THERE IS MORE TO AN EFFECTIVE TAPER THAN PSYCHOLOGICAL AND PHYSIOLOGICAL RECOVERY

Hooper, S.L., Mackinnon, L.T., & Ginn, E.M. (1998). Effects of three tapering techniques on the performance, forces and psychometric measures of competitive swimmers. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 78(3), 258-263.

The 100-m and 400-m swim time, tethered swimming forces, mood states and self-ratings of well-being of competitive swimmers (N = 27) were measured before and after 4 weeks of intense training and after 1 week and 2 weeks of tapering for major competition.

Ss were divided into three groups. Each group completed one of three taper regimes similar to those currently performed by swimmers in preparation for competition: (a) reduced training frequency according to each athlete's daily ratings of well-being, (b) reduced training volume, and (c) reduced training volume and intensity.

Significant improvements in the Profile of Mood States measures of tension, depression and anger were observed after one week of tapering, with significant improvements in total mood disturbance and fatigue and peak tethered swimming force after 2 weeks. Non-significant improvements in 100-m and 400-m swim time were observed and no significant differences were revealed among the three tapering techniques.

These data highlighted the importance of providing sufficient recovery before competition, since one week of reduced training was not long enough to maximize the benefits of tapering. However, none of the three types of tapering currently used by competitive swimmers could be shown to be more beneficial than the others.

Implications. Tapering is an individual process. It does not necessarily generate improved performances even though psychological and swimming force measures improve. Unless the specificity of the intended performance is accommodated during a taper and possible the final training stages, physiological and psychological recovery alone most likely will not produce performance changes in competitive situations.

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