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Current warm-up practices and the contemporary issues faced by elite swimming coaches


McGowan, C and Rattray, B and Thompson, K and Pyne, D and Raglin, J, Current warm-up practices and the contemporary issues faced by elite swimming coaches, Be Active 2014: Australian Conference of Science and Medicine in Sport, 15-18 October, Canberra, Australia, pp. e82. ISSN 1440-2440 (2014) [Conference Extract]

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DOI: doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2014.11.333


Background: Only limited scientific evidence is available on the "best practices" for competition warm-up design in elite swimming. Given the recent occurrence of several major technical and technological changes in elite swimming competitions, coaches are left to draw upon outdated guidelines when designing athlete’s warm-up strategies. The aim of the present study was to describe current warm-up practices and identify contemporary issues faced by elite swimming coaches within the competition environment.

Methods: A total of 46 state- to international-level swimming coaches from Australia, Britain and Canada completed a questionnaire consisting of 18 questions (9 multiple choice and 9 short answer) relating to their views on the value of competition warmups, the volume, intensity and recovery used in their pool and out of pool warm-ups and other related issues.

Results: The coaches identified three main aims of the competition warm-up: physiological (to elevate body temperature and increase muscle activation), physical (to increase "feel" of the water) and mental (to improve focus and relax nerves). Total warm-up volume employed ranged from 800 to 2400 m, beginning with 300–900m of continuous, low intensity (typically 30–70% of perceived exertion) swimming, followed by 200–600mof increasing intensity (60–90%) with efforts lasting 100–300min length and concluding with several 25–50mrace or near race pace (90–100%) efforts totalling 100–300 m. Some land-based warm-up strategies are encouraged but are typically limited to static stretching and core activation exercises. The preferred time frame between pool warmup end and race start (transition phase) was 20 min. Extended marshalling periods (>15 min), delayed competition schedules and the lengthy time required to change into racing suits (>10 min) were all identified as issues faced during competition. These issues extend the transition phase beyond the preferred time frame.

Discussion: Although pool warm-ups are thoroughly prescribed they do not appear to address issues relating to the extended duration of the marshalling periods and the time required to don racing suits. Elevated body temperatures in addition to increased muscle activation are two of the main purported benefits of warming-up but have a limited effect beyond ∼15–20 min following exercise cessation, a scenario common in the contemporary swimming environment. Given these constraints, sport scientists should investigate methods for improving body temperature maintenance such as passive heating techniques and muscle reactivation strategies like postactivation potentiation during the transition phase. These approaches may lead to the optimisation of competition performance in the contemporary swimming environment.

Item Details

Item Type:Conference Extract
Keywords:warming-up, competitive swimmers, swimming, coaching, transition phase
Research Division:Health Sciences
Research Group:Sports science and exercise
Research Field:Sports science and exercise not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Sport, exercise and recreation
Objective Field:Organised sports
UTAS Author:McGowan, C (Dr Courtney McGowan)
ID Code:133849
Year Published:2014
Deposited By:Health Sciences
Deposited On:2019-07-11
Last Modified:2019-07-12

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