A ‘Texas Method’ Powerlifting Taper

I’ve had quite a few e-mails on how to taper the Texas Method for a meet, so we are going to discuss the general strategy here. The TM itself is not set in stone and can be tweaked for an individual lifter. As the lifter you will have to make well-informed decisions to ensure that your program is helping you and not hurting you. This taper method I am talking about is something I have used a few times and it worked well. The lifters that used it were all young guys who are in the upper echelon of strength and they were all on some different ‘tweak’ of the TM (although I’ve had a 30 and 40 year old taper pretty much the same way with success). They were also new or still relatively new to competing in meets, and this is an assumption that the taper makes. As someone advances in skill (in the meet) or training (needing more complicated program or needing to almost periodize), the taper will function differently. Not to mention that when someone has a lot of meet experience, they will start learning how they need to taper (everyone will be slightly different). Let me clarify once again: this is a beginner’s taper on a TM program. In the grand scheme of things, TM is still a beginner powerlifting program, albeit a useful gateway.

I will assume someone is running a 5×5 volume day with a rep max on intensity day. If you differ, then just apply the changes to your format (instead of doing 8 sets of 3 on volume day, you’d shift to 4 or 5 in the example below). The number on the left indicates how many weeks out from the meet the lifter is. Zero is the week of the meet, one is one week out, etc. Basically at the start of this taper volume is reduced on volume day down to three sets instead of five sets. Intensity day was hopefully consisting of heavy triples in the last couple months, and now it will be converted to singles with the taper. This is for a few reasons: A) it reduces the volume a little, B) it allows the lifter to start adapting to heavier weights, and, most importantly, C) it allows the lifter to practice the lifts within the regulations of the federation they are lifting in. Deadlifting will be a little different, but you shouldn’t pull within ten days of the meet, and lately I’ve been leaning towards a full two weeks out.

I will treat the training schedule as MWF. If you lift on different days, then intelligently slide the schedule over.

3 – MON: 3 to 5 sets of 5, WED: normal light day w/ regular press, FRI: singles* with rules**, heavier deadlift workout
2 – MON: 3 sets of 5, WED: normal w/ light press***, FRI: singles with rules, medium deadlift
1 – MON: 3 sets of 5, WED: normal (no press), FRI: singles with rules (no deadlift)
0 – MON: Work up to last warm-up, WED or THU: A few sets of very light work****, SAT: meet

That may be weird to read, but fuck it, I’m not going to make a nice, shiny table for you.
*If I was working with someone, I would have had them doing triples on intensity day for at least a month prior to this taper (and more comfortably for two months). Triples allow more weight to be put on the bar for intensity day than fives, and they are very descriptive for choosing openers at the meet. I’m assuming triples have been done up until this point for the taper above. When the lifter starts doing singles, they will single what their best triple is, and then based on how they feel they can go up or stay around that weight. If it was easy, they can put on five or ten pounds. The following week (two weeks out) they can really push the weight up based on how they did the previous week. One week out from the meet won’t be a max out session, but some singles around where they plan on opening with, and maybe a little above. I aim for three to five singles on these preparation days — more the farther out from the meet, then reducing the singles to about threeish the week before the meet unless the lifter is having issues with following the rules. The first day of singles they can do as many as seven in order to practice the rules.

**Look up and read the rules of whatever federation you’re in. USAPL has two commands on the squat: “start” and “rack”. Bench has three: start, press, and rack. You need to know the criteria you have to meet in order to be given permission to any of those actions. If you fuck this up, you will look silly, especially at a national meet like Mike and AC when it was no more than two seconds after I told them to listen to the commands.

***When the taper starts, you’ll be benching on volume/intensity day. In the TM, there is an emphasis on either press or bench every week, and I like to alternate it so that the last press week is four weeks out. This probably isn’t a big deal, but I like doing shit like then in programming. Just press on the light day as I have described. Same with the deadlift. That heavy deadlift workout could be a medium triple. I like to have the lifter pull a very heavy single somewhere between five and seven weeks out. Maybe eight. This constitutes as a heavy deadlift day and then is descriptive for what the lifter is capable of doing. Young and/or inexperienced meet lifters dislike not deadlifting a lot leading up to the meet, and they also dislike not deadlifting heavy. Mechanics differ when the weight gets heavy, so this makes sense for a lot of reasons. The last deadlift workout two weeks out could be working up to pulling a single around 80 to 85%.

****”Light work” constitutes doing a few sets of light fives. Chris, who has squatted 600 in competition will usually do a set of five at 135, 225, and 315, then move onto bench. After a few sets in squat and bench, go home. Oh, and cut out all your assistance work at the start of this taper. This includes doing stupid mother-fucking-ass-dipshit conditioning workouts. The whole fucking purpose of a taper is to allow a systemic peak via hormones. If you are causing systemic inflammation by being a fuck head and continuing your conditioning program, then you aren’t tapering and you sure as hell aren’t peaking. This is something that pisses Gant and I off, because it shows that the person is not committed to being a good athlete in the sport they are competing in and shows a huge level of incompetence (among other reasons). It’s okay to have some conditioning in your TM, but cut that shit out when you start tapering. Same with the assistance stuff.

More Notes: If you are particularly beat up in your training and you have been too stupid to alter it (this happens a lot, too much in fact), then you may consider starting a week earlier. Or you could reduce the volume and keep the intensity the same until you start the full-on taper. I know it’s hard, but don’t act completely oblivious to how your body is responding to your training. It makes my ears bleed when I ask someone, “Why did you keep doing it?” and they don’t have an answer.

This is not the only way to taper, but a taper is typically associated with a reduction in volume and less overall reps so that there will be a hormonal peak. Doing anything extra during this time, whether it be conditioning, assistance, or something stupid like max kipping pull-ups will be extremely fucking counter intuitive. If you are going to take the time in your life to train, then allow yourself proper cycles of hard training and light training. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen that fuck this up, and it’s easily corrected. Start doing it now.

If you have questions or comments, post them in the comments. We can generate a discussion and I can make amendments to the above.

24 thoughts on “A ‘Texas Method’ Powerlifting Taper

  1. Awesome post, i was wanting to know how to do this for a long while.

    As a suggestion for another post, is ‘training after TM’. I mean after a few months of TM the workouts become so tough that is becomes hard to recover in a week.
    Assuming you have reduced mondays volume, to 3 sets of 5. At what point do you stop TM, and do something else? And what should you do?

    Big question and something I’ve been pondering and starting to implement. It depends greatly on your goals. What are your goals? Ht/wt? How old are you?

    I can do a post on what I consider a good transition, but it will be a very iffy post since that area is gray and not a lot of people are there.


  2. Thanks for the advice, Justin. I’ve been doing TM for a couple months now, but have been doing a set of 5 for intensity day. My first meet is 5 weeks out, so you think two weeks of triples is enough time to adapt to the new weight? Also, I think I’ll try to do a heavy single deadlift this week, then taper as you suggest.

    Umm, that would probably be the first thing I’d suggest. If you do triples for a couple weeks it acts as a transition between the two. Or you could do doubles. Doubles will be real close with singles, and you can ease them up slowly. Whatever you do, do something less than five, because you want to ease into not doing as many reps and higher weight. I’d have you do the first triple or double only 10 pounds above your best five for the first set. You could always do multiple intensity sets, like two triples, or three doubles. That way you get more sets to feel it out.


  3. Great fucking article, man. It was weird the first time I didn’t deadlift for a while and then hit a PR anyway. Also:

    “This is something that pisses Gant and I off…”
    “…pisses Gant and I off…”
    “…Gant and I”


    I standby by whatever derogatory statement I said to you via the social network site we frequent.


  4. Just to clarify jlascek (this is ghosts2glory), I missed my first attempt bench because they incorrectly loaded the bar, thus destroying my feng shui. So perhaps there were other forces at work…

    Good article though, I must concur.

    Need a spot?


  5. Hey Justin, what are affordable good knee sleeves for oly lifting and where’s the best place to get em

    You’re asking the wrong guy. If you don’t want to shell out for the Rehbands, I just got some black ones from a local sports store for $5/each. They are similar to ace bandage material. Try them on in the store first. It helped keep my knees warm in the winter and prevented any weird pain after (I didn’t have pain during the workout).

    See kittensmash post below. And wannabburly.

    Important to note that Rehbands are neoprene. The cheap ones aren’t. That should be obvious, but neoprene is why they are expensive.


  6. Justin,
    After attending your workshop in Sacramento, Ca. I followed a sample plan that you gave us and on Sunday I competed in my 1st Oly meet.
    I choked on my first two snatch attempts then hit a third. Hit my opener on the clean and missed the other two attempts. I was 40 kilos under my projected lifts but it was my first meet.
    By the way the taper week worked great unfortunately my nerves got the best of me.
    Thanks for the motivation

  7. Speaking of not being a fuckhead and doing conditioning work during your taper – can you write about how to work conditioning into your training sometime? I’m heading to airborne school when I get back from Iraq so I need to be able to do a 14 minute two mile, but I don’t want to turn into a twig in the process.

    Still making linear progression on my squats, drinking my milk and eating my roast beef.

    When are you getting back? If it’s sorta soon, you would probably do yourself a favor by going on an easy run once or twice a week. Half to a full mile simply to keep/get your joints adapted to it — especially if you’ve gained weight.


  8. @bigkat

    I would by the Rehband sleeves. I had some TK sleeves and they started to split along the seem in the back, at the top and bottom. I have some EFS ones now that are good, more like knee wrap material though, not neoprene so some federations won’t allow them in raw competition. The Rehbands will be my next purchase if/when I decide to compete in one of said federations.

  9. So I’m still on Starting Strength and making progress on the LP (after a reset). Should I just keep going up on the LP then do some triples two weeks out, light the week of the meet, and use those triples to figure out the rules and an opener for each lift? I’m doing the same meet as big_mike, it is 5 weeks away.

    A guy named Andy Baker can probably help you more with the LP meet preparation. I’ve been meaning to have him write something like that up for the site, but it probably won’t be ready in time for you.

    In the mean time, if I were coaching you, I’d want you to get some heavier stuff in. You could treat the Friday workout as a practice/intensity day. Let me see if I can get Andy in on this. If I can’t get him, I’ll be more specific.


  10. Thanks for this post Justin. I was just about to add to your pile of emails about this.

    Anybody else here planning on competing in the Longhorn Open PL meet in Austin, Tx?

  11. well, i have a meet this week (on saturday, october 9th). i’m so excited i feel like i’m going to vomit and pee my pants at the same time whenever i think about it.

    i guess i kind of missed the boat on tapering for this meet, but i’ll remember this post for the next one, for sure.

    wish me luck! i’ll keep ya posted on how it goes.

    I’d start doing visualization practice right now for the meet. Visualize each lift and what commands you have to wait for. I’d also visualize bad shit happening. How will you respond if you miss your second squat because you’re off balance or if your shoe lace breaks when you’re tying them? It’s good to be prepared mentally for bad stuff happening because it probably will.


  12. this post is completely fuckin righteous. I’ve got my second PL meet coming up late November and have been experimenting with a 8 x 3 style volume day for the last month, so this is critical guidance that I will definitely be using.

    Last time I competed back in March, I tried pulling heavy singles a week out from the meet and it was a bad idea. Wasn’t recovered enough from the last week to even make it worthwhile, and missed my 3rd attempt at the meet below the knees – this time I’ll be following your advice to drop it 10 to 14 days out. Great stuff on the site lately, thanks.

    Follow NolanPower’s advice and take your last dealift warm-up on the platform. It’s hard to get 3 solid DL attempts at a meet, so its customary to do the last warm-up on the platform, hit something moderate on second, and then PR on third. The first attempt gives you a feel for the meet bar instead of the warm-up bar.


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