Tapering and Repeated High-Intensity Effort Ability in Young Elite Rugby Union Players: Influence of Pretaper Fatigue Level

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose: To assess the effects of a short-term taper on the ability to perform repeated high-intensity efforts, depending on players’ fatigue level following an intensive training block. Method: After a 3-day off-season camp, 13 players followed the same 3-week preseason training block followed by a 7-day exponential taper. Performance was assessed by a repeated high-intensity effort test before and after the taper. Total sprint time, percentage of decrement, and the number of sprints equal to or higher than 90% of the best sprint were retained for analysis. Players were a posteriori classified in normal training or acute fatigue groups based on their readiness to perform prior to the taper, assessed through the magnitude of difference in psychological (Profile of Mood State Questionnaire), cardiovascular (submaximal constant-duration cycling), and neuromuscular (countermovement jump) tests between the preintensive and postintensive training blocks. Results: Training load declined by 55% (9%) during the taper (P = .001, g = −2.54). The overall group showed a small improvement in total sprint time (−3.40% [3.90%], P = .04, g = −0.39) following the taper. Relative changes tended to be higher in the acute fatigue compared with the normal training group (−5.07% [4.52%] vs −1.45% [1.88%], respectively; P = .08; d = 1.01). No taper-induced improvement was observed in percentage of decrement or number of sprints equal to or higher than 90% of the best sprint. Conclusion: A 7-day taper consisting of 55% training load reduction improved repeated high-intensity effort performance in young elite rugby union players. Pretaper level of fatigue seems to be a key determinant in the taper supercompensation process, as acutely fatigued players at the end of the intensive training block tended to benefit more from the taper.

Vachon, Berryman, and Bosquet are with the Lab MOVE (EA6314), Faculty of Sport Sciences, University of Poitiers, Poitiers, France. Vachon and Paquet are with the Stade Rochelais Rugby, La Rochelle, France. Berryman is with the Dépt des Sciences de l’Activité Physique, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, QC, Canada; the Inst National du Sport du Québec, Montréal, QC, Canada; and the Dept of Sports Studies, Bishop’s University, Sherbrooke, QC, Canada. Mujika is with the Dept of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine and Nursing, University of the Basque Country, Leioa, Basque Country Spain; and the Exercise Science Laboratory, School of Kinesiology, Faculty of Medicine, Universidad Finis Terrae, Santiago, Chile. Bosquet is also with the Dept of Kinesiology, University of Montréal, Montréal, QC, Canada.

Bosquet (laurent.bosquet@univ-poitiers.fr) is corresponding author.
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