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Peaking for major competition is considered critical for maximizing team-sport performance. However, there is little scientific information available to guide coaches in prescribing efficient tapering strategies for team-sport players.
To monitor the changes in physical performance in elite team-sport players during a 3-wk taper after a preseason training camp.
Ten male international rugby sevens players were tested before (Pre) and after (Post) a 4-wk preseason training camp focusing on high-intensity training and strength training with moderate loads and once each week during a subsequent 3-wk taper. During each testing session, midthigh-pull maximal strength, sprint-acceleration mechanical outputs, and performance, as well as repeated-sprint ability (RSA), were assessed.
At Post, no single peak performance was observed for maximal lower-limb force output and sprint performance, while RSA peaked for only 1 athlete. During the taper, 30-m-sprint time decreased almost certainly (–3.1% ± 0.9%, large), while maximal lower-limb strength and RSA, respectively, improved very likely (+7.7% ± 5.3%, small) and almost certainly (+9.0% ± 2.6%, moderate). Of the peak performances, 70%, 80%, and 80% occurred within the first 2 wk of taper for RSA, maximal force output, and sprint performance, respectively.
These results show the sensitivity of physical qualities to tapering in rugby sevens players and suggest that an ~1- to 2-wk tapering time frame appears optimal to maximize the overall physical-performance response.
Marrier, Hausswirth, and Le Meur are with the Laboratory of Sport, Expertise, and Performance, National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance, Paris, France. Robineau, Piscione, Lacome, and Peeters are with the Research Dept, French Rugby Federation, Marcoussis, France. Morin is with LAMHESS, Côte d’Azur University, Nice, France.