• Zied Abbes


By Zied Abbes

In general, Warm-up procedures before competition or training are intended to assure benefits to athlete’s performance(1,2). The aim of this period is to help the swimmer optimize psychological, neurological, and physiological states for the best performance(3) .

Warm-up techniques can be broadly classified mechanisms. However, it has also been suggested into two major categories: passive or active warm up

1) Passive Warm-Up

Increases in muscle and core body temperature could be achieved without physical activity by the use of external heating, such as hot showers, saunas and heated vests(4). These practices are commonly known as passive warm-up, through which the swimmers achieve the increase in muscle or core temperature by active decrease in the initial oxygen deficit and thereby warm up, without depleting energy substrates. However, heating cannot exceed the 39º C for the core temperature, as overheating negatively affects the motor drive and muscular performance(5)..

It appears also that passive warm up does not improve isometric force, but may improve short- duration (<10 seconds) dynamic force. it can also improve intermediate performance (~10 seconds to 5 minutes) but have a detrimental effect on long-term performance (>5 minutes)4

According to Akamine (6), this method be adopted by swimmers because it tends to reduce the lactate concentration, heart rate and electromyography response of the rectus femoris, suggesting higher muscle efficiency and less fatigue. Nevertheless, further research is need on this topic.

According to McGowan (7), despite the use of passive warm-up alone is not commonplace, the idea of using it to maintain an elevated body temperature throughout the transition phase is gaining traction.

However, while effective, the practicality of completing these types of passive warm-up strategies within the competition environment is often impractical. Therefore, an active warm-up has traditionally been the most commonly utilised form of warm-up 3

2) Active Warm-Up

In active warm up, temperature is raised from the energy released from contracting muscles (8).Theoretically, the increased heart rate after active warm-up and the higher baseline oxygen uptake at the start of subsequent practice (9, 10) improve the oxygen delivery to the active muscles and potentiate the aerobic energy system (11).

There have been inconclusive results on a swimmer’s performance for shorter distances after warm-up. One study reported that warm-up did not have any favorable effects on 50 m crawl performance (12), while in two other studies, (13) reported a significantly faster times on the 45.7 m freestyle (~0.2 s, p = 0.06) and (14)revealed a higher propelling force with 30 s of maximal tethered swimming (~13% for the mean force and 18% for the maximal force, p ≤ 0.05).

Therefore, the effects of active warm-up depend on several components such as the volume, intensity and recovery time (3, 4). Any changes in these variables may influence the subsequent performance and the results obtained (150. Furthermore, dry-land movements are usually performed before swimmers enter the pool, and the effects of these movements should not be disregarded.

3) Dry-land Warm-Up

Swimmers often perform some sort of physical activity out of the water (e.g., arm rotation) before entering the water to activate the body. These activities may also include calisthenics, strength/activation exercises and stretching. Some facilities do not have an extra swimming pool available, requiring swimmers to rely on alternatives to in-water warm-up(16). However, several other studies reported that these exercises are used to complement and not as an alternative to the in-water warm-up.

Stretching exercises are also commonly used by athletes as a practice that influences the injury risk. It is expected to reduce the resistance of the movement, allowing for easier movement that optimizes the activity and prevents muscle and joint injuries (17, 18) but

pre-exercise static stretching does not produce a reduction in the risk of overuse injuries19, and it could lead to a severe loss of strength and performance impairment (20).

4) In-Water Warm-Up

a) Volume

During competition, swimmers traditionally use a long Warm-up, even for very short races. A long Warm-up is, in general, believed to provide a ‘‘feel for the water’’ and to increase blood flow, heart rate, and flexibility of the involved muscles(13). However, long Warm-ups require higher energy consumption and may contribute to overall muscle fatigue. For swimmers, swimming heats and finals in multiple events, fatigue from Warm-up may contribute to fatigue accruing from swimming events(13).This may be due to the Swimmers not having enough time after warm-up to replenish their phosphocreatine and adenosine triphosphate levels, compromising the energy supply and negatively affecting their performance(12).

In swimming, it is suggested that the swimmers should warm-up for a relatively moderate distance (i.e.1200 m) with the proper intensity (short race-pace) and subsequent recovery time sufficient to avoid early fatigue during race(13, 21, 22).

Neiva,(15) suggested that total warm-up volume of a 15-20 min duration (between 1000 and 1500 m) is ideal for swimming events up to 3-4 min, with the inclusion of technical stroke drills along with a set of race-pace efforts recommended to improve swimming efficiency and permit swimmers to gain a feel for racing pace.

Some coaches and athletes tend to increase the volume of warm-up in the morning. The reasoning behind this is the need for extra body activation due to the adaptation to the circadian rhythm. This result suggests that performance is significantly higher in the late afternoon, independent of the previous warm-up volume performed(15).

b) Intensity

Despite the uncertainties about including high-intensity swimming sets in the warm-up procedures, it seems better to use high-intensity swimming sets instead of not warming up. Thus, a short-distance set that is built up from low intensity to race-pace velocity in the last repetition could be used to improve subsequent performance by stimulating the energy systems that are recruited in the competitive event (3, 4).

Nevertheless, when high-intensity swimming is performed during warm-up, it should be used with caution to avoid the early fatigue and compromising the subsequent swimming performance(15).

5) Post-Warm-up (Transition Period)

At the elite level, a transition phase of 30-45 min from the end of the pool warm-up to the start of the race start is not uncommon and can impair swimming performance(23). Muscle temperature declines following exercise, with a substantial reduction evident after ∼15–20 min of recovery(24)

In most swim meets, there is a considerable time interval between the in-water warm-up and the swimming event, diminishing its possible beneficial effects(23). After the pool warm-up, swimmers must report for marshalling, 15-20min prior to race start(25), thus transition phase of 30-45min are not uncommon. The ergogenic effects of in-pool warm-ups can last up to 20 min but will not endure up to 45 min post-warm-up (23) and it is not possible to re-warm-up in a pool during the last 20 min leading to the race. In real competition venues, it is almost impossible to take less than 8-10 min between finishing the warm-up and the swimming event. Warming up is more effective when it is sufficiently intense to activate the physiological processes that will be required in the competition event, with a recovery time that should be between 8 to 20 min, allowing for replenishment of phosphocreatine(26).

6) Conclusion

In swimming and, despite some contradictory results, research tends to suggest that warm-up, more particularly the active type, has a positive effect on the swimmer’s performance, especially for distances above 200 m. Additionally, the literature proposes that in-water activities are the most useful activities, but when it is not possible to do in-water warm-up, dry-land exercises can be performed as an alternative.


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