We get a lot of emails asking about Taper Weeks, and why these are included in our guides. Most notably people feel these could be counter-productive towards making progress, and that they aren’t working hard enough in the gym. It is perfectly normal to feel this way, given this week of reduced volume is designed to allow the body to recover and build new muscle tissue, and intensity to be kept high in the weeks from now until your next Taper Week or scheduled break from training! And don’t worry if you hate them- we do too!
Why do I have to complete the Taper Week? Can I skip it?
The short answer:
Taper weeks are implemented to reduce overall volume, and thus the stimulus placed on the muscles, joints and (central) nervous system, allowing you to properly recover from the training block and keep intensity high throughout the subsequent weeks until your next Taper or break (holiday or simply time off lifting for one reason or another).
We would not recommend skipping this as you are more prone to injury/burnout over time and/or reduce the effectiveness of your progress towards said goal. However, if your training has been inconsistent and broken up we would suggest repeating the training weeks leading up to this Taper again before tapering.
The long answer:
The theory behind a Taper Week is that it allows the body to ‘super compensate’, given you have reduced but not totally removed the training stimulus, whilst keeping food intake the same as a normal training week. It allows you to properly recover, more completely than the body could do in an intensive training regimen- especially for those in a cutting or strength building phase- and maintain a higher intensity with less likelihood of plateaus in results or injury in the coming weeks.
To put it simply you have more energy availability to recover, teamed with less physical stress and actual damaged tissues to repair. Ultimately, you are more enabled to recover, increase strength and build new muscle.
You should not be hitting failure here, but rather perfecting your form and reducing the total volume (weight x sets x reps = total volume), reducing the amount of sets and the weight to keep it reasonably challenging, but avoid failure in the target rep range.
Failing to utilise a Taper Week every 3-6 weeks as a newer trainer, and 6-12 as an advanced trainer, will slow your progress over time- especially as a natural trainer. You will see pure bodybuilders, and fake-natural fitness and muscle models getting stronger and stronger with crazy amounts of volume on Youtube- this is not possible for the average natural trainer (especially with a full time job!). The amount of damage you will be doing here will be too much to allow sufficient recovery, and a higher frequency of sessions using said body part per week with lower volume is more advisable- given this will increase total volume for the week without causing extraordinarily high amounts of muscle damage.
If you are trying to train and apply progressive overload upon muscles that haven’t properly recovered, or on small injuries to joints and connective tissues, your progress will not be optimal. This plateauing (in one form or another) will happen over time if you are a consistent trainer- even with the best nutrition. There is such a thing as overtraining- so don’t believe the hulk sized Youtube sensations telling you otherwise!
We feel strongly that a Taper Week should be utilised by natural trainers, and anyone in a structured and demanding training regimen looking to make continued and sustainable progress over time. You need to sufficiently recover in order to keep progressing at a high rate, and a Taper Week is a great way to allow this to occur whilst keeping some volume to perfect form and prevent de-conditioning yourself.