This study examined the impact of 4 weeks of either complete cessation of training (DTR) or a tapering period (TAP; short-term reduction of the strength training volume, while the intensity is kept high), subsequent to 16 weeks of periodized heavy resistance training (PRT) on strength/power gains and the underlying physiologic changes in basal circulating anabolic/catabolic hormones in strength-trained athletes. Forty-six physically active men were matched and randomly assigned to a TAP (n = 11), DTR (n = 14), or control group (C; n = 21), subsequent to a 16-week PRT program. Muscular and power testing and blood draws to determine basal hormonal concentrations were conducted before the initiation of training (T0), after 16 weeks of training (T1), and after 4 weeks of either DTR or TAP (T2). Short-term DTR (4 weeks) results in significant decreases in maximal strength (-6 to -9%) and muscle power output (-17 and -14%) of the arm and leg extensor muscles. However, DTR had a significant (p < 0.01) larger effect on muscle power output more than on strength measurements of both upper and lower extremity muscles. Short-term (4 weeks) TAP reached further increases for leg (2%) and arm (2%) maximal strength, whereas no further changes were observed in both upper and lower muscle power output. Short-term DTR resulted in a tendency for elevation resting serum insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1 concentrations, whereas the corresponding TAP experienced elevation in resting serum insulin-like binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3). These data indicated that DTR may induce larger declines in muscle power output than in maximal strength, whereas TAP may result in further strength enhancement (but not muscle power), mediated, in part, by training-related differences in IGF-1 and IGFBP-3 concentrations.
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