Warm-up: Practical Applications - Part 2

By Matt Bird

Warm-up is a critical component of preparing the body and mind for optimal performance in daily training and in competition. The four important components of warm-up are: physiological, kinesiological, mental, and tactile, as described by a survey of top level international swim coaches (McGowan, 2016). Applications and examples of each of these aspects were discussed in the first article of our warm-up series, and we wanted to expand on strategies and movements to improve the physiological and kinesiological aspects of warm-up.

In this article, we will discuss how to approach and apply a dryland warm-up where you can use these ideas to implement before in the weight room, and swim workouts as well.

What should the warm-up look like?

Physiology: cardiovascular, pulmonary, and neuromuscula, metabolic

Swimmers should perform light dynamic movements to help raise blood pressure, muscle temperature, and engage the central nervous system.
Cardiovascular movements should be done for 2-10 minutes, depending on the athlete, time of day, and intensity of the main workout. The increase in body temperature will effectively activate certain enzymes for energy production during  intense activity.

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Kinesiology: mobility

Mobility exercises are a great way to activate, open up joint capsules, and prepare muscles for the upcoming workout. Movements that mobilize allow for relatively safe body weight movements that allow for greater strength and range of motion (ROM) for your muscles and joints. Not only do we use mobility movements before and during our dryland practices, but these movements can be applied before a swim workout as well.

Below are examples of mobilizing exercises and strategies that you can to start incorporating into your daily workout routine.

Self-Myofascial Release (Foam Rolling)

Self-Myofascial release is a fancy way of saying “Self Massage.” Using a foam roller or lacrosse balle can help prepare and recover the muscle and allows for better range of motion at the joints. Specific areas of “problem muscles,” or muscles that usually need foam rolling for swimmers are the Quads, Hamstrings, Thoracic Spine, and Lats. Not only can foam rolling be added to your warm-up; it can also be added to your recovery, helping to flush the by-products out after workouts. Timing is everything with the foam roll, because if you misuse it you might compensate for lower power.

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Mobility Squats

Squats are a complex movement that target the whole body to perform correctly. Warming up with Deep Squats can improve hip health, prime muscles for work, and decrease the chance of injury. Incorporating squats into your warm-up routine will open up your hips, increase mobility, and prepare your body for your workouts.

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Cat Cow

Helps prepare the core muscles that support the spine, and create an upright posture, as mentioned in this previous article.

Movement Preparation (Physiology and Kinesiology)

In a typical warm-up, movement preparation is a key element to reducing injury and optimizing performance. Movement preparation includes activating small stabilizing muscles and engaging the large muscle groups that are needed to perform the movement. We use shoulder stabilization exercises, core stabilization (planks) and mobility squats to get the joints and muscles ready to perform work in the weight room and in the water.

Shoulder Exercises

These exercises are meant to prepare the shoulder muscles for loaded movements, especially arm movements overhead. Swimmer’s arms are constantly over their head. By stabilizing and preparing the shoulder for these activities reduces risk and improves performance. The following movements can be done to help warm-up to prepare the shoulders for swimming, and upper body dryland activities.

Pumps

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Handles

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Hip Exercises

Opening up, and preparing the hips are important for better overall athletic performance, and should be a priority for breaststrokers. Hip flexors, hip extensors, abductors and adductors (gluteal muscles) are the muscle that we want to ensure are prepped and ready for our activities. Activating all of these types of muscle help apply and produce torque on the hip joint, allowing for stronger power from the hips and legs, as discussed in one of our previous articles.

Warm-up for the main set?

We typically think that warm-up is just limited to our time at the beginning of practice, but it should be integrated into the workout as well. Coaches should be splitting sets in the workout into warm-up sets and working sets. Warm-up sets follow the same protocol as movement preparation, but now load (weight) is being introduced to the athlete. The warm-up sets allow the athlete to perform the movement at a lower weight, and focus on important technical aspects of the movement in a controlled manner.

When performing warm-up sets, the athlete should remain active. The warm-up sets have minimum rest times, and maximum preparation for the working sets. Mobility exercises, stabilization exercises, and active dynamic stretching is encouraged to do in between sets of warm-up to optimize the working set in order to maintain tension and power output. Below is an example of a warm-up set for a well-trained Olympic Lift workou:

3 reps @ 50 kg, rest 20 seconds
2 reps @ 70 kg, rest 20 seconds
1 rep @ 90 kg, rest 30 seconds
1 rep @ 130 kg, rest 90 seconds
1 rep @ 160 kg, rest 3 minutes
Work sets: 6 sets of 2 @ 180 kg, rest 3 minutes

Pay Attention & Focus

Remember, the goal of warm-up is to optimize athletic performance to ensure peak performance. Warm-up can be shortened or extended to better suit the athlete, but should be done with intention. Sometimes we are limited with our time for a strict proper warm-up, and need to conduct warm-up in a shorter time frame. Other times (mostly competition), our warm-up needs to be extended to keep our muscles primed and activated. No matter our situation, your warm-up strategy should always include cardiovascular, mobility, and dyamic stretching. Warm-up is a critical component of preparing the body and mind for optimal performance in daily training and in competition.

References

Mcgowan, C. J., Pyne, D. B., Raglin, J. S., Thompson, K. G., & Rattray, B. (2016). Current Warm-Up Practices and Contemporary Issues Faced by Elite Swimming Coaches. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research,30(12), 3471-3480. doi:10.1519/jsc.0000000000001443