ability you’ve developed when it counts. There’s more to this than simply the final 1-2 weeks of tapering in a cycle, but that’s what I’m going to focus on here. Just bear in mind that this is part of the process of peaking for maximal lifts, not the entire thing—although to be fair, you can squeeze a lot out of the final 1-2 weeks without doing anything differently prior that.
 
The purpose of tapering is simple—to eliminate as much accumulated fatigue as possible while maintaining as much strength, power and speed as possible. This is done primarily through the reduction of training volume and careful dosing of intensity.
 
The trick is that every athlete responds differently (I know you’re sick of me saying that in every single programming article, but I don’t make the rules), so you do have to experiment to some extent to dial in the tapering process for each lifter. For example, some lifters need a significant reduction in both volume and intensity, especially on the final week, while others may need to maintain pretty high intensity until very close to meet day.
 
 
General Rules
 
Generally, the more advanced the athlete, the longer the tapering period, the lower the volume needs to be, and the higher the intensity can remain. Newer athletes will be able to lift fairly high percentages of their best competition lifts near the competition date because, due to the limitations based on less technical proficiency, these lifts are not as taxing as they would be for a more advanced lifter. These newer lifters may do better lifting heavier nearer the meet for the confidence it instills as well.

The taper duration and extent will generally need to be greater for larger athletes, older athletes, and more advanced athletes, especially the latter if the training cycle has been particularly long and demanding. Younger, lighter and newer athletes will typically respond better to shorter taper durations, more volume and higher intensity.
 
Ultimately, like with most programming elements, tapering will need to be individualized and fine-tuned for each athlete over time. All programs should record competition performances, both the actual lifts attempts as well as the athlete’s physical and mental state subjectively to help evaluate the effectiveness of the taper structure. Like the rest of the program, previous effective taper periods should be used to guide the current one.
 
 

 
 
Examples
 
Example 1: This is a good structure for a somewhat less experienced lifter who needs constant exposure to the competition lifts.

Saturday (1 week out from competition)
Snatch and Clean & Jerk – Work up to a single at planned opening attempts
Front Squat – 90-95% x 1

Monday (Week of competition)
Snatch and Clean & Jerk – 90% of openers for 1-3 singles
Back Squat – 85% x 2-3 sets of 1-2 reps

Tuesday
Snatch and Clean & Jerk – 85% of openers for 3-5 singles

Wednesday
Snatch and Clean & Jerk – 80% of openers for 3-5 singles
Front Squat – 85% x 1

Thursday
Snatch and Clean & Jerk – 60-70% of openers for 5 singles

Friday
Empty bar work only

Saturday
Competition
 
 
Example 2: This works well for a somewhat more advanced lifter who needs a bit less volume and is not as in need of technical practice.

Saturday (1 week out from competition)
Snatch and Clean & Jerk – Heavy single snatch and opener CJ
Front Squat – 90-95% to heavy single

Monday (Week of competition)
Snatch and Clean & Jerk – 90% 1-3 singles
Back Squat – 85% x 2-3 sets of 1-2 reps

Tuesday
Power Snatch and Power Clean & Jerk – 70% x 3-5 singles

Wednesday
Snatch and Clean & Jerk – 80% x 3-5 singles

Thursday
Power Snatch and Power Clean & Jerk – 60% x 5 singles

Friday
Empty bar work only

Saturday
Competition
 
 
Example 3: This would work for technical proficient lifter who is somewhat older or recovers more slowly.

Saturday (1 week out from competition)
Snatch and Clean & Jerk – Opening attempts
Front Squat – 90% single

Monday (Week of competition)
Snatch and Clean & Jerk – 85-90% x 1-3 singles
Clean Pull – 95% x 2-3 sets of 2
Back Squat – 85% x 2-3 sets of 1-2 reps

Tuesday
Rest or Light Power Snatch and Power Clean & Jerk singles

Wednesday
Snatch – 80-85% x 1-3 singles
Snatch Pull – 90% x 2-3 sets of 2
Front Squat – 80-85% x 1-2 sets of 1 reps

Thursday
Rest or empty bar work

Friday
Empty bar work only

Saturday
Competition
 
 
Example 4: With a considerably slowly recovering athlete (for example, older and/or heavier bodyweight), we may need to extend the tapering period back about 2 weeks from the competition date. The athlete’s last very heavy clean & jerk and squat would be 2 weeks out from the meet, and then the last heavy snatch 1-1.5 weeks out. Otherwise, lifts would be limited to about 80%. The final week would look more like example 3 but with somewhat lower weights (5-10%).
 
 
Example 5: A final option comes from coach John Thrush. This works well if you want to train as hard as possible until a week out, but also need some serious recovery. I personally had my best competition results with something very similar to this.
 
Saturday (1 week out from competition)
Snatch and Clean & Jerk – Opening attempts to heavy singles by feel
Front Squat – 90% single

Monday (Week of competition)
Snatch and Clean & Jerk – 80% x 3-5 singles

Tuesday
Rest

Wednesday
Snatch and Clean & Jerk – 60% x 5 singles

Thursday
Empty bar work or a few 50-60% power snatch/CJ singles

Friday
Rest or empty bar work

Saturday
Competition