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


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: September 2014 - Volume 46 - Issue 9 - p 1769–1777
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000301
Applied Sciences

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˙O2max) 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 (F-OR) 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 F-OR group (2.6% ± 1.1%) and the CTL group (2.6% ± 1.6%). V˙O2max 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 F-OR (70%) than that in AF (20%) and CTL (10%).

Conclusion This study showed that 1) greater gains in performance and V˙O2max can be achieved when higher training load is prescribed before the taper but not in the presence of F-OR; 2) peak performance is not delayed during taper when heavy training loads are completed immediately prior; and 3) F-OR provides higher risk for training maladaptation, including increased infection risks.

1Laboratory of Sport, Expertise and Performance, Department of Research, National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance, Paris, FRANCE; and 2Sport and Exercise Discipline Group, Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Sydney, AUSTRALIA

Address for correspondence: Yann Le Meur, Ph.D., Laboratory of Sport, Expertise and Performance, National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance, 11, Avenue du Tremblay, 75012 Paris, France; E-mail:

Submitted for publication July 2013.

Accepted for publication February 2014.

© 2014 American College of Sports Medicine