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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, courtney.mcgowan@canberra.edu.au.

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal's Web site (http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr).

Copyright © 2016 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.