How to taper for your next CrossFit competition.


I know that a lot of you kool-aid drinking CrossFitters like to talk jive about all those skinny ultra runners and Ironman athletes  (Don’t feel bad, they have a few choice words for you large quad having, chalk covered CrossFitters too)  In the past few years a handful of brave souls have been willing to peer into the others world and have come away with a new found respect for the counter discipline.  There are a lot of very valuable lessons that can be learned from each other if we simply step out of our comfort zone and and ask the right questions.

Let’s place Triathlon in juxtaposition with CrossFit.  Just two decades ago multisport athletes really had no idea how to go about competing in their sport.  With it’s meteoric rise, a great deal of sports science has been focused on how to achieve the highest possible athletic human potential possible.  Triathlon has now been in three Olympic games and has single races with prize purses over a million dollars.  Top elite men are running 10k (6.2 miles) following a mile swim and 25 mile bike at a pace of around a 4:30 mile.  That isn’t an accident.  That is the result of a very deliberate and calculated coaching effort to prepare an athlete for a specific event.  This is known as a taper.  Traditional endurance tapers can have an athlete reducing volume and intensity for up to two weeks.  Even when I was predominantly coaching endurance athletes, I felt that this was excessive.  The need for that long of a volume reduction comes as the result of too much volume through the training cycle.  If an athlete is not over trained, a 5 day taper is all that is necessary for optimal performance.   I have found that this is optimal for CrossFIt competitors as well.  The difficulty in developing a taper for a CrossFit competition is that often times you are unaware of what the movements will be until just a couple of days prior to the event.  After looking at the programming of hundreds of local level competitions there are some very clear patterns that can be seen that we can use to develop an intelligent taper.

First, you will always be pulling something from the ground.   Second, do I even need to say it??  Squats!  there will be squats in some form or another.  Third, pull ups.  These are three things that you should feel very comfortable with before even signing up for a competition.  This is how I would taper for my next event if I was you…..

Monday– Low volume, heavy dead lift set.  I have programmed a 5-4-3-2-1 set increasing from 60% to 100% of a 1RM for literally hundreds of triathletes at 5 days pre-race with great success.  The efficacy of this set lies heavily in the neuroendocrine response.  Lifting something that heavy is going to increase hormone response that will aid in the recovery process.  Following this set 20-30 minutes should be spent conducting self myofascial release and shoulder mobility movements.  There is this young up and coming guy on the internet that talks about this a little bit.  Here is his site  His name is Kelly Starrett and he seems to know what he is talking about.  All joking aside, if you don’t know who this guy is slap yourself then go to his site.

Tuesday-  Skill based met-con.  There should be a list of movements that will and won’t be included at your competition.  This list is typically made available upon registration.  If the list includes things like double unders, ring dips, handstand push ups and any other things that may be a weakness, this is a great time to create a training session that includes all of them.  I like something like this….

2min rounds of… 7 HSPU, 7 Ring dips, remaining time for max rep double unders.  rest 1-2 minutes.

The recovery to work ratio allows for faster post workout recovery.

Wednesday-  If the workouts are released on Wednesday this is the time to test them movements/transitions.  Here are a couple of the workouts from the last competition that I did.

WOD 1- 3 rounds of, 1min hang snatch, 1 minute push up, 1 minute back squat, 1 minute rest.

WOD 2- AMRAP in 8 minutes of, 6 burpee box jumps, 9 med ball sit ups, 12 reverse wall ball.

Test what your maximal output is for 1 single minute of hang snatch at the RX weight.  Rest a few minutes then test your push ups.  Rest a few minutes and test your back squat.  The numbers that you should shoot for in a set like this in competition should be somewhere around 80% of your maximal effort.  So if you achieved 30 repetitions of each fresh, your best bet is to shoot for a max of 24 repetitions per movement per round.  By doing 30 in the first movement of the first round you will negatively impact your overall score.  In fact, the best results would be achieved by attempting to build into that 80%.  This would look like this.

Maximal 1 minute effort yields- 30 repetitions.

Minute 1 of round 1- 20 reps, minute 2 of round 1-20 reps, minute 3 of round 1- 20 reps

Minute 1,2, & 3 of round 2- 22 reps per movement.

Minute 1, 3, & 3 of round 3- 24 reps per movement.

*the above numbers assume that you did 30 reps for all three of the movements.

This is referred to as a “negative split”  it will produces the best overall result and is the pacing strategy used by almost all successful endurance athletes.  For the second workout, go through one round.  Practice the movements and the transitions.  By doing a single round you should be able to tell approximately how many you are capable of achieving in 8 minutes. Factoring in fatigue will likely increase your round time by 10-20% based on your conditioning.

Thursday- Primary rest day.  Light row ( exertion effort of 5 on a scale of 1-10 for 5-10 minutes)  Spend 40-60 minutes dedicated to mobility and stretching.  See that Kelly Starrett guy above.

Friday- One last chance to go through the movements.  The workouts listed above feature a “reverse wall ball’ If you have never done that before (which I’m assuming you haven’t) you should spend at least 10 minutes working on the timing and accuracy of the movement.  If the competition features a snatch ladder, then work on the timing of that movement with a manageable weight (70% or less of a 1rm) with very large recovery periods (1-30+ ratio)  A majority of your training time should be dedicated to SMR and stretching.

Saturday- Event Day.


The most important thing to keep in mind during taper week is that everything that you do should feel like you could have done more.  By Friday you should feel pretty good.  DON’T attempt a new 1RM!!  Save that shit for when every one is watching you.  Because after all, we compete for glory and to show off don’t we!?  ha.


Next week I will be discussing the event itself.  Fulfilling nutrition concerns, appropriate warm up and cool downs, competition etiquette and all that fun stuff.