Tapering is the reduction of training volume and intensity just prior to competition in order to allow peaking to occur. The high volume and intensity of training that helps bring an athlete to their best physical condition also causes impairments in performance. High intensity training, especially strength training and plyometrics cause small muscular tears, which result in the muscles producing less force and power. Tapering allows the body to repair these normal small “injuries” by reducing training volume and intensity. This helps the body to recover fully in order for the athlete to perform their best.
Coaches or trainers will taper training 2-4 weeks prior to competition. This allows the body to repair itself, while at the same time not causing such a large decrease in training that there is a reduction in training benefits, such as cardiovascular endurance.
Furthermore tapering allows the body to completely replace nutrients required for competition. Each training session depletes these nutrient stores, which are then replenished during the rest period. During times of high intensity and volume of training these stores never fully replenish. It is therefore, important that the athlete have enough rest during the tapering period for these stores to fully restore. Such nutrients include, carbohydrates, fats, protein, as well as vitamins and minerals (particularly the B-vitamins).
Tapering thus allows for a full recovery allowing the athlete to perform their best.