Tapering is a principle that uses the practice of unloading to try and peak physically and mentally for competition. A taper can be defined as a progressive reduction in training load across a variable period, with the goal of reducing physical and psychological stress, to optimise performance or reach a physical peak (Joyce and Lewindon, 2014).
In general, the more fatigue accumulated by long or very intense work periods means more training load reduction is needed during the taper (Turner, 2011). There are also different types of taper such as a step taper or a linear taper (Turner, 2011). A step taper is an immediate and abrupt reduction in workload on day one of the taper and this is maintained for the duration of the taper. A linear taper is a gradual and progressive decrease in workload in a linear fashion over the duration of the taper period, for example 5% reduction in workload every session. Research supports the use of a progressive taper as it has been shown to be more effective in producing performance enhancements (Joyce and Lewindon, 2014).
The long competitive season of rugby provide a challenge when discussing the process of tapering and peaking for performance. A “physical peak” can only be maintained for small period and as rugby has games every week it is not possible to be peaking physically for every game. The practice of targeting important games or periods of tough games to peak physically for is one way of utilising the taper and is good management of a training programme.