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Current Warm-Up Practices and Contemporary Issues Faced by Elite Swimming Coaches

McGowan, Courtney J.1; Pyne, David B.1,3; Raglin, John S.4; Thompson, Kevin G.1; Rattray, Ben1,2

Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: December 2016 - Volume 30 - Issue 12 - p 3471–3480
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001443
Original Research

McGowan, CJ, Pyne, DB, Raglin, JS, Thompson, KG, and Rattray, B. Current warm-up practices and contemporary issues faced by elite swimming coaches. J Strength Cond Res 30(12): 3471–3480, 2016—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.

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1University of Canberra Research Institute for Sport and Exercise (UCRISE), Faculty of Health, University of Canberra, Canberra, Australia;

2Discipline of Sport and Exercise Science, Faculty of Health, University of Canberra, Canberra, Australia;

3Discipline of Physiology, Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra, Australia; and

4School of Public Health, Indiana University Bloomington, Bloomington, Indiana

Address correspondence to Courtney J. McGowan,

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Copyright © 2016 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.