The 100-m and 400-m swim time, tethered swimming forces, mood states and self-ratings of well-being of 27 competitive swimmers were measured before and after 4 weeks of intense training and after 1 week and 2 weeks of tapering for major competition. The swimmers were divided into three groups. Each group completed one of three taper regimes similar to those currently performed by swimmers in preparation for competition: (a) reduced training frequency according to each athlete's daily ratings of well-being, (b) reduced training volume, and (c) reduced training volume and intensity. Significant improvements in the Profile of Mood States measures of tension, depression and anger (P < 0.05) were observed after 1 week of tapering, with significant improvements in total mood disturbance and fatigue (P < 0.05) and peak tethered swimming force (P < 0.01) after 2 weeks. Non-significant improvements in 100-m and 400-m swim time (P > 0.05) were observed and no significant differences were revealed among the three tapering techniques. These data highlighted the importance of providing sufficient recovery before competition, since 1 week of reduced training was not long enough to maximise the benefits of tapering. However, none of the three types of tapering currently used by competitive swimmers could be shown to be more beneficial than the others.