Current warm-up practices and contemporary issues faced by elite swimming coaches
McGowan, CJ and Pyne, DB and Raglin, JS and Thompson, KG and Rattray, B, Current warm-up practices and contemporary issues faced by elite swimming coaches, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 30, (12) pp. 3471-3480. ISSN 1064-8011 (2016) [Refereed Article]
Copyright 2016 National Strength and Conditioning Association
A better understanding of current swimming warm-up strategies is needed to improve their effectiveness. The purpose of this study was to describe current precompetition warm-up practices and identify contemporary issues faced by elite swimming coaches during competition. Forty-six state-international level swimming coaches provided information through a questionnaire on their prescription of volume, intensity, and recovery within their pool and dryland-based competition warm-ups, and challenges faced during the final stages of event preparation. Coaches identified four key objectives of the precompetition warm-up: physiological (elevate body temperature and increase muscle activation), kinesthetic (tactile preparation, increase "feel" of the water), tactical (race-pace rehearsal), and mental (improve focus, reduce anxiety). Pool warm-up volume ranged from ∼1300 to 2100 m, beginning with 400-1000 m of continuous, low-intensity (∼50-70% of perceived maximal exertion) swimming, followed by 200-600 m of stroke drills and 1-2 sets (100-400 m in length) of increasing intensity (∼60-90%) swimming, concluding with 3-4 race or near race-pace efforts (25-100 m; ∼90-100%) and 100-400 m easy swimming. Dryland-based warm-up exercises, involving stretch cords and skipping, were also commonly prescribed. Coaches preferred swimmers complete their warm-up 20-30 minutes before race start. Lengthy marshalling periods (15-20+ minutes) and the time required to don racing suits (>10 minutes) were identified as complicating issues. Coaches believed that the pool warm-up affords athletes the opportunity to gain a tactile feel for the water and surrounding pool environment. The combination of dryland-based activation exercises followed by pool-based warm-up routines seems to be the preferred approach taken by elite swimming coaches preparing their athletes for competition.