Functional Overreaching : The Key to Peak Performance during the Taper?

Abstract : Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine whether performance supercompensation during taper is maximized in endurance athletes after experiencing overreaching during an overload training (OT) period. Methods: Thirty-three trained male triathletes were assigned to either OT (n = 23) or normal training groups (n = 10, CTL) during 8 wk. Cycling performance and maximal oxygen uptake (V ˙ O 2max) were measured after 1 wk of moderate training, a 3-wk period of OT, and then each week during 4-wk taper. Results: Eleven of the 23 subjects from the OT group were diagnosed as functionally overreached (FOR) after the overload period (decreased performance with concomitant high perceived fatigue), whereas the 12 other subjects were only acutely fatigued (AF) (no decrease in performance). According to qualitative statistical analysis, the AF group demonstrated a small to large greater peak performance supercompensation than the FOR group (2.6% T 1.1%) and the CTL group (2.6% T 1.6%). V ˙ O 2max increased significantly from baseline at peak performance only in the CTL and AF groups. Of the peak performances, 60%, 83%, and 73% occurred within the two first weeks of taper in CTL, AF, and OR, respectively. Ten cases of infection were reported during the study with higher prevalence in FOR (70%) than that in AF (20%) and CTL (10%). Conclusion: This study showed that 1) greater gains in performance and V ˙ O 2max can be achieved when higher training load is prescribed before the taper but not in the presence of FOR ; 2) peak performance is not delayed during taper when heavy training loads are completed immediately prior; and 3) FOR provides higher risk for training maladaptation, including increased infection risks. T he primary goal for coaches of high-performance athletes is to deliver a well-controlled training program to ensure that the maximal performance is achieved at major competitions. The best competition performances in endurance sports are often achieved after a taper phase, which is typically completed after periods of heavy training. The taper has been defined as a progressive, nonlinear reduction of the training load in the period before competition (19). The main purpose of the taper is to reduce physiological and psychological stressors of previous training and to remove residual fatigue so that sport performance can be optimized. Appropriate tapering is considered to be critical for maximizing athletic performance. However, at present, there is relatively little scientific information that can be used to guide coaches in prescribing appropriate tapering strategies for individual athletes, and as a result, many adopt a trial-and-error approach. Indeed, only recently has good empirical evidence been provided to allow us to understand the relations between the characteristics of endurance training during a taper and the associated endurance performance changes (2,16). For example, Bosquet et al. (3) used a meta-analytic analysis to describe the effects of alterations in the training characteristics during the taper on performance in competitive athletes. The results showed that the most efficient taper strategy for maximizing endurance performance gains was to perform a 2-wk taper with an exponential reduction in training volume by 41%–60% without any modification of either training intensity or frequency. Using mathematical modeling simulations, Thomas and Busso (21) demonstrated that the training leading into the taper may also influence the performance responses during taper (21). These stimulations predicted that a 20% increase in training beyond normal training load during 28 d before a taper would elicit larger performance gains compared with when habitual training load was maintained. This hypothesis was recently supported by Le Meur et al. (16), who compared performance supercompensation after a 1-wk taper in trained triathletes after 3 wk of training, which consisted of either overload or habitual training. At the end of the overload training (OT) period, a 9% decline in performance
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Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), 2014, 46 (9), pp.1769 - 1777. 〈10.1249/MSS.0000000000000301〉
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Anaël Aubry, Christophe Hausswirth, Louis Julien, Aaron J. Coutts, Yann Le Meur. Functional Overreaching : The Key to Peak Performance during the Taper?. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), 2014, 46 (9), pp.1769 - 1777. 〈10.1249/MSS.0000000000000301〉. 〈hal-01561483v2〉

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