Changes in Muscle Architecture, Explosive Ability, and Track and Field Throwing Performance Throughout a Competitive Season and Following a Taper

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The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of an overreach and taper on measures of muscle architecture, jumping, and throwing performance in Division I collegiate throwers preparing for conference championships. Six collegiate track and field throwers (3 hammer, 2 discus, 1 javelin) trained for 12 weeks using a block-periodization model culminating with a 1-week overreach followed by a 3-week taper (ORT). Session rating of perceived exertion training load (RPETL) and strength training volume-load times bar displacement (VLd) were recorded weekly. Athletes were tested pre-ORT and post-ORT on measures of vastus lateralis architecture, unloaded and loaded squat and countermovement jump performance, underhand and overhead throwing performance, and competition throwing performance. There was a statistical reduction in weight training VLd/session (d = 1.21, p ≤ 0.05) and RPETL/session (d = 0.9, p ≤ 0.05) between the in-season and ORT training phases. Five of 6 athletes improved overhead throw and competition throwing performance after the ORT (d = 0.50, p ≤ 0.05). Vastus lateralis muscle thickness statistically increased after the in-season training phase (d = 0.28, p ≤ 0.05) but did not change after the ORT. Unloaded countermovement jump peak force and relative peak power improved significantly after the ORT (d = 0.59, p ≤ 0.05, d = 0.31, p ≤ 0.05, respectively). These findings demonstrate that an overreaching week followed by a 3-week taper is an effective means of improving explosive ability and throwing performance in collegiate track and field throwers despite the absence of detectable changes in muscle architecture.