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This is what's called a "taper week." This week, the volume and weight you will use in your workouts is going to drop by about 50 percent. Doing so will allow you to keep your adaptation to training, so your skill doesn't diminish. Cutting your volume and weight, will also allow you to supercompensate and recover, so that when you go to test your one-rep max at the end of the program, you'll be at your optimal strength level.
The metaphor I used in the program overview was of a rubber band. At the end of week 12, you're stretched, but this taper week is going to help you bounce back with a vengeance.
Layne Norton's Ph3 Trainer 13th Week
Watch the video - 4:57
The Art of Tapering
Tapering is a crucial component in a strength-focused program like PH3. You can't skip this step, but a lot of people do. Or at least, they don't understand its importance.
In my experience, a lot of people think that high-volume training doesn't work for them, because when they bump up their volume in the short term, their performance goes down. So what do they do? They switch back to a lower-volume routine, and they see an increase in strength in the short term. When this happens, they assume that new strength is from the low-volume program, and that low volume is much better for them. Sound familiar?
What actually happened in this case is that they executed what was in effect a taper week. The high-volume training they had been doing introduced the adaptation to get them those gains, but they needed to do the taper to actualize those gains.
The weights are going to be relatively easy during Week 13. That's by design. Now, even though they might look easy on paper, they may feel heavier than they should when you get to the gym. This is normal! Remember, you've been overreaching.
Resist the urge to overdo it this week—just as you've hopefully been resisting that urge for the last 12 weeks. Now, more than ever, you need to do what you're told and trust that it will pay off soon!
Cut Back to Bounce Back
You'll cut both volume and intensity this week. In other words, both the amount of weight and the number of sets will go down.
You may be thinking, "Why not just one or the other?" It's a fair question. We could, for example, keep the weights the same and cut down the number of sets. However, that's not going to allow you to recover as much as if we took the weight down a little bit. I don't want you to come even close to missing a rep this week! Recovery is the name of the game.
But at the same time, we have to balance that cutback with keeping the weights heavy enough to where you keep the adaptation to training. If you drop the weight too much, you'll lose that skill. Your skill can erode after even just a week of detraining. Got it? High enough to where you keep that adaptation, but low enough to where you can recover properly. This balance is crucially important because this entire 13-week program is building up to retesting your one-rep maximum at the end of this week. Don't blow it by doing too much.
Your split is going to look largely the same. There will be some differences, though. For example, we're temporarily cutting out quite a bit of the accessory work this week. Just as we'll drop down volume in the main lifts, we'll going to drop down volume in the accessory work as well. That will help you maximize recovery and take full advantage of that supercompensation effect.
When you're ready, use the one-rep max testing protocol for more experienced lifters that I describe in the "How to Test Your One-Rep Max" video. Make sure to post your new one-rep max and total using the hashtag #PH3. Tag myself and Bodybuilding.com to let us know how strong you've become!
What Comes Next?
You made it all the way through the 12-week program and the one-week taper, you tested your one-rep max, and you made some serious gains. So now what do you do?
The great thing about PH3 is that you can take your new one-rep max, and plug it back into the calculator, and it will generate a new program for you so you can continue to make progress.
Some people may have gotten so strong that they may want to try a powerlifting meet. I say go for it. This program and its taper week can work perfectly toward that goal if you time it right. Or maybe you're progressing toward a bodybuilding competition. Now that you've gotten much stronger, you can run a hypertrophy-based program and get more gains because you can lift more weight for the same amount of reps.
What I wouldn't recommend doing is taking a week or two off after this program and starting it again. You've already taken a taper. You've recovered appropriately. You're ready to thrive! It's perfectly appropriate to start low with a good intro week, but do not take a week or two off.
Remember what I said earlier: Your body adapts to the stimulus and the stress of lifting weights. Take a week or two off, and you're going to detrain and lose that adaptation. So when you go back into training, you're going to be very sore, and it's going to be incredibly hard on you to begin squatting or deadlifting two or three times a week again.
If you feel like you need an extra break, maybe take a much lighter introductory week with weights similar to this taper week. You're stronger than ever, so let's put it to good use!