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Tapering for maximal strength requires reductions in training load to recover from the fatigue of training. It is performed before important competitions to allow optimal performance at specific events. Reductions in training volume, with maintained or small increases in training intensity, seem most effective for improving muscular strength. Training cessation may also play a role, with less than 1 week being optimal for performance maintenance, and 2–4 days appearing to be optimal for enhanced maximal muscular strength. Improved performance may be related to more complete muscle recovery, greater neural activation, and an enhanced anabolic environment.
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Effects and Mechanisms
of Tapering in Maximizing
Muscular Strength
Hayden Pritchard, BSc,
1,3
Justin Keogh, PhD,
2,3,4
Matthew Barnes, PhD,
5
and
Michael McGuigan, PhD, CSCS*D
3
1
Department of Exercise & Sport Science, Faculty of Health Sciences, Universal College of Learning, Palmerston
North, New Zealand;
2
Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine, Bond University, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia;
3
Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand;
4
Cluster for Health Improvement, Faculty of Science, Health, Education and Engineering, University of the Sunshine
Coast, Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia; and
5
School of Sport and Exercise, Massey University, Palmerston
North, New Zealand
ABSTRACT
TAPERING FOR MAXIMAL
STRENGTH REQUIRES REDUC-
TIONS IN TRAINING LOAD TO
RECOVER FROM THE FATIGUE OF
TRAINING. IT IS PERFORMED
BEFORE IMPORTANT COMPETI-
TIONS TO ALLOW OPTIMAL PER-
FORMANCE AT SPECIFIC EVENTS.
REDUCTIONS IN TRAINING VOLUME,
WITH MAINTAINED OR SMALL IN-
CREASES IN TRAINING INTENSITY,
SEEM MOST EFFECTIVE FOR
IMPROVING MUSCULAR STRENGTH.
TRAINING CESSATION MAY ALSO
PLAY A ROLE, WITH LESS THAN 1
WEEK BEING OPTIMAL FOR PER-
FORMANCE MAINTENANCE, AND
2–4 DAYS APPEARING TO BE OPTI-
MAL FOR ENHANCED MAXIMAL
MUSCULAR STRENGTH. IMPROVED
PERFORMANCE MAY BE RELATED
TO MORE COMPLETE MUSCLE
RECOVERY, GREATER NEURAL
ACTIVATION, AND AN ENHANCED
ANABOLIC ENVIRONMENT.
INTRODUCTION
Maximal muscular strength is
defined as the maximal force
a muscle, or group of muscles,
can produce (4,30). Improvements in
maximal strength are of utmost impor-
tance for performance in strength-based
sports, such as powerlifting and strong-
man, where the ability to produce max-
imal force is a primary goal (15,30,42).
Improvements in strength, specific to
sporting movements, have also been
shown to enhance the performance of
other athletes, even in sports that are
primarily aerobically based (5,21,37).
Athletes target certain competitions as
major events where the aim is to per-
form at their peak, which is achieved
through a taper (34). Tapering is a reduc-
tion in training load to recover from the
fatigue of training, and it is performed
before important competitions to allow
optimal performance at specific events
(6,29,31). It is important, therefore, that
athletes and coaches know how to max-
imize strength for key events by taper-
ing correctly. Many studies and reviews
have been written on tapering; how-
ever, there is still limited research avail-
able specifically related to maximal
strength, with the majority regarding
endurance performance (6,20,22,29,41)
and some maximal power (7,12).
The aim of this review is to bring
together what is currently known
about tapering for maximal strength,
to demonstrate the methods of taper-
ing currently used in research, how
these methods affect maximal
strength, and the mechanisms contrib-
uting to the adaptations in maximal
strength through tapering. Many
coaches are uncertain of the taper
phase of training, with trial and error
often relied on rather than scientifi-
cally proven strategies (29). This infor-
mation will be of use to coaches and
practitioners to optimize athletes’ per-
formances in strength-based sports or
sports where strength may help
improve an athlete’s performance,
reducing the need for extensive trial
and error. Appropriate publications
were found by searching through the
EBSCO Host and Google Scholar da-
tabases. Key words used in searches
included the following: tapering, peak-
ing, detraining, muscular strength,
maximal strength, performance, mus-
cle fiber types, cross-sectional area,
and various combinations of these
words. Effect sizes (ES) were calcu-
lated (where possible) to determine
the magnitude of changes observed
within studies (13). Hopkins scale for
determining the magnitude of ES was
used when describing these changes
(23); there are: trivial 0–0.2, small
KEY WORDS:
maximal strength; performance; recovery;
rest; sport; taper; training
VOLUME 37 | NUMBER 2 | APRIL 2015 Copyrig ht ÓNational Strength and Conditioning Association
72
0.2–0.6, moderate 0.6–1.2, large
1.2–2.0, and very large .2.0.
TAPERING
Optimal performance in competition is
vital; months or years of training cul-
minate at 1 point, with the outcome
determining the success or failure of
ones efforts. Tapering is the final step
in a training program, implemented in
the last few weeks before competition
and has the potential to make or break
a program. Mujika and Padilla (32)
defined tapering as “a progressive non-
linear reduction of the training load
during a variable period of time, in an
attempt to reduce the physiological
and psychological stress of daily train-
ing and optimize sports performance.”
This definition illustrates the major role
tapering plays to reduce stress, or
fatigue, while improving fitness to
achieve optimal performance.
The fitness-fatigue model (8), as illus-
trated in the Figure, is a representation
of the mechanism of how the taper is
thought to improve performance.
This model proposes that after a train-
ing session, there are 2 resulting after-
effects—1 positive, fitness, and 1
negative, fatigue. Fitness after-effects
may be changes, such as improved
neuromuscular efficiency and hyper-
trophy, whereas fatigue after-effects
may be changes, such as muscle dam-
age, accumulation of metabolic waste
products, or disruption to hormonal
balance, for example. Performance
within this model can be considered
the sum of the positive after-effects of
fitness with the sum of the negative
after-effects of fatigue removed. Fatigue
after-effects are usually of a greater
magnitude but shorter duration than
fitness after-effects, which tend to have
a smaller magnitude but a greater dura-
tion (8). As fatigue dissipates, perfor-
mance increases can be realized, as
the positive performance contributions
of the fitness after-effects are not over-
shadowed by the negative performance
contributions from the fatigue after-
effects. Too much rest, however, could
be detrimental, as the fitness after-
effects may be reduced resulting in de-
training (32). The balancing act during
a taper is to ensure fatigue is minimized
while fitness is maximized (29).
EFFECTS OF TAPERING ON
MAXIMAL STRENGTH
Tapering can be performed in several
different ways, with 4 main types being
described and applied previously (33).
These are step taper, linear taper, expo-
nential decay (slow decay), and expo-
nential taper (fast decay). The step
taper is a nonprogressive drop in train-
ing load that occurs at once and re-
mains unchanged at a reduced level.
The linear taper is a progressive reduc-
tion in training load that occurs in a lin-
ear fashion. An exponential taper is
progressive and can occur with a fast
or slow time constant of decay, with
the training load remaining higher dur-
ing the slow decay taper (33). So far, no
studies have compared the effects of
different styles of tapering on the
expression of maximal strength, as var-
ious styles of tapering have been used
across studies to date. Table 1 shows
a summary of the studies on tapering.
Ha
¨kkinen et al. (18) performed one of
the earliest studies looking at the ef-
fects of a 1-week step taper on maximal
strength. Ten strength-trained athletes
performed 2 weeks of regular training
followed by 1 week of reduced training,
where volume was reduced by z50%
with no changes in intensity. When
split into 2 groups, it was seen that
the 5 stronger Finnish national power-
lifting competitors showed a statisti-
cally significant increase (by 8.3%) in
leg extensor peak force during a maxi-
mal voluntary isometric contraction
(MVIC) after the taper with a moderate
ES of 0.61, whereas the weaker athletes
showed a slight decrease (23.6%; ES,
20.28). This study showed that well-
trained strength athletes can improve
their isometric strength with a step
taper of only 1 week’s duration.
Coutts et al. (11) also investigated
a 1-week step taper in 7 well-trained
athletes (state-level rugby league play-
ers) after 6 weeks of periodized training
(to induce overreaching). This study
involved reductions in both volume
(z30–40%) and intensity (z35%), as
well as training of other fitness compo-
nents. Statistically significant increases
were seen in maximal low-velocity iso-
kinetic torque for the knee extensors
(45.6%) and flexors (15.6%) compared
with the pretaper values, with very large
(3.85) and moderate (0.90) ES, respec-
tively. However, compared with pre-
training, there were no statistically
significant improvements, with only
the knee extensors showing a higher
value (7.6%; ES, 0.34), whereas knee
flexor strength decreased (210.6%;
ES, 20.36). Also not statistically signif-
icant, were the small increases in 3 rep-
etition maximum (RM) on the bench
press (5.2%; ES, 0.32) and squat (7.2%;
ES, 0.53) compared with pretaper val-
ues. When compared with the pretrain-
ing values, no change was seen in bench
press performance and the squat
showed only trivial, non–statistically
significant improvements (1.6%; ES,
0.11). These results suggest that after 6
weeks of overreaching (intensified, or
harder than usual training) 1 week of
tapering allows for improvements in
strength; however, this may not be
a long-enough taper to fully overcome
the effects of accumulated fatigue.
Figure. Fitness-fatigue model.
Strength and Conditioning Journal | www.nsca-scj.com 73
Table 1
Effects of tapering on muscular strength
Study: Author Subjects Training history Performance
tests for
maximal
strength
Training
duration
before taper
(d)
Taper
duration (d)
Type of taper Change in
loading
Change in performance
versus pretaper value
(% change, effect size)
[[ 5statistically
significant change; [5
non–statistically
significant change
Chtourou
et al. (9)
n521 men Recreationally active MVIC of knee
extention
84 14 One-step
taper
[intensity [MVIC of knee
extension (data not
available)
Yvolume
Coutts et al.
(11)
n57 men State-level rugby
league players
3RM BP and SQ,
LVIC of knee
extention and
flexion
42 7 One-step
taper
Yintensity [3RM BP (5.2%, 0.32)
Yvolume [3RM SQ (7.2%, 0.53)
[[ LVIC knee extension
(45.6%, 3.85)
[[ LVIC knee flexion
(15.6%, 0.90)
Gibala et al.
(16)
n58 men $1-yr resistance
training
LVIC and MVIC of
elbow flexion
21 10 Progressive
(linear)
4intensity [LVIC of elbow flex
(2.8%, 0.11)
Yvolume [[ MVIC elbow flexion
(6.8%, 0.35)
Hakkinen
et al. (18)
n510 men 5 (group A) national
champions or
medalists and 5
(group B) strength
trained (5–10 yrs)
noncompetitive
MVIC of leg
extension
14 7 One-step
taper
4intensity Group A: [[ MVIC of
leg extension (8.3%,
0.61)
Yvolume Group B: YMVIC of leg
extension (23.6%,
0.28)
Izquierdo
et al. (25)
n511 men National level Basque
ball players
1RM BP and SQ 112 28 Progressive [intensity [[ 1RM BP (2%)
Tapering for Maximal Strength
VOLUME 37 | NUMBER 2 | APRIL 2015
74
Longer duration step tapers have also
been investigated. Zaras et al. (43) had
13 well-trained competitive throwers
(7 males, 6 females) perform 2-week
tapers, both a light-load and a heavy-
load taper, after 12 or 15 weeks of train-
ing. All participants performed both
tapers and the training length before
the taper was assigned in a counterbal-
anced fashion. Training involved resis-
tance training, throws, and plyometric
training. Light-load tapering (LT) used
30% of 1RM, whereas the heavy-load
tapering (HT) used 85% of 1RM.
During both tapers maximal speed of
movement was emphasized. Nonstat-
istically significant improvements were
made in peak force during MVIC on
a leg press in both groups, with greater
increases after HT (14.5%; ES, 3.00)
than LT (2.7%; ES, 1.00). 1RM leg
press showed non–statistically signifi-
cant improvements in the HT (4.6%;
ES, 0.15), whereas non–statistically sig-
nificant decreases occurred with LT
(22.8%; ES, 20.12). These results sug-
gest that greater improvements in
strength are made when volume is
dropped but intensity is kept high dur-
ing a taper.
Chtourou et al. (9) also performed
a 2-week step taper, with recreationally
active participants after 12 weeks of
training. Participants were placed in
morning (n510) and evening (n5
11) training groups and testing
occurred at both time points. This
study was focused on whether the time
of day for training influenced the
response to the taper if testing
occurred at a different time of day.
Tapering resulted in a weekly drop in
training volume of z50%, with
increased intensity (from 10RM to
8RM). After the taper, participants
showed statistically significant im-
provements in performance at both
testing times (morning and evening)
regardless of training time of day when
compared with pretraining variables.
Improvements occurred after the taper
but were non–statistically significant
compared with pretaper results. How-
ever, no information was given on the
magnitude of improvements. This
Table 1
(continued)
Yvolume [[ 1RM SQ (3%)
Zaras et al.
(43)
n513 (7 men,
6 women)
Throwing training and
competition 4.6 (SD
61.5) yrs
MVIC LP and 1RM
LP
84 or 105 14 One-step
taper
Light-load
taper—Y
intensity
(to 30%
1RM); Y
volume
Light-load taper—[
MVIC LP (2.7%, 1.00);
Y1RM LP (22.8%,
0.12)
Heavy-load
taper—Y
intensity
(to 85%
1RM); Y
volume
Heavy-load taper—[
MVIC LP (14.5%,
3.00); [1RM LP
(4.6%, 0.15)
ES calculated using SD of the initial value before taper.
BP 5bench press; intensity 5percentage of 1RM used in training; LP 5leg press; LVIC 5low-velocity isokinetic concentric contraction; MVIC 5maximal voluntary isometric contraction;
RM 5repetition maximum; SQ 5back squat; volume 5training volume, that is sets 3reps; for changes in training volume and intensity, 45unchanged; Y5decreased; [5increased.
Strength and Conditioning Journal | www.nsca-scj.com 75
study also shows that a 2-week taper is
able to improve performance when
volume is reduced and intensity
kept high.
Reviews on tapering for endurance
training indicate that progressive
tapers may be most effective for per-
formance improvements (6,33). Cur-
rently, there have only been 2 studies
investigating the effects of a progressive
taper on maximal strength, with both
showing promising results. Gibala et al.
(16) performed a 10-day progressive
(linear) taper, which followed after 3
weeks of training by 8 resistance-
trained (.1 year) participants. Taper-
ing was compared against complete
rest (detraining), and all participants
completed both conditions in a coun-
terbalanced fashion. Overall during the
10 day progressive taper training vol-
ume was reduced by 72% (reducing the
number of sets each training day), but
the intensity of training remained
unchanged. After the taper, statistically
significant improvements occurred in
peak torque during MVIC of the
elbow flexors (6.8%; ES, 0.35) and
non–statistically significant improve-
ments in maximal low-velocity isoki-
netic peak torque of the elbow
extensor force also occurred (2.8%;
ES, 0.11) compared with baseline.
However, maximal low-velocity isoki-
netic peak torque of the elbow flexors
had statistically significant higher values
2 (4.3%; ES, 0.18), 4 (7.7%; ES, 0.31), 6
(4.9%; ES, 0.20), and 8 (3.2%; ES, 0.13)
days into the taper. MVIC peak torque
also had statistically significant higher
values 2 (5.3%; ES, 0.27), 4 (4.1%; ES,
0.21), 6 (7.5%; ES, 0.38), and 8 (6.1%; ES,
0.31) days into the taper. These results
show that a short-duration progressive
taper in which volume is reduced but
intensity kept high is able to improve
strength of the elbow flexors, and can
so do in as little as 2 days.
Izquierdo et al. (25) performed
a 4-week taper after 16 weeks of resis-
tance training in 11 national Basque
ball players. This study also had 2 fur-
ther groups involved, these were a com-
plete rest (n514) and a control group
(n521). The taper involved
progressive lowering of training vol-
ume while intensity was increasing.
Specifically, training at 90–95% of
1RM (3–4RM) during the taper, for
2–3 sets of 2–3 repetitions for all exer-
cises; compared with 85–90% of 1RM
(z5RM) for 3 sets of 2–4 repetitions
for all exercises immediately before the
tapering period. The taper resulted in
statistically significant improvements
in 1RM bench press (2%) and half
squat (3%), no changes were observed
in the control group. These data
showed that a longer duration progres-
sive taper that reduces volume and
increases intensity is able to improve
performance in dynamic multijoint
compound exercises.
The literature reviewed in this article
seems to indicate that tapering is effec-
tive at increasing measures of maximal
strength (11,16,18,25). This has been
shown to occur during both 1-step
and progressive tapers, with no studies
yet to directly compare types of taper-
ing to determine the optimal method.
As various measures of strength and
many training methods have been fol-
lowed, practitioners should be cautious
with drawing definitive conclusions.
However, there seems to be a trend
that maintaining or increasing training
intensity during the taper has greater
benefits when compared with studies,
which reduce the intensity (16,18,25).
In all studies, volume was reduced (by
30–70%, through reduced training fre-
quency or training session volume)
which, if intensity is maintained or
increased, is essential to reduce training
load. Therefore, it may be hypothe-
sized that a taper that maintains or
increases training intensity while
decreasing training volume is most
effective for enhancing maximal
strength. More research directly com-
paring methods of tapering for maxi-
mal strength is required to confirm this.
MECHANISMS OF TAPERING ON
MAXIMAL STRENGTH
Maximal muscular strength mainte-
nance or improvements that occur
during a taper must be the result
of physiological changes. Specific
changes within the muscular and/or
nervous system are likely to be respon-
sible for performance changes. Several
studies have investigated potential
mechanisms (11,16,18,25,43).
Changes in the musculature may
be influenced by alterations in the
hormonal or biochemical profile of an
individual. Testosterone and growth
hormone are anabolic hormones known
to enhance anabolic processes and pro-
tein synthesis within the body, whereas
cortisol is released in response to stress
and is catabolic, the ratio of the testos-
terone to cortisol therefore can be used
to provide some indication of whether
the body is in an anabolic or catabolic
state (28). Coutts et al. (11) noted that
the testosterone to cortisol ratio had sta-
tistically significant decreases during the
6-week overload training period, and
there was no statistically significant
change after the taper (also, no statisti-
cally significant changes were observed
in either testosterone or cortisol). Crea-
tine kinase, which is a biochemical
marker associated with muscle damage
(10), was seen by Coutts et al. (11) to
have statistically significant increases
after training and was then significantly
reduced during a 7-day taper. Low levels
of plasma glutamine, high levels of glu-
tamate, and a decreased glutamine to
glutamate ratio have been associated
with a state of overtraining (35,36).
Coutts et al. (11) found that plasma
glutamate showed statistically signifi-
cant elevations and the glutamine
to glutamate ratio showed statistically
significant decreases after the training
period; after the taper, these changes
reversed. However, no statistically sig-
nificant changes were seen in glutamine
concentration throughout the study.
Taken together, these changes may
indicate that although an anabolic hor-
monal profile was not produced, muscle
recovery was still able to take place dur-
ing the 1-week tapering period.
Izquierdo et al. (25) measured hor-
monal changes during their 4-week
progressive taper after 16 weeks of resis-
tance training. No statistically signifi-
cant changes were seen at any time
during the study for total testosterone,
free testosterone, cortisol, or growth
Tapering for Maximal Strength
VOLUME 37 | NUMBER 2 | APRIL 2015
76
hormone. However, insulin-like growth
factor-1 (IGF-1) remained decreased
(compared with pretraining) during
the taper, and IGF-binding protein-3
(IGFBP-3) had further statistically sig-
nificant increases after the taper. IGF-1
is known to increase protein synthesis in
strength training and so enhance mus-
cular hypertrophy (28); therefore, a sus-
tained decrease may indicate that
protein synthesis is still suboptimal dur-
ing the taper. However, IGFBP-3 is
involved in regulating the availability
of IGF’s and extends the circulation of
IGF’s within the body (28). These
changes did not occur in the detraining
group who showed decreases in perfor-
mance, so it may be hypothesized that
even with decreases in IGF-1, the in-
creases in IGFBP-3 may play a role in
improving performance, potentially
through other growth hormone metab-
olites or pulsatile releases of growth
hormone not measured in this study.
Changes in muscle architecture or mus-
cle mass may have potential to play
a role in improving performance during
the taper, as these have been shown to
improve performance after periods of
resistance training (14). Izquierdo et al.
(25) noted that tapering participants
maintained statistically significant reduc-
tions in body fat levels during a 4-week
taper, whereas those who simply stop-
ped training did not. This was not seen
for a 1-week taper (18); however, this
time frame is likely too short for changes
in body composition to occur. Zaras
et al. (43) observed no changes in muscle
architecture (vastus lateralis thickness,
pennation angle, or fascicle); however,
the 2-week time frame to observe such
changes was probably too short given
that such changes have usually been
observed after extended periods of train-
ing (1,27). They did, however, observe
that an increased lean body mass from
the training period was maintained, dur-
ing both LTand HT. These observations
suggest that tapering allows for mainte-
nance of increased lean mass gained
from prior training, but a taper period
is likely too short a time period to have
direct effects on muscle architecture or
increases in muscle mass.
Nervous system changes may play
a major role in increased maximal
strength after a taper (19). Ha
¨kkinen
et al. (18) observed statistically signifi-
cant increases in the average maximum
integrated electromyography (for 3
quadriceps muscles together) together
with the increased MVIC peak force
for the competitive powerlifters under-
taking 1 week of reduced tapering;
however, this was not seen for the non-
competitive lifters. This finding sug-
gests that in well-trained athletes,
a 7-day period of reduced training
may improve neural activation and is
associated with improvements in force
output. No statistically significant
changes in motor unit activation (using
the interpolated twitch technique),
time to peak torque or maximum rate
of torque development were found by
Gibala et al. (16) after a 10-day taper,
suggesting minimal or no contribution
of the nervous system to their results.
However, they concluded that motor
unit activation may have been too
insensitive to detect neural changes
and that integrated electromyography
may have been a better technique to
use. Results from these 2 studies are
inconclusive; more research is needed
to determine whether improved neural
activation plays some role in improved
performance after a taper.
More research is needed to determine
the mechanisms responsible for
improved maximal strength after
a taper, with very limited data cur-
rently available. However, it seems
that hormonal and neuromuscular
changes are minimal during short-
duration tapers and that recovery of
damaged muscle fibers may play
a larger role in performance improve-
ments. Maintenance of muscle mass
during the taper along with repaired
muscle may be 1 explanation for
improved performance. However,
because of the lack of research in this
area, it is difficult to draw any clear
conclusions.
TRAINING CESSATION
Training cessation occurs when train-
ing completely ceases but regular daily
activities still occur. It is also com-
monly referred to as detraining.
Strictly speaking, short-term cessation
is not true detraining, because in some
cases, it can result in improved perfor-
mance (32) and therefore can be clas-
sified as a type of tapering. In contrast,
detraining is defined as a loss of
training-induced adaptations after
training cessation and so results in de-
creases in performance (32). Training
cessation can only be differentiated by
the length of time someone ceases to
train; improved or maintained perfor-
mance is only seen with short dura-
tions because training adaptations can
be maintained. Table 2 shows a sum-
mary of the studies discussed in the
following section.
EFFECTS OF TRAINING
CESSATION ON MAXIMAL
STRENGTH
When training cessation has occurred
for no more than a week improve-
ments, or maintenance, in maximal
strength have often been observed.
Anderson and Cattanach (3) found
small (combined mean of 4.9%) and
non–statistically significant improve-
ments in 1RM bench press and squat
strength when 41 track and field ath-
letes (22 men, 19 women) had 2–7 days
off training after a 5-week strength
training program. This study showed
that 1RM strength can be maintained
when only a short period of time is
taken off training in trained athletes.
Weiss et al. (39) also investigated the
effects of short-duration training cessa-
tion, between 2 and 5 days, and its
effects on strength in the 1RM heel
raise and maximal low-velocity isoki-
netic torque of the plantar flexors.
Fifty-four untrained participants were
involved in the study and before train-
ing cessation had completed 8 weeks of
resistance training of the plantar flex-
ors. It was observed that all durations
of complete rest had only trivial ES
except for 1RM heel raise strength at
3 and 4 days of training cessation,
which had a small ES (0.30 and 0.38,
respectively). These results again
showed strength can be maintained
with short periods of training cessation,
Strength and Conditioning Journal | www.nsca-scj.com 77
Table 2
Effects of short-term training cessation on muscular strength
Study: Author Subjects Training history Performance tests
for maximal
strength
Training duration
before training
cessation (d)
Duration of training
cessation (d)
Change in performance
versus pre training cessation
value (% change, effect size)
[[ 5statistically
significant change; [5non–
statistically significant change
Anderson and
Cattanach (3)
n541 (22 men, 19
women)
NCAA Division I
track and field
athletes
1RM BP and SQ 35 2, 4, or 7—randomly
assigned,
distribution not
given
[1RM BP and SQ—combined
mean of 4.9% improvement
for all groups and lifts
Gibala et al. (16) n58 men $1-yr resistance
training
LVIC and MVIC of
elbow flexion
21 10 YY LVIC of elbow flexion
(28.1%, 0.34)
YMVIC of elbow flexion
(21.9%, 0.13)
Hortobagyi et al.
(24)
n512 men Strength trained for
8.1 (SD 61.61)
yrs; 4 powerlifters,
8 Division 1
American football
players
1RM BP and SQ,
MVIC of knee
extension and
flexion, LVIC of
knee extension
and flexion
0—stopped regular
training for study
14 Y1RM BP (21.7%, 0.12)
Y1RM SQ (20.9%, 0.05)
YMVIC knee extension (27%)
YLVIC knee extension
(22.3%)
4MVIC and LVIC knee flexion
(data not available)
Izquierdo et al. (25) n514 men National level
Basque ball
players
1RM BP and SQ 112 28 YY 1RM BP (29%)
YY 1RM SQ (26%)
Terzis et al. (38) n511 men Physical education
students
1RM BP, SQ and LP 98 28 Y1RM BP (24.3%)
Y1RM LP (25.7%)
Y1RM SQ (23.9%)
Tapering for Maximal Strength
VOLUME 37 | NUMBER 2 | APRIL 2015
78
and perhaps, 4 days of training cessa-
tion may be beneficial for maximal
strength expression in untrained
participants.
A follow-up study was conducted by
Weiss et al. (40) using more ecologi-
cally valid strength measures of
a 1RM bench press and maximal
low-velocity isokinetic force of the
bench press with 25 strength-trained
participants. Almost all variables again,
regardless of condition, had trivial ES
after training cessation periods. The
only exception to this was the maximal
low-velocity isokinetic force of the
bench press at 4 days of training
cessation (ES 50.26); however,
1RM bench press did not show this
same trend. Again, it was seen that
training cessation for short durations
had minimal impact on maximal
strength expression, but perhaps, 4
days off training may have a greater
positive impact on maximal strength
as seen by the small ES observed.
Training cessation for 2–7 days seems
to have no negative impact on perfor-
mance, allowing for maintenance of
performance and potentially small
improvements.
Longer durations of training cessation
are less likely to have positive effect
with detraining a more likely outcome.
Gibala et al. (16) had 8 resistance-
trained (.1 year) participants com-
plete 10 days of training cessation after
3 weeks of resistance training. After 10
days of training cessation, maximal
low-velocity isokinetic peak torque of
the elbow flexors showed statistically
significant reductions (28.1%; ES,
0.34) and MVIC peak torque of the
elbow flexors was also reduced
(21.9%; ES, 0.13); however, this was
not statistically significant. Measures
were also taken every 2 days during
training cessation. Maximal low-
velocity isokinetic peak torque of the
elbow flexors showed statistically sig-
nificant increases after 2 days (4.7%;
ES, 0.21), and non–statistically signifi-
cant increases after 4 days (1.7%; ES,
0.07) of training cessation, while all
other time points showed reductions.
MVIC peak torque was nearly identical
Table 2
(continued)
Weiss et al. (39) n554 men Sedentary 1RM HR, LVIC of
plantar flexors
56 2 (n513), 3
(n514), 4
(n513), or 5
(n514)
1RM HR: 2 [(0.10); 3 [(0.30);
4[[ (0.38); 5 [(0.09)
LVIC: 2 Y(20.07); 3 [(0.15); 4
[(0.19); 5 [(0.08)
Note, 4 d rest was significantly
higher than 2 and 5 d, no
other conditions
Weiss et al. (40) n525 men $1.5 yrs strength
trained
1RM BP, LVIC BP 28 2 (n58), 3 (n55), 4
(n55), or 5
(n57)
1RM BP: 2 [(0.15); 3 [(0.08); 4
[(0.03); 5 [(0.07)
LVIBP: 2 [(0.12); 3 Y(20.11); 4
[(0.26); 5 [(0.07)
ES calculated using SD of the initial value before taper.
BP 5bench press; HR 5heel raise; LP 5leg press; LVIC 5low-velocity isokinetic concentric contraction; MVIC 5maximal voluntary isometric contraction; RM 5repetition maximum; SQ 5
back squat.
Strength and Conditioning Journal | www.nsca-scj.com 79
at 2 (0.1%; ES, 0.01) and 6 (0.2%; ES,
0.01) days of training cessation. At 4
days of training cessation, there was
a small non–statistically significant
increase in MVIC peak torque (1.3%;
ES, 0.09). All other time points showed
non–statistically significant reductions
in MVIC peak torque. These results
show that in trained participants, 10
days of training cessation of the elbow
flexors reduces maximal strength, but
2–6 days off training may allow for im-
provements or maintenance of maxi-
mal strength. Hortobagyi et al. (24)
had 12 strength-trained athletes
(8.1 6SD 1.61 years of resistance train-
ing experience) cease their regular
training for a 14-day period. Small re-
ductions were seen in 1RM bench
press (21.7%; ES, 0.12), 1RM squat
(20.9%; ES, 0.05), MVIC peak force
of the knee extensors (27%), and max-
imal low-velocity isokinetic concentric
torque peak force of the knee extensors
(22.3%), however none of these values
were statistically significant. The knee
flexors showed no statistically signifi-
cant changes for either MVIC peak
force or maximal low-velocity isoki-
netic concentric peak force. Such re-
sults demonstrate that 2 weeks of
training cessation may be enough to
cause reductions in performance.
As training cessation continues for up
to 4 weeks, the magnitude of detrain-
ing effects is increased. Terzis et al. (38)
had 11 physical education students
perform 14 weeks of resistance training
followed by 4 weeks of detraining.
After statistically significant improve-
ments in strength during the training
period (22.1–32.9%), non–statistically
significant reductions occurred in all
1RM values after the 4-week period
of training cessation; 1RM bench press
(24.2%), leg press (25.7%), and squat
(23.9%). Izquierdo et al. (25) per-
formed 4 weeks of training cessation
after 16 weeks of resistance training
in 14 national Basque ball players. This
study also included a taper (n511)
and a control group (n521). Four
weeks of training cessation resulted in
statistically significant reductions in
1RM bench press (29%) and squat
(26%) performance. Together, these
2 studies show that training cessation
of 4 weeks is enough to cause reduc-
tions in strength performance.
With more than 4 weeks of training
cessation, only significant reductions
are seen, clearly showing these dura-
tions to simply be detraining. Reduc-
tions back to pretraining values have
been observed in previously untrained
participants who ceased training for 3
months after an initial 3-month training
period (where MVIC peak force of the
knee extensors showed statistically sig-
nificant increases by 16.7%) (2). Follow-
ing 10–18 weeks of training with 12
weeks of training cessation resulted in
a statistically significant reduction of
68% in MVIC peak force of the knee
extensors (17).
Short durations of training cessation
have been shown to maintain or produce
small improvements in maximal strength
and could be used as part of a taper. It
seems that 2–6 days of training cessation
is most likely to result in improved per-
formance or will allow for maintained
strength (3,16,39,40); however, 10–14
days of training cessation results in small
reductions in performance (16,24). One
month or more of training cessation will
result in significant decreases in strength
performance and is not advised as
a method of tapering (2,17,25,38).
MECHANISMS OF TRAINING
CESSATION ON MAXIMAL
STRENGTH
As with the mechanisms of tapering
and regular training, the major physio-
logical changes resulting in changes in
maximal strength from training cessa-
tion are most likely to occur from
changes in the muscular and/or ner-
vous system (14). Several studies have
looked at these mechanisms.
Hortobagyi et al. (24) noted changes in
several anabolic hormones and other
biochemical markers after 14 days of
training cessation with growth hor-
mone, testosterone, and the testosterone
to cortisol ratio showing statistically sig-
nificant increases, whereas cortisol and
creatine kinase showed statistically sig-
nificant decreases. These results may
indicate the body is in an enhanced state
of tissue remodeling and repair after 2
weeks of training cessation; however,
maximal strength performance was only
maintained within this study. After 4
weeks of detraining, Izquierdo et al.
(25) observed no statistically significant
changes in total testosterone, free testos-
terone, growth hormone, or cortisol. A
tendency (p50.07) for elevated IGF-1
was observed, which may indicate
reduced stress of training and an
enhanced anabolic environment. How-
ever, this study did not show favorable
changes in other anabolic hormones,
such as growth hormone, and perfor-
mance also decreased.
Hortobagyi et al. (24) also reported
non–statistically significant decreases
in peak surface electromyography activ-
ity (28.4–12.7%) of the vastus lateralis
after 14 days of training cessation.
Gibala et al. (16) saw no statistically
significant changes in motor unit activa-
tion (using the interpolated twitch tech-
nique), time to peak torque, or
maximum rate of torque development
after 10 days of training cessation, indi-
cating no change or reductions in neu-
romuscular activation. In addition,
Hortobagyi et al. (24) found that type I
and II fiber areas decreased, but this was
only statistically significant for the 6.4%
(ES, 20.30) decrease in type II fiber area
and not the 5.2% (ES, 20.26) decrease in
type I fiber area. Terzis et al. (38) also
observed a statistically significant
decrease in the cross-sectional area of
type II fibers (IIA and IIX) by 10–12%
after 4 weeks of training cessation. These
results indicate that type II fibers reduce
in size after training cessation, with
greater losses seen after longer durations
of training cessation. Kadi et al. (26) have
shown that the number of satellite cells
remainselevatedat3,10,and60daysof
training cessation after 3 months of
heavy resistance training in previously
untrained participants. This indicates
that the muscle is in a state of, or capable
of,growthorrepairatthesetimesafter
training cessation.
Hortobagyi et al. (24) found no statis-
tically significant changes in body mass
or body fat percentage after 14 days of
Tapering for Maximal Strength
VOLUME 37 | NUMBER 2 | APRIL 2015
80
training cessation; however, body fat
percentage did show a small and
non–statistically significant increase
(2.6%). Terzis et al. (38) also found no
statistically significant changes in body
mass, fat-free mass, or body fat
percentage after 4 weeks of training
cessation; again, although a small
(non–statistically significant) increase
was seen in body fat percentage
(3.0%), which was mirrored by a small
reduction in fat-free mass (20.9%).
These results suggest that a small
decrease in lean mass may be associ-
ated with the small decreases in perfor-
mance seen within these studies.
Given that few studies have looked into
each of these many areas, it is difficult
to draw conclusions on the mecha-
nisms for changes in maximal strength
performance during periods of training
cessation. Although it seems that when
training ceases for a short duration, the
body is in a better hormonal state for
repair and growth. There is also a lack
of studies investigating these changes
within the first week of training cessa-
tion, which is when positive changes in
performance are most likely to occur.
Neural activation of the muscles may
be reduced or unchanged, which would
result in decreased performance, but it
is not known whether this may be
enhanced during the first week of train-
ing cessation when performance im-
provements are seen; further research
is needed.
CONCLUSIONS
Tapering is an effective strategy to
enhance maximal muscular strength.
Step and progressive tapers have both
been shown to be effective following
differing training methods before the
tapering period. Reductions in train-
ing volume (by 30–70%, through
reduced training frequency or training
session volume) with maintained or
small increases in training intensity
seem to be most effective for improve-
ments in maximal muscular strength.
The optimal magnitude of such
changes is not clear; more research
is needed to determine this. Training
cessationmayalsobeabletoplay
a role in enhancing maximal strength,
withlessthan1weekoftrainingces-
sation being optimal for performance
maintenance, and 2–4 days appearing
to be optimal for enhanced maximal
muscular strength. Improved perfor-
mance may be related to more
complete muscle recovery/repair,
greater neural activation (with main-
tained muscle mass) and maybe an
enhanced anabolic environment.
Further research is required to gain
amorecompleteunderstandingof
optimal tapering for expression of
maximal muscular strength, particularly,
in the areas of optimal type of taper, the
magnitudes of volume and intensity
changes during the taper, and mecha-
nisms causing enhanced strength.
PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS
Given that training before a taper can
differ significantly, recommendations
will need to be adapted by practi-
tioners and greater reductions in
training load (and perhaps longer
taper durations) implemented if an
athlete has been undergoing a heavy
training load. However, practitioners
should ensure a taper duration of at
least 1 week and no more than 4
weeks using a step or progressive
taper. Reductions in training load
should come primarily from total
training volume. Reductions of 30–
70% seem to be effective; this can be
reduced through decreasing individ-
ual training session’s volume and/or
reducing the frequency of training.
Intensity of resistance training should
be either maintained at the pretaper
level or slightly increased. Training
should cease at least 2 days before
the targeted competition/event but
no more than 1 week prior (Table 3).
Conflicts of Interest and Source of Funding:
The authors report no conflicts of interest
and no source of funding.
Hayden
Pritchard is
a Lecturer in the
Department of
Exercise & Sport
Science, Faculty
of Health Scien-
ces at the Uni-
versal College of Learning, Palmerston
North, New Zealand; and PhD student
in the Department of Sport & Recrea-
tion, Faculty of Health and Environ-
mental Sciences, Auckland University of
Technology, Auckland, New Zealand.
Justin Keogh is
an Associate
Professor at the
Faculty of Health
Sciences and
Medicine at
Bond University,
Queensland,
Australia; and Adjunct Associate Pro-
fessor at the Sports Performance Research
Institute New Zealand, Auckland Uni-
versity of Technology, Auckland, New
Zealand; and Cluster for Health
Improvement, Faculty of Science, Health,
Education and Engineering, University
of the Sunshine Coast.
Table 3
Tapering recommendations for maximal strength
Taper variable Recommendation
Type Step or progressive
Length 1–4 wk
Volume Decrease by 30–70%
Intensity Maintain or slightly increase
Training frequency Maintain or reduce to attain volume reductions
Strength and Conditioning Journal | www.nsca-scj.com 81
Matthew
Barnes is a Lec-
turer in the
School of Sport
and Exercise at
Massey Univer-
sity, Palmerston
North, New
Zealand.
Michael
McGuigan is
aProfessoratthe
Sports Perfor-
mance Research
Institute
New Zealand,
Auckland Uni-
versity of Technology, Auckland,
New Zealand.
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... To date, there have only been 2 studies that characterized the tapering practices of powerlifters through semistructured interviews (11,33). These studies demonstrated international-level New Zealand (n 5 11) and national-level Croatian (n 5 10) powerlifters use tapering strategies similar to current tapering recommendations (27,30,37). However, sample sizes were limited and may not fully reflect the general tapering practices of powerlifters. ...
... However, the most common approach seemed to be decreasing training intensity based on 44% of our sample. In agreement with recent reviews on tapering for maximal strength (30,37), it seems intensity could be increased, decreased, or maintained compared with pretaper values to elicit positive performance outcomes. However, volume manipulations during the taper likely play a more pivotal role in peaking maximal strength performance (37). ...
... These discrepancies may be due to differences in maximal strength or training characteristics between athletes and laboratory subjects. Nonetheless, our results indicate that the powerlifters surveyed mostly structure their tapering practices in line with current recommendations for tapering to improve maximal strength (30,37). ...
Article
Full-text available
Travis, SK, Pritchard, HJ, Mujika, I, Gentles, JA, Stone, MH, and Bazyler, CD. Characterizing the tapering practices of United States and Canadian raw powerlifters. J Strength Cond Res 35(12S): S26-S35, 2021-The purpose of this study was to characterize the tapering practices used by North American powerlifters. A total of 364 powerlifters completed a 41-item survey encompassing demographics, general training, general tapering, and specific tapering practices. Nonparametric statistics were used to assess sex (male and female), competition level (regional/provincial, national, and international), and competition lift (squat, bench press, and deadlift). The highest training volume most frequently took place 5-8 weeks before competition, whereas the highest training intensity was completed 2 weeks before competition. A step taper was primarily used over 7-10 days while decreasing the training volume by 41-50% with varied intensity. The final heavy (>85% 1 repetition maximum [1RM]) back squat and deadlift sessions were completed 7-10 days before competition, whereas the final heavy bench press session was completed <7 days before competition. Final heavy lifts were completed at 90.0-92.5% 1RM but reduced to 75-80% 1RM for back squat and bench press and 70-75% for deadlift during the final training session of each lift. Set and repetition schemes during the taper varied between lifts with most frequent reports of 3 × 2, 3 × 3, and 3 × 1 for back squat, bench press, and deadlift, respectively. Training cessation durations before competition varied between deadlift (5.8 ± 2.5 days), back squat (4.1 ± 1.9 days), and bench press (3.9 ± 1.8 days). Complete training cessation was implemented 2.8 ± 1.1 days before competition and varied between sex and competition level. These findings provide novel insights into the tapering practices of North American powerlifters and can be used to inform powerlifting coaches and athlete's tapering decisions.
... O tapering consiste numa redução das cargas de treino por um certo período de tempo que antecede uma competição, para minimizar o estresse fisiológico do treinamento crônico e, com isso, aprimorar o rendimento. O tapering pode ser obtido através de diferentes estratégias pedagógicas (Mujika & Padilla, 2003;Bompa & Haff, 2012;Pritchard et al, 2015;Svilar et al, 2019). Vretaros, A. (2022). ...
... Nos esportes coletivos como o basquete, o tapering quando bem direcionado, assegura melhorias na aptidão neuromuscular e metabólica dos jogadores (Vachon et al, 2020). No entanto, a magnitude ótima para gerar efeitos positivos no desempenho depende da manipulação ajustada de algumas variáveis envolvidas neste processo (Bompa & Haff, 2012;Pritchard et al, 2015). ...
... Ainda assim, é preciso atenção na aplicabilidade do tapering, pois estratégias mal elaboradas, feitas por meio de redução significativa nas cargas em períodos de tempo prolongado, pode vir a resultar em destreinamento, gerando queda no rendimento (Pritchard et al, 2015;Jafer et al, 2019). ...
Article
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RESUMO Os programas de treinamento físico específicos direcionados aos jogadores de basquete precisam ser devidamente organizados e efetivos, para provocar as adaptações fisiológicas desejadas e, por conseguinte, aprimorar o desempenho. O tapering surge como uma estratégia pedagógica bem documentada na literatura científica, que auxilia os preparadores físicos a otimizar o rendimento em momentos-chave da competição. Todavia, para se obter os benefícios do tapering é necessário saber manipular com proeficiência variáveis como o volume, intensidade, frequência e\ou duração das cargas. Soma-se a isto, o controle sistemático da carga externa e interna contribuem para entender a direção do programa de treinamento, conseguindo identificar os elementos estressores e a capacidade de recuperação dos jogadores. No basquete, as pesquisas sobre o emprego do tapering demonstram resultados positivos no desempenho em diferentes formatos de intervenção. Nesta revisão de literatura foi possível constatar que o gerenciamento da fadiga durante o período de intensificação das cargas e, aumento da prontidão dos jogadores na etapa de tapering, é uma tarefa complexa.
... Anthropometric, dry-land and swimming performance variables were similar between the groups at baseline (p > 0.05). [23]. ...
... All the tests were performed within two days (standardized order), with dry-land measurements being taken on the first day and poolbased measurements on the second day. Table 3 and Fig. 3. [18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32][33]. The choice of the types of HIIT and the length of the intervention period in these studies could explain these different results. ...
... The taper period is also essential for adaptation to stimuli, transferring strength gains to propulsive swimming actions [16]. Pritchard et al. [23] suggested that it is necessary to develop a taper period after an MST programme for maximal muscular strength gains. It must range from one to four weeks, be characterized by a decrease in the training load by 30-70% or reduced training frequency, preserving or slightly increasing intensity. ...
Article
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Objective: Combined interventions of pool-based and dry-land workouts is a common practice in swimming training. However, the effects on strength, technique and swimming performance is still not clear. Through a randomized controlled trial study, we investigated the effect of combining high intensity interval training (HIIT) and maximum strength training (MST) on strength, technique and 100-m butterfly swimming performance. Methods: Competitive age-group swimmers (N=22, males) were randomly divided into two groups. The experimental group (EG: 14.1 ± 0.3 yr-old), performed 8-weeks combining short-moderate HIIT and MST. The control group (CG: 14.5 ± 0.3 yr-old) performed their usual training. Muscular strength, technique and swimming performance were evaluated before and after 8-weeks. Results: Substantial improvements were observed in maximum muscle strength (mean diff: 22-28%; p < 0.001; d = 3.25-3.61), technique (p < 0.05; d = 0.98-1.96) and 100-m butterfly swimming performance (3.5%; p=0.001; d = 1.81) when combining HIIT and MST during 8-weeks. Conclusion: Combining short-moderate HIIT and MST during 8-weeks can enhance maximum muscular strength, technique, and 100-m butterfly swimming performance. Coaches should adjust training programs accordingly since it could yield important difference in swimming performance during competitions. Keywords: Exercise, Aquatic Locomotion, Training and Testing, Combined Training, High Intensity Interval Training
... According to another definition, taper is a recovery technique used before competitions to get rid of the stress on the organism after an intensive training (9). In other words, taper training is to reduce the training intensity in order to provide physical and physiological recovery in various training periods to provide maximum competitive performance before the competition (10,11). Taper is also expressed as the last step in the training program practices in the last few weeks before the competition (8,11). ...
... In other words, taper training is to reduce the training intensity in order to provide physical and physiological recovery in various training periods to provide maximum competitive performance before the competition (10,11). Taper is also expressed as the last step in the training program practices in the last few weeks before the competition (8,11). ...
... According to the studies conducted, it was found that there are significant improvements in strength and power levels of athletes as a result of the taper training (53,16,11,54,55,56,57) (Table 5). In a study conducted on swimmers in which strength and power output were examined, it was determined that after a 2-week taper, there was an increase of 18% in arm strength measured in accordance with the swimming biokinetics of athletes and a 25% increase in current swimming strength (in distance). ...
Article
This study was conducted to systematically compile and sythesize the studies about taper training in literature and in the most current form, to reveal the physiological changes caused by taper trainings. Qualitative research methods were used for in-depth study and interpretation of the studies on taper applications published between 1985-2020. Document analysis was used as data collection method and the obtained data were analyzed by content analysis method. Taper training is a complex training method that facilitates the systematic reduction of the training load and the attainment of the physiological harmony. Before the major competitions the reductions in load, density, volume or frequency of the training in order to achieve optimal performance are made which is called the taper. The aim of taper training is to reduce fatigue and increase physiological adaptation and performance in athletes through intensive training. Since each sport branch has different physiological demands, taper trainings are applied differently in individual and team sports. The effects of these practices may vary in athletes in different branches. In the literature studies, some increases were found in the blood volume and red blood cells values, muscular glycogen deposits, some enzymes, blood lactate and VO2 max. values and the movement economies of athletes. However, in some studies, some decreases were found in the levels of the respiratory threshold, creatine kinase in the blood and the values of the submaximal ventilation, the diastolic and systolic blood pressures of the athletes. Keywords: Taper training, athlete, performance improvement, physiological changes
... Such data corresponds with strongman athletes (41) (i.e., deadlift 7.8 6 3.2 days) and studies among powerlifters (10,25,34), in which the final deadlift session (8-11 days) was further out from competition than their final bench press (#7 days) and back squat (7-10 days) session, so athletes could gain additional recovery time. The results demonstrate that weightlifting athletes are aware of the physiological stresses associated with their training and structure their tapering practices in line with current recommendations for tapering to improve maximal strength (22,33). ...
Article
Winwood, PW, Keogh, JW, Travis, SK, and Pritchard, HJ. The tapering practices of competitive weightlifters. J Strength Cond Res XX(X): 000–000, 2022—This study explored the tapering strategies of weightlifting athletes. Weightlifting athletes ( n = 146) (mean ± SD ; age: 29.2 ± 8.7 years, height: 172.5 ± 10.1 cm, body mass: 84.0 ± 17.2 kg, 4.7 ± 3.4 years of weightlifting training experience, and 3.9 ± 3.3 years of competitive weightlifting experience) completed a self-reported 4-page, 39-item internet survey on tapering practices. Subgroup analysis by sex (male and female) and competitive standard (local or regional, national and international level) was conducted. Ninety-nine percent ( n = 144) of weightlifting athletes reported they used a taper. Athletes stated that their typical taper length was 8.0 ± 4.4 days, with the linear (36%) and step tapers (33%) being the most performed. Training volume decreased during the taper by 43.1 ± 14.6%, and athletes ceased all training 1.5 ± 0.6 days out from competition. Muscular strength, light technique work, and aerobic conditioning were the most common types of training performed in the taper. Athletes typically stated that tapering was performed to achieve rest and recovery, physical preparation for peak performance and mental preparation; training intensity and training duration decreased whereas training frequency remained the same or decreased; traditional exercises were performed further out from competition than weightlifting exercises; assistance exercises and some strength work were reduced; nutritional changes, foam rolling, static stretching, and massage were strategies used in the taper; and poor tapering occurred because of training too heavy, too hard, or too light and life–work circumstances. These results may aid athletes and coaches in strength sports to optimize tapering variables leading to improved performances.
... A total of three non-consecutive sessions per week were executed during the intervention period by each MST group. However, only two non-consecutive sessions per week were executed during the tapering period [30], see Table 2. All training protocols intensity varied between 85% 1RM and 95% 1RM, and the recovery between sets, and between exercises was set at 3 min in the three groups [8,9]. ...
... A total of three non-consecutive sessions per week were executed during the intervention period by each MST group. However, only two non-consecutive sessions per week were executed during the tapering period [30], see Table 2. All training protocols intensity varied between 85% 1RM and 95% 1RM, and the recovery between sets, and between exercises was set at 3 min in the three groups [8,9]. ...
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This study aimed to compare the effectiveness of high, moderate, and low resistance training volume-load of maximum strength training on muscle strength and swimming performance in competitive swimmers. Thirty-three male swimmers were randomly allocated to high (age = 16.5 ± 0.30 years), moderate (age = 16.1 ± 0.32 years) and a low resistance training volume-load group (age = 15.9 ± 0.31). This study was carried out in mid-season (January to March). Pre and post strength (e.g., repetition maximum [1RM] leg extension and bench press tests), swimming (25, 50 m front-crawl), start (speed, time, distance) and turn (time of turn) performance tests were conducted. Our findings revealed a large main effect of time for 1RM bench press: d = 1.38; 1RM leg extension: d = 1.55, and for 25 (d = 1.12), and 50 m (d = 1.97) front-crawl, similarly for start and turn performance (d = 1.28–1.46). However, no significant Group × Time interactions were shown in all strength swimming performances, start and turn tests (p > 0.05). In conclusion, low training loads have been shown to elicit the same results as moderate, and high training loads protocol. Therefore, this study shows evidence that the addition of low training volume-loads as a regular part of a maximal strength training regime will elicit improvements in strength and swimming performance.
... In addition, the ETL was decreased in CRTG compared to the intervention period (−69.75% of VL BP and −68.19% of VL MBT), while the intensity of the exercise varied between 70% and 80% of the 1RM BP and between 3 and 5 kg of the MBT. The adjustment of the frequency of the sessions, the volume of the training load and the intensity of the exercises were carried out according to the recommendations found in the literature [20]. The quantification of the volume load in the intervention and taper periods is presented in Table 3. ...
Article
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This study aimed to examine the effect of 9 weeks of concurrent resistance training (CRT) between resistance on dry land (bench press (BP) and medicine ball throw) and resistance in water (water parachute and hand paddles) on muscle strength, sprint swimming performance and kinematic variables compared by the usual training (standard in-water training). Twenty-two male competitive swimmers participated in this study and were randomly allocated to two groups. The CRT group (CRTG, age = 16.5 ± 0.30 years) performed a CRT program, and the control group (CG, age = 16.1 ± 0.32 years) completed their usual training. The independent variables were measured pre- and post-intervention. The findings showed that the one-repetition maximum bench press (1RM BP) was improved only after a CRT program (d = 2.18; +12.11 ± 1.79%). Moreover, all sprint swimming performances were optimized in the CRT group (d = 1.3 to 2.61; −4.22 ± 0.18% to −7.13 ± 0.23%). In addition, the findings revealed an increase in velocity and stroke rate (d = 1.67, d = 2.24; 9.36 ± 2.55%, 13.51 ± 4.22%, respectively) after the CRT program. The CRT program improved the muscle strength, which, in turn, improved the stroke rate, with no change in the stroke length. Then, the improved stroke rate increased the swimming velocity. Ultimately, a faster velocity leads to better swim performances.
... Before major competitions, a taper is often prescribed as the final stage of training aimed at decreasing physiological and psychological fatigue to achieve optimal preparedness (Mujika and Padilla, 2003;Travis et al., 2020c). A taper is typically constructed via reducing the amount of training, primarily through decreasing overall training volume-load and manipulating intensity over 1-4 weeks (Mujika and Padilla, 2003;Pritchard et al., 2015;Travis et al., 2020c). The manner in which work is reduced can be accomplished using different taper models including step, linear, and exponential with fastor slow-decay (Mujika and Padilla, 2003). ...
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Before major athletic events, a taper is often prescribed to facilitate recovery and enhance performance. However, it is unknown which taper model is most effective for peaking maximal strength and positively augmenting skeletal muscle. Thus, the purpose of this study was to compare performance outcomes and skeletal muscle adaptations following a step vs. an exponential taper in strength athletes. Sixteen powerlifters (24.0±4.0 years, 174.4±8.2 cm, 89.8±21.4 kg) participated in a 6-week training program aimed at peaking maximal strength on back squat (initial 1-repetition maximum [1RM]: 174.7±33.4 kg), bench press (118.5±29.9 kg), and deadlift (189.9±41.2 kg). Powerlifters were matched based on relative maximal strength, and randomly assigned to either a) 1-week overreach and 1-week step taper or b) 1-week overreach and 3-week exponential taper. Athletes were tested pre- and post-training on measures of body composition, jumping performance, isometric squat, and 1RM. Whole muscle size was assessed at the proximal, middle, and distal vastus lateralis using ultrasonography and microbiopsies at the middle vastus lateralis site. Muscle samples (n=15) were analyzed for fiber size, fiber type (MHC-I, -IIA, -IIX, hybrid -I/IIA) using whole muscle immunohistochemistry and single fiber dot blots, gene expression, and microRNA abundance. There were significant main time effects for 1RM squat (p<0.001), bench press (p<0.001), and deadlift, (p=0.024), powerlifting total (p<0.001), Wilks Score (p<0.001), squat jump peak-power scaled to body mass (p=0.001), body mass (p=0.005), fat mass (p=0.002), and fat mass index (p=0.002). There were significant main time effects for medial whole muscle cross-sectional area (p=0.006) and averaged sites (p<0.001). There was also a significant interaction for MHC-IIA fiber cross-sectional area (p=0.014) with post-hoc comparisons revealing increases following the step-taper only (p=0.002). There were significant main time effects for single-fiber MHC-I% (p=0.015) and MHC-IIA% (p=0.033), as well as for MyoD (p=0.002), MyoG (p=0.037), and miR-499a (p=0.033). Overall, increases in whole muscle cross-sectional area, fiber cross-sectional area, MHC-IIA fiber cross-sectional area, and MHC transitions appeared to favor the step taper group. An overreach followed by a step taper appears to produce a myocellular environment that enhances skeletal muscle adaptations, whereas an exponential taper may favor neuromuscular performance.
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The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of a pre-season taper on individual power-force-velocity profiles and jump performance in professional National Rugby League (NRL) players. Seven professional rugby league players performed concentric squat jumps using ascending loads of 25, 50, 75, 100% body mass before and after a 21 day step taper leading into the in-season. Linear force-velocity relationships were derived and the following variables were obtained: maximum theoretical velocity (V0), maximum theoretical force (F0) and maximum power (Pmax). The players showed likely-to-very likely increases in F0 (ES=0.45) and Pmax (ES=0.85) from pre to post taper. Loaded squat jump height also showed likely-to-most likely increases at each load (ES=0.83-1.04). The 21 day taper was effective at enhancing maximal power output and jump height performance in professional rugby players, possibly due to a recovery from fatigue and thus increased strength capability after a prolonged preseason training period. Rugby league strength and conditioning coaches should consider reducing training volume while maintaining intensity and aerobic conditioning (e.g. step taper) leading into the in-season.
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The aim of this exploratory study was to identify the most influential training designs during the final six weeks of training (F6T) before a major swimming event, taking into account athletes' evolution over several seasons. Fifteen female and 17 male elite swimmers were followed for one to nine F6T periods. The F6T was divided into two sub-periods of a three-week overload period (OP) and a three-week taper period (TP). The final time trial performance was recorded for each swimmer in his or her specialty at the end of both OP and TP. The change in performances (ΔP) between OP and TP was recorded. Training variables were derived from the weekly training volume at several intensity levels as a percentage of the individual maximal volume measured at each intensity level, and the individual total training load (TTL) was considered to be the mean of the loads at these seven intensity levels. Also, training patterns were identified from TTL in the three weeks of both OP and TP by cluster analysis. Mixed-model was used to analyse the longitudinal data. The training pattern during OP that was associated with the greatest improvement in performance was a training load peak followed by a linear slow decay (84 ± 17, 81 ± 22, and 80 ± 19 % of the maximal training load measured throughout the F6T period for each subject, Mean±SD) (p < 0.05). During TP, a training load peak in the 1st week associated with a slow decay design (57 ± 26, 45 ± 24 and 38 ± 14%) led to higher ΔP (p < 0.05). From the 1st to 3rd season, the best results were characterized by maintenance of a medium training load from OP to TP. Progressively from the 4th season, high training loads during OP followed by a sharp decrease during TP were associated with higher ΔP.
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Muscle power is of great importance in most sports, and its development is one of the most fundamental physiological adaptations for improving physical performance. In order to optimize competition performance, athletes usually decrease training load before competition, the so-called tapering, to allow physiological and psychological recovery from accumulated training stress. Tapering could be conducted through changes in training volume, intensity and/or frequency, but training volume seems to be most effective in optimizing muscular power. There are two main types of tapering: progressive tapering and one-step tapering. Currently, there is no general conclusion on tapering duration. The physiological mechanisms regarding tapering effects on neuromuscular system are largely unknown. Generally, it is believed that sustained maximal muscular power after tapering is obtained through maintaining adaptations in muscle fiber size, fiber type and neural adaptations whereas increased maximal muscular power after tapering is assumed mainly through both physiological and psychological recovery. We believe that increased maximal muscular power after tapering may also rely on higher neural drive and increased muscle fiber cross sectional area (CSA), especially in type IIA muscle fibers. Complete rest is a special form of tapering and it usually only leads to sustained maximal power. This effect is believed to be associated with decreased muscle CSA and a transformation of muscle fibers from type IIA to type IIX.
Article
Zaras, ND, Stasinaki, A-NE, Krase, AA, Methenitis, SK, Karampat-sos, GP, Georgiadis, GV, Spengos, KM, and Terzis, GD. Effects of tapering with light vs. heavy loads on track and field throwing performance. J Strength Cond Res 28(12): 3484–3495, 2014— The purpose of the study was to investigate the effects of power training with light vs. heavy loads during the tapering phases of a double periodized training year on track and field throwing performance. Thirteen track and field throwers aged 16–26 years followed 8 months of systematic training for performance enhancement aiming at 2 tapering phases during the winter and the spring competition periods. Athletes performed tapering with 2 different resistance training loads (counterbalanced design): 7 athletes used 30% of 1 repetition maximum (1RM) light-load tapering (LT), and 6 athletes used the 85% of 1RM heavy-load tapering (HT), during the winter tapering. The opposite was performed at the spring tapering. Before and after each tapering, throwing performance , 1RM strength, vertical jumping, rate of force development (RFD), vastus lateralis architecture, and rate of perceived exertion were evaluated. Throwing performance increased significantly by 4.8 6 1.0% and 5.6 6 0.9% after LT and HT, respectively. Leg press 1RM and squat jump power increased more after HT than LT (5.9 6 3.2% vs. 23.4 6 2.5%, and 5.1 6 2.4% vs. 0.9 6 1.4%, respectively, p # 0.05). Leg press RFD increased more in HT (38.1 6 16.5%) compared with LT (22.9 6 6.7%), but LT induced less fatigue than HT (4.0 6 1.5 vs. 6.7 6 0.9, p # 0.05). Muscle architecture was not altered after either program. These results suggest that performance increases similarly after tapering with LT or HT in track and field throwers, but HT leads to greater increases in strength, whole body power, and RFD.
Article
THE ROLE OF STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING COACHES IS TO IMPROVE THE PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF ATHLETES. TO ASSESS IMPROVEMENTS IN PHYSICAL ABILITIES, COACHES MUST OBJECTIVELY INTERPRET TESTING AND TRAINING DATA. THIS ARTICLE INFORMS ACTIVE COACHES ON THE USAGE OF A SIMPLE STATISTICAL METHOD, THE EFFECT SIZE, AND PROVIDES PRACTICAL EXAMPLES OF ITS USE.
Conference Paper
The purpose of the study was to investigate the effects of power training with light vs. heavy loads during the tapering phases of a double periodized training year on track and field throwing performance. Thirteen track and field throwers aged 16-26 years followed 8 months of systematic training for performance enhancement aiming at two tapering phases during the winter and the spring competition periods. Athletes performed tapering with two different resistance training loads (counterbalanced design): 7 athletes used 30%-1RM (LT) and 6 athletes used the 85%-1RM (HT), during the winter tapering. The opposite was performed at the spring tapering. Before and after each tapering, throwing performance, 1-RM strength, vertical jumping, rate of force development (RFD), vastus lateralis architecture, and rate of perceived exertion (RPE) were evaluated. Throwing performance increased significantly by 4.8 ± 1.0% and 5.6 ± 0.9% after LT and HT, respectively. Leg press 1-RM and squat jump power increased more after HT than LT (5.9 ± 3.2% vs. -3.4 ± 2.5%, and 5.1 ± 2.4% vs. 0.9 ± 1.4% respectively, p < 0.05). Leg press RFD increased more in HT (38.1 ± 16.5%) compared to LT (-2.9 ± 6.7%), but LT induced less fatigue than HT (4.0 ± 1.5 vs. 6.7 ± 0.9, p < 0.05). Muscle architecture was not altered after either program. These results suggest that performance increases similarly after tapering with LT or HT in track and field throwers but HT leads to greater increases in strength, whole body power and RFD.
Article
High-resistance strength training (HRST) is one of the most widely practiced forms of physical activity, which is used to enhance athletic performance, augment musculo-skeletal health and alter body aesthetics. Chronic exposure to this type of activity produces marked increases in muscular strength, which are attributed to a range of neurological and morphological adaptations. This review assesses the evidence for these adaptations, their interplay and contribution to enhanced strength and the methodologies employed. The primary morphological adaptations involve an increase in the cross-sectional area of the whole muscle and individual muscle fibres, which is due to an increase in myofibrillar size and number. Satellite cells are activated in the very early stages of training; their proliferation and later fusion with existing fibres appears to be intimately involved in the hypertrophy response. Other possible morphological adaptations include hyperplasia, changes in fibre type, muscle architecture, myofilament density and the structure of connective tissue and tendons. Indirect evidence for neurological adaptations, which encompasses learning and coordination, comes from the specificity of the training adaptation, transfer of unilateral training to the contralateral limb and imagined contractions. The apparent rise in whole-muscle specific tension has been primarily used as evidence for neurological adaptations; however, morphological factors (e.g. preferential hypertrophy of type 2 fibres, increased angle of fibre pennation, increase in radiological density) are also likely to contribute to this phenomenon. Changes in inter-muscular coordination appear critical. Adaptations in agonist muscle activation, as assessed by electromyography, tetanic stimulation and the twitch interpolation technique, suggest small, but significant increases. Enhanced firing frequency and spinal reflexes most likely explain this improvement, although there is contrary evidence suggesting no change in cortical or corticospinal excitability. The gains in strength with HRST are undoubtedly due to a wide combination of neurological and morphological factors. Whilst the neurological factors may make their greatest contribution during the early stages of a training programme, hypertrophic processes also commence at the onset of training.
Article
Tapering commonly precedes strength/power competitions to augment performance, and training abstinence is an extreme manifestation of taper. This study compared the effects of different training-abstinence intervals on several indices of strength. Postresting strength performance was compared in 54 young men who had abstained from a standardized weight training program for either 2, 3, 4, or 5 days. Testing included 1RM heel raise strength and isokinetic plantar flexion peak torque at 1.05 and 3.14 rad · s-1. Heel raise strength was greater at 4 days as compared to 2 or 5 days, whereas performance at 3 days was no different (p > .05) than any of the other rest intervals. Isokinetic plantar flexion peak torque at both 1.05 and 3.14 rad · s-1 was unaffected by any of the rest intervals. Small to moderate effect sizes were found for heel raise strength for groups resting 3 and 4 days as well as for slow and fast isokinetic peak torque for the group resting 4 days. It was concluded that a transient elevation in heel raise strength in young men appears to occur by the fourth day of abstinence from heavy-resistance heel-raise training. Under the same experimental conditions, it appears that a modest increase in both slow and fast isokinetic plantar-flexion strength may also occur.