International Sports Science and Sports Medicine ConferenceThe second International Sports Science and Sports Medicine Conference took place between August 19 and 21 in Newcastle, United Kingdom. One year before, the organising committee set the following aim for the first conference: to deliver the premier International Sports Science and Sports Medicine Conference, bringing together national and international experts in sports medicine and exercise science, embracing both public health and the world of elite sport, to review a range of issues in the build-up to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and beyond. Feedback from delegates at the first conference was very positive, and this encouraged the organisers to repeat the event in 2010. Matching the quality of last year’s programme was a challenge, but they succeeded in attracting an outstanding cast of delegates to the event.

The session I presented at was entitled “Peaking at the right time”, and I was honoured to share the session with my dear friend Professor Louise Burke, Head of Sports Nutrition at the Australian Institute of Sport, who did an outstanding job at summarising recent innovations in sports nutrition research that should be incorporated into individualised competition nutrition practices. The session also included a remarkable presentation by UK Athletics Combined Events Coach Antonio Minichiello, who has coached World Medallists in both winter (Bobsleigh) and summer (Heptathlon) sports.

An abstract of my own presentation, entitled “Peaking at the right time – An integrated programme for athletes” can be read below:

The training programs of high-level athletes usually include a training phase characterized by a reduction of the training load during the final days leading to a major competition, known as a taper. The aim of the taper is to diminish residual fatigue induced by intensive training, maximize physiological adaptations and consequently performance (Bosquet et al. 2007). A recent meta-analysis provides a framework that can be useful for athletes, coaches and sport scientists to optimize their tapering strategy, suggesting that performance is maximized by a taper lasting two weeks, where the training volume is exponentially decreased by 41-60%, without any modification of either training intensity or frequency (Bosquet et al. 2007).

Mathematical models of the effects of training on performance have significantly contributed to the understanding and optimization of pre-competition recovery programs. Simulations based on linear model parameters have contributed to establish the optimal taper duration and the suitability of progressive versus step tapers (Mujika et al. 1996; Banister et al. 1999). Variable dose-response model parameters have been recently used to assess optimal taper characteristics of elite swimmers, predicting that increasing the training load by 20% for four weeks prior to the taper to overreach the athletes could contribute to optimize performance, but would require a longer taper to completely dissipate fatigue and elicit further adaptations (Thomas et al. 2008). Computer simulations also predict that a 20-30% increase in the training load during the final three days of the taper would not compromise fatigue removal and could be beneficial to performance by eliciting additional adaptations (Thomas et al. 2009).

Tapering-induced performance gains, which have variously been attributed to increased levels of muscular force and power, improvements in neuromuscular, hematological, and hormonal function, and psychological status of the athletes, are usually in the range of 0.5-6.0% for competition performance measures (Mujika & Padilla 2003). Performance improvements associated with the taper seem to be independent of sex, event duration and relative metabolic contribution to the total energy provision, technical and biomechanical aspects of competition, and the calibre of the athlete. These performance gains may have a major impact on competition placing (Mujika et al. 2002)

Environmental factors like travel across time zones, heat and altitude may interfere with an athlete’s preparation for international level competition, but the interactions between the taper and these environmental stressors have not been studied. Nevertheless, reducing the training load has been recommended as a means to cope with jet-lag, and this training reduction should be integrated in an athlete’s taper program. As well, the physiological benefits derived from the adaptations to the new environment presumably transfer during the taper to enhance competitive performance. Tapering in hot conditions prior to competition seems to be compatible with the reduction in training volume advocated when encountering heat stress. Similarly, training camps at altitude usually require an initial reduction in training load, which in itself may constitute a form of tapering (Pyne et al. 2009).


  • BANISTER, E. W., J. B. CARTER, and P. C. ZARKADAS. Training theory and taper: validation in triathlon athletes. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 79: 182-191, 1999.
  • BOSQUET, L., J. MONTPETIT, D. ARVISAIS, I. MUJIKA. Effects of tapering on performance: a meta-analysis. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 39: 1358-1365, 2007.
  • MUJIKA, I., T. BUSSO, L. LACOSTE, F. BARALE, A. GEYSSANT, J.C. CHATARD. Modeled responses to training and taper in competitive swimmers. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 28 (2): 251-258, 1996.
  • MUJIKA, I., S. PADILLA. Scientific bases for pre-competition tapering strategies. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 35: 1182-1187, 2003.
  • MUJIKA, I., S. PADILLA, D. PYNE. Swimming performance changes during the final 3 weeks of training leading to the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. International Journal of Sports Medicine 23: 582-587, 2002.
  • PYNE, D.B, I. MUJIKA, T. REILLY. Peaking for optimal performance: research limitations and future directions. Journal of Sports Sciences 27 (3): 195-202, 2009.
  • THOMAS, L., I. MUJIKA, T. BUSSO. A model study of optimal training reduction during pre-event taper in elite swimmers. Journal of Sports Sciences 26: 643-652, 2008.
  • THOMAS, L., I. MUJIKA, T. BUSSO. Computer simulations assessing the potential performance benefit of a final increase in training during pre-event taper. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 23 (6): 1729-1736.
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  1. dzul

    may i get the jurnal about two-phase taper by Thomas et al 2008?

    July 25, 2013
  2. Ambachew Amede



    March 30, 2015