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

Courtney J McGowan, David B Pyne, John S. Raglin, Kevin G Thompson, Ben Rattray

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    21 Citations (Scopus)


    A better understanding of current swimming warmup strategies is needed to improve their effectiveness. The purpose of this study was to describe current precompetition warmup 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 warmups, 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 racepace 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 warmup routines seems to be the preferred approach taken by elite swimming coaches preparing their athletes for competition.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3471-3480
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Strength and Conditioning Research
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


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