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 possibly the final training stages, physiological and psychological recovery alone most likely will not produce performance changes in competitive situations.

[Editor's Note: This study assumes that all trained swimmers in all swimming programs are in the same physical and mental shape prior to a taper. That is too presumptuous. Swimmers partake of a host of training experiences leaving a great diversity of physical and mental statuses before important meets when tapers are enacted. The results of this study most likely are peculiar to the limited-subject group employed in this investigation. One should not infer that the findings of this study are appropriate for any group of trained swimmers.]

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