In Defense of Peaking

Through my normal blog and website perusal, I was directed towards this particular article trying to lambaste peaking for competition.

You can find the article here

I'll give you a moment to read that if you are so inclined…



Done? Just overall, I think it's a poorly put together article. It would help in the future to get the assistance of someone used to writing argumentative claims, such as a lawyer or scientist.

Warped Idea of PRs at the True Elite Level

First, let's talk about how often PRs come around at the elite level. I'm not talking CrossFit "elite", I'm talking about Olympic athlete elite. When you're a specialized athlete of international caliber, PRs don't come around that often. You can't expect that just because you peaked, how ever it is that you peak (there are several schools of thought on this), that you're going to make a PR.

Our internationally competitive athletes are working at the very edge of human abilities. Every 1/100th of a second shaved off, every rep squeezed out, every extra inch can be make or break. It's a constant interplay between training hard, training smart, and not over doing it. Athletes at that top level might not make but one PR in year.

On top of that, so much going into making competition day work for you outside your gym preparations. There is nutrition, sleep, mentality, travel, etc. Peaking is just one aspect of competition preparedness used to increase the likelihood of a great performance.

Wonky Statistical Analysis

As a trained scientist, I read statistics with a highly critical eye.

So what if the Olympic shot put gold wasn't the season's best? So what if the the Ironman's time could have created a 70% winning streak? This isn't an argument against peaking, this is just stating numbers. Since his stance isn't clearly laid out, it looks like he is making the assumption that people only peak for one event in a season.

First, people peak multiple times for multiple competitions. They might not peak at all for "training meets" and some peaks might be abbreviated for less important meets. But comparing performances across a season doesn't prove peaking doesn't work. It actually doesn't really say much of anything.

As said before, peaking is one aspect of preparation. Likely, someone is going to actually perform their best with less pressure and less travel, neither of which one typically finds at the big meets. But peaking can help the non-local athlete have some extra help to overcome home turf advantages, or whatever the case may be.

No References to Results with Other Methods of Preparation

To try to support his statement that consistency is better, he references the triathlete McCormack, saying if he just did his personal best from 2006, he would have won 100% of this time rather than the 50% of the time he did when trying to peak. This is making the assumption that one can hit a personal best whenever they want, without peaking.

Again, this shows poor understanding of what it means to peak, and what is actually reasonable to do at such a high level. Likely, McCormack peaked for that second place finish performance, and likely he would have to peak to attain it again.

What he needs to show are top level competitors (not CrossFitters) that put on excellent shows time and time again without peaking for them.

Hyperbole: Can't Stand It

Leave bad hyperbole for the politicians and the pundits.

First instance: "We never hear a coach say, 'I figured he could do 41 reps because he’s done 35 in training.'” (pg 4)

What does this have to to with peaking? One will peak for a performance in hopes of eeking out that one extra rep, not to attain super human abilities. One would peak for a combine and expect to hit what they have in training and hope to hit a little more.

Second instance: "Can you imagine a United States Marine arriving in Afghanistan out of shape but telling the rest of his platoon that he’ll be in shape by the end of the war, when it matters?" (pg 5)

When you're in a physical job, day in and day out, of course you stay at your best level of manageable fitness. This goes for military, law enforcement, and fire fighters to name a few. This is not the same as getting at your absolute best attainable performance for a finite, and usually rather short, period of time. Apples and oranges, people.

All in all, this was a half baked article, at best.