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Hayden J. Pritchard, Matthew J. Barnes, Robin J. Stewart, Justin W. Keogh and Michael R. McGuigan

Purpose: To investigate the effects of strength-training tapers of different intensities but equal volume reductions on neuromuscular performance. Methods: Eleven strength-trained men (21.3 [3.3] y, 92.3 [17.6] kg, relative 1-repetition-maximum deadlift 1.9 [0.2] times bodyweight) completed a crossover study. Specifically, two 4-wk strength-training blocks were followed by a taper week with reduced volume (∼70%) involving either increased (5.9%) or decreased (−8.5%) intensity. Testing occurred pretraining (T1), posttraining (T2), and posttaper (T3). Salivary testosterone and cortisol, plasma creatine kinase, a Daily Analysis of Life Demands in Athletes questionnaire, countermovement jump (CMJ), isometric midthigh pull, and isometric bench press were measured. Results: CMJ height improved significantly over time (P < .001), with significant increases from T1 (38.0 [5.5] cm) to both T2 (39.3 [5.3] cm; P = .010) and T3 (40.0 [5.3] cm; P = .001) and from T2 to T3 (P = .002). CMJ flight time:contraction time increased significantly over time (P = .004), with significant increases from T1 (0.747 [0.162]) to T2 (0.791 [0.163]; P = .012). Isometric midthigh-pull relative peak force improved significantly over time (P = .033), with significant increases from T1 (34.7 [5.0] N/kg) to T2 (35.9 [4.8] N/kg; P = .013). No significant changes were found between tapers. However, the higher-intensity taper produced small effect-size increases at T3 vs T1 for isometric midthigh-pull relative peak force, CMJ height, and flight time:contraction time, while the lower-intensity taper only produced small effect-size improvements at T3 vs T1 for CMJ height. Conclusions: A strength-training taper with volume reductions had a positive effect on power, with a tendency for the higher-intensity taper to produce more favorable changes in strength and power.

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Christos K. Argus, Nicholas D. Gill, Justin W.L. Keogh, Michael R. McGuigan and Will G. Hopkins


There is little literature comparing contrast training programs typically performed by team-sport athletes within a competitive phase. We compared the effects of two contrast training programs on a range of measures in high-level rugby union players during the competition season.


The programs consisted of a higher volume-load (strength-power) or lower volume-load (speed-power) resistance training; each included a tapering of loading (higher force early in the week, higher velocity later in the week) and was performed twice a week for 4 wk. Eighteen players were assessed for peak power during a bodyweight countermovement jump (BWCMJ), bodyweight squat jump (BWSJ), 50 kg countermovement jump (50CMJ), 50 kg squat jump (50SJ), broad jump (BJ), and reactive strength index (RSI; jump height divided by contact time during a depth jump). Players were then randomized to either training group and were reassessed following the intervention. Inferences were based on uncertainty in outcomes relative to thresholds for standardized changes.


There were small between-group differences in favor of strength-power training for mean changes in the 50CMJ (8%; 90% confidence limits, ±8%), 50SJ (8%; ±10%), and BJ (2%; ±3%). Differences between groups for BWCMJ, BWSJ, and reactive strength index were unclear. For most measures there were smaller individual differences in changes with strength-power training.


Our findings suggest that high-level rugby union athletes should be exposed to higher volume-load contrast training which includes one heavy lifting session each week for larger and more uniform adaptation to occur in explosive power throughout a competitive phase of the season.