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Tapering: A review for swim coaches

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Max Stone


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BackgroundTapering is the progressive reduction in training load prior to competitions aiming to physiologically and psychologically recover the athlete and promote optimal performance. Considerable research has looked at optimising taper and explaining its performance enhancing effects. However, there are no up to date, swimming specific reviews available to help inform coaches’ practice.PurposeThe purpose of this literature review is to summarise taper related findings within swimming and offer recommendations for coaches to use in their practice.MethodologyPeer reviewed articles were identified from books, previous reviews and via searches of online databases and libraries. Following searches, article abstracts were read to check for relevance to the purpose of the literature review. Articles were considered relevant if they had examined taper within an athletic sample in a competitive sport. The purpose of this literature review is to summarise taper related findings within swimming and offer recommendations for coaches to use in their practice. Performance outcomeThe literature review summarises research looking at 1) optimal training load manipulations in taper, 2) the mechanisms underpinning the effectiveness of a taper, 3) mathematical modelling in taper, 4) overreaching and its relationship with taper. Taper is manipulated by changing the volume, intensity, frequency, duration, and pattern of training (Mujika & Padilla, 2003). A review of the literature suggests a progressive, 14-28 day taper, consisting of a 40-70% reduction in training volume, and maintenance in training intensity, and frequency, is the most effective method of increasing swimming performance (e.g. Mujika, Padilla, Geyssant, & Chatard, 1997; Santhiago, Silva, Papoti, & Gobatto, 2011; Trinity, Pahnke, Reese, & Coyle, 2006). Swim performance improvements following taper results from multiple physiological and psychological changes, however the most common are increases in strength and power, improvements in mood, increases in muscle cell structure, and increases in muscle metabolism (e.g. Flynn et al., 1994; Raglin, Koceja, Stager, & Harms, 1996). Overreaching, when done correctly, can increase taper related adaptations and lead to performance supercompensation (Le Meur, Buchheit, Aubry, Coutts, & Hausswirth, 2016).Key technical/non-technical lessons learnedSwim tapers should progressively reduce the training volume by 40-70%, whilst maintaining training intensity and frequency over 14-28 days.Tapers should be individualised to swimmer’s needs.Tapers should be monitored and adapted to changes in circumstances.The performance enhancing effects of taper result from several physiological and psychological changes.Overload prior to taper can lead to performance supercompensation, but should be done with caution and alongside monitoring.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Stone MJ, Knight CJ, Hall R, Shearer C, Shearer DA

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: English Institute of Sport National Conference

Year of Conference: 2017

Print publication date: 12/12/2017

Online publication date: 12/12/2017

Acceptance date: 01/11/2017

Publisher: EIS