Purpose: This study analyzed changes in neuromuscular, body composition, and endurance markers during 4 wk of tapering and subsequent 5 wk of reduced training (RT) or training cessation (TC).
Methods: Fourteen world-class kayakers were randomly assigned to either a TC (n = 7) or an RT group (n = 7). One-repetition maximum (1RM) strength, mean concentric velocity with 45% 1RM (V45%) in the bench press (BP) and prone bench pull (PBP) exercises, and body composition assessments were conducted at the start (T0) and end (T1) of a 43-wk training program, after tapering for the world championships (T2) and after TC or RT (T3). A graded exercise test on a kayak ergometer for determination of maximal oxygen uptake at T0, T1, and T3 was also performed.
Results: After tapering, no significant changes were observed in 1RM or V45%. TC resulted in significantly greater declines in 1RM strength (−8.9% and −7.8%, P < 0.05, respectively, for BP and PBP) than those observed for RT (−3.9% and −3.4%). Decreases in V45% in BP and PBP were larger for TC (−12.6% and −10.0%) than for RT (−9.0% and −6.7%). Increases in sum of eight skinfolds were observed after both TC and RT, whereas declines in maximal aerobic power were lower for RT (−5.6%) than for TC (−11.3%).
Conclusions: Short-term TC results in large decreases in maximal strength and especially V45% in highly trained athletes. These results suggest the need of performing a minimal maintenance program to avoid excessive declines in neuromuscular function in cases where a prolonged break from training is required.