Research article
Volume 4, No. 2, 2012, 31-39
UDC 797.21-051:796.015.86
Goran Dimitri„, Miroslav Smaji„ and -orðe Agbaba
Faculty of Sport and Physical Education, University of Novi Sad, Serbia
It is well established that warm-up sessions are very important and essential part of every
swimming competition. There is much evidence which tells how strong the influence of these
sessions on swimming performance is. Although there are many suggestions about content of
warm-up sessions in swimming, their duration and intensity, there are no clear conclusions about
all segments of warm-up. Because of that many researchers tried to reveal how good warm-up
sessions should look like. In this study 8 male and 4 female competitive swimmers aged 19 to 26
were tested. They were asked to swim three different warm-up sessions followed by 100 meters
performance with maximal intensity. Before trial number 1 they performed long duration warm-
up session, before trial 2 short duration warm-up session and before trial 3 they were asked to
perform warm-up session with high intensity. The recovery time between each warm-up session
and the performance was 5 minutes and during these 5 minutes. ANOVA with Repeated
Measures was used to test the differences in the performance that swimmers achieved after three
different warm up sessions. Statistical significance was set at p<0.05. The results showed that
there was not significant difference in the performance after long duration and short duration
warm-up sessions (p=1). On the other hand the difference in the performance on the trial 1 and
3 was significant (p=.02). Furthermore, the difference between trial 2 and trial 3 was
significant as well (p=.03). Duration of the warm up session did not have significant influence on
the performance. On the other hand, the results showed that the intensity of the warm-up has big
influence on the performance. High intense warm-up without appropriate recover can cause drop
in the result. More research needs to be done on this topic with many different conditions.
Keywords: swimming, warm-up, duration, intensity, performance
In many sports disciplines the athlete should be prepared for the competition or training
session on the best possible way. ìA warm-up is a group of exercises performed immediately
before activity, which helps the body to adjust from a state of rest to exerciseî (Harris and
Elbourn, 2002, p. 9). In this paper it will be discussed about the influence that prior exercise has
on the performance. ìThe performance is defined as the ability to bring about some end result
with maximum certainty and minimum outlay of energy, pr of time and energyî (Guthrie, 1952).
G. Dimitri, M. Smaji and -. Agbaba
The main goal of the good warm-up session is to give the opportunity to the athlete to perform
his or her best during the performance. That means that warm-up sessions should be designed to
increase muscle temperature, flexibility and motivation of the athlete (Leonard, 1992). For
different kinds of sport activity there are different kinds of warm-up as prior exercise. However,
it can be said that there are two different types of warm-up sessions for all activities: active
warm-up and passive warm-up. Passive warm-up results with increasing of muscle temperature
by some external factors such as hot showers and baths, saunas and heating pads. Compared to
passive warm-up, active warm-up is result of physical activity and causes bigger physiological
changes in athleteís body (Bishop, 2003).
There is no one standardized warm-up session that is recommended for all swimmers. An
effective warm up session should be set for each athlete individually because every athlete is
different. Moreover, different swimming events require different types of warm-up and the
content of warm-up session before each competition should be carefully designed by swimming
coaches, but the content should be discussed with the athlete as well (Lewin, 1979). Well
designed warm-up session should prepare swimmerís cardiovascular, cardiorespiratory,
musculoskeletal and neuromuscular system for high intense exercise (Harris and Elbourn, 2002).
Two most important effects that warm-up have on swimmers are psychological and
physiological effects.
Warm-up sessions before the competition are very important especially for the swimmers
that have problems with high level of anxiety. ìAnxiety is defined as unpleasant, consciously
perceived feelings of tension and apprehension, with associated activation or arousal of the
autonomic nervous systemî (Spielberger,
1972). Athletes with high level of anxiety have
negative feelings before some event and coaches must give them appropriate instructions about
their warm-up. That is one of the ways of putting their attention to something else, not to
negative self-talking to themselves. Self-talk before competition can be positive as well and can
have some positive effect on the result (Leonard, 1992). However, if the self-talk is negative it
can result with high level of anxiety and it is clear that cognitive anxiety can have big influence
on the performance among athletes (Vickers, 2007). During that session swimmers are becoming
familiar with the swimming pool and they have the opportunity to put their attention on all
aspects of their race. Moreover, they have enough time during that session to carefully plan their
races one more time, because that is one very important part of the overall preparation for the
important race (Volcansek, 2002).
Physiological goal of warm-up sessions is to transform swimmersí body from resting
state into the state in which can be performed competition. Before every exercise muscles are not
prepared to start with exercise immediately (Harris and Elbourn, 2002; Hoffman, 2002). The
main physiological goals of warm-up are to prepare body to deliver more oxygen to the muscles,
and muscles to use that oxygen more rapidly (Maglischo, 2003). Also, warm-up sessions should
increase flexibility of the muscles, blood flow through them and heart rate. The first thing that
athletes can notice after a proper warm-up is that their muscles have higher temperature.
Probably, that is the main reason why prior exercise is well known as warm-up. The increscent
of muscle temperature result with increscent of muscle strength (Bergh and Ekblom, 1979).
Moreover, there are some evidences that higher muscle temperature results with higher
flexibility of the muscles for more than
20% (Wright and Johns, 1960). Other, also very
important physiological factor of prior exercise and performance as well is oxygen consumption.
The results from some studies
(Burnley et al.,
2001) showed that prior exercise cannot
significantly improve oxygen consumption, but after the warm-up, there will be more anaerobic
capacities for the performance. Also the warm-up sessions before competitions can decrease the
accumulation of lactic acid (Bishop, 2003). However, many authors states that physiological
effects of warm-us do not last for a long period of time. They do not exist after 15-20 minutes
after warm-up and also cannot be beneficial for reduction of lactic acid anymore (Leonard,
Influence of warm up sessions on swimmersí performance
1992). Because of this it is recommended to prolong warm-up session as close as it is possible to
the event.
During the process of designing warm-up sessions, coaches should be aware of many
parameters such as duration, intensity, content of the session and others. Intensity of the exercise
shows how demanding the exercise is on the participant (Harris and Elbourn, 2002). The
intensity of the exercise is correlated with lactate production. Many authors states that every
exercise with intensity higher than 70% of athleteís VO2max increase the level of the lactic acid
in the blood (Fratric, 2006). Because of that, authors and coaches suggest that the swimmers
should avoid swimming with high intensity during the warm-up session before the competition.
Short distance swimmers should consider doing hard 15m, 25m and 50 meters distance to
establish race pace. Swimmers that swim longer distance races should use longer distance for
establishing their pace such as 100 meters (Colwin, 1992). The precise answer on the question
what is recommended duration and the amount of swimming that swimmers need to do for
proper warm-up, the coaches and the researchers cannot give us. The amount of time that is
required for warm-up session before competition is from 20 to 45 minutes (Maglischo, 2003).
Every swimmer with longer experience in swimming can easily assess how much of swimming
is enough for him or her to have decent warm-up (Colwin, 1992). Some researchers claim that 30
minutes is minimum required for doing all procedures for proper warm-up, while others think
that everything that is longer duration than 30 minutes is waste of time. Swimming warm-up
session before the race can be divided into a couple of separate parts. Chronologically, first,
before entering the water all swimmers should do some flexibility exercises. That should make
their bodies more flexible and prepare them for swimming. Swimming should start very easily,
at 20% to 40% of maximal effort of swimming (Maglischo, 2003). The most of the warm-up
session should be done at intensity from 30% to 50% of athleteís VO2max (Chwalbinska-
Moneta and Hanninen, 1989). That sounds very reasonable because of the fact that high intense
exercise can cause many physiological changes in the athleteís body that can result with
dropping in the performance (Bishop, 2003; Wilkerson et al., 2004). The researchers and many
coaches are agreed that effective swimming warm-up session should contain kicking, pulling,
swimming stroke drills, full stroke swimming to warm up all muscle groups. All that should be
contained in this part of warm-up session to rehearse swimmerís stroke mechanics. Other, very
important part of every warm-up before the event is practicing starts and turns.
The idea for this research study was to test short distance swimmers and to find out if
there is any influence of different intensity and duration of warm up regimes on subsequent
performance. There were three different types of warm up sessions: long (overall 3000 meters)
and short duration warm up sessions (overall 1500 meters) and high intensity (overall 3000
meters) warm up session with same structure but higher intesity. After each warm up session
swimmers were perform 100 meters as quickly as possible. The data that were collected during
this study were the time of the performance on 100 meters and split time on 50 meters. Our
dependent variables will be duration and intensity of warm up sessions. Eight male and four
female participants took a part in this study. All of them were competitive swimmers aged 19 ñ
26. All of them were engaged with four to six training sessions in the swimming pool per week.
All the participants were regularly attempting training sessions at least three months before
testing. For this type of study it was necessary to use ANOVA with Repeated Measures. This
analyse were done for the split times after first 50 meters on the 100 meters performance and
100 metar time. In the results the researchers were looking for significant difference in the
performance that swimmers achieved after those three warm up sessions. Statistical significance
was set at p<0.05.
G. Dimitri, M. Smaji and -. Agbaba
The mean time of all twelve participants during first trial which represent the results that
swimmers achieved on 100 meters performance after long duration warm-up session was
01:01:67. The mean time after short duration warm-up session was 01:01:73 and after high
intensity warm-up 01:02:32 (Table 1).
Table 1.
The results after of 100 meters swimming performance - Descriptive Statistics
Trial 1
Trial 2
Trial 3
The tests of Within Subjects Effects showed that there was significant difference between
different conditions
(F GG(2, 22) = 8.75, p=.002). Pairwise Comparisons showed that the
difference between trial 1 and trial 2 was not significant (p=1). On the other hand the difference
was significant between trial 1 and trial 3 (p=.02) and between trial 2 and trial 3 as well (p=.03)
(Table 2).
Table 2.
The results of 100 meters swimming performance - Pairwise Comparisons
(I) Trial (J) Trial Difference (I-J) Std. Error
The mean time of all twelve participants during first trial which represent the split time
for the first 50 meters that swimmers achieved on 100 meters performance after long duration
warm-up session was 00:29:58. The mean time of first 50 meters after short duration warm-up
session was 00:29:72 and after high intensity warm-up 00:29:80 (Table 3).
Influence of warm up sessions on swimmersí performance
Table 3.
The results after first 50 meters during swimming performance - Descriptive Statistics
Mean Deviation
Split 1
Split 2
Split 3
The tests of Within Subjects Effects showed that there was significant difference between
different conditions
(F GG(2, 22) = 3.74, p=.04). Pairwise Comparisons showed that the
difference between trial 1 and trial 2 was not significant (p=.44). Moreover, the difference
between trial 2 and trial 3 was not significant (P=1), but the difference between trial 1 and trial 3
was significant (p=.03) (Table 4).
Table 4.
The results after first 50 meters during swimming performance - Pairwise Comparisons
Trial Difference (I-J) Std. Error
Swimming warm-up sessions are one of the essential things in all preparation for the
performance during some swimming competition (Maglischo, 2003; Volcansek 2002). The
results showed that there was not any significant difference in the performance between long
duration and short duration warm-up session (p=.1). Although the duration of long duration
warm-up session was twice longer compared to short duration session the difference between
them was not significant. However, the intensity of both sessions was at the same level. The
difference in split times after first 50 meters during performance was not significant as well
(p=.44). From those data it can be concluded that for the short-term races it is not necessary to do
warm-up session that has more than 1500 meters. However, the coaches should be careful with
those results especially because there are some evidences that long-term races require longer
duration of warm-up sessions (Maglischo, 2003; Volcansek, 2002). In this case, the short term
swimmers performed 100 meters swim very similar after both, long and short duration warm-up
sessions. However, these results just suggest that there is no difference between long duration
G. Dimitri, M. Smaji and -. Agbaba
and short duration warm-up at the same level of intensity. It can be said that easy swimming is
very beneficial and can improve short term performance
(Genovely and Stanford,
Houmard et al., 1991; Maglischo, 2003) compared to high intense warm-up in this study and no
warm-up conditions and dry-land warm-ups in the previous studies (Bishop, 2003; Romney and
Nethery, 1993). When comparing performance time after long duration warm-up and after
warm-up session with high intensity there was significant difference (p=.02). Furthermore, the
difference was significant between short duration and high intensity warm-up sessions (p=.03).
These data are strong evidence that during this study, the high intensity warm up session and
short recovery period had big influence on the short-term swimming performance. Both, short
duration session and high intensity warm-up session had the same amount of swimming ñ 1500
meters. However, the difference in intensity was great. Observing these data it can be noticed
that high intensity warm-up session was too intense. Also, the recovery period of 5 minutes
between that session and performance obviously was not long enough.
Some previous studies showed that very short recovery time between warm-up session
and the performance can cause dropping in the performance if the warm-up session was at higher
level of intensity (Burnley et al., 2005; Ferguson et al., 2007). As many authors suggest, for
removing lactic acid from the blood it is necessary to pass some time or to spend that time in
easy swimming or massage (Bishop, 2003; Hoffman, 2002; Maglischo, 2003). In this case, the
swimmers had only 200 meters of easy swimming and 5 minutes time for recovery before the
performance. It is suggested that warm-up sessions before swimming performance should be
prolonged as much closer to the race as it is possible the recovery period of 5 minutes was
appropriate (Leonard, 1992). In this case the problem was the high intensity during most of the
time of the high intense warm-up session. High intensity swimming as prior exercise to the race
is recommended only for establishing correct race pace during warm-up. However, during high
intensity warm up session in this study that was not the case. As some authors suggest the time
period between high intense pace practicing and performance should be at least 20 minutes
(Maglischo, 2003; Volcansek, 2002), what in this study was not the case. One of the most
important things during designing a proper warm-up session is the combination of the intensity
of the session and the duration of the recovery period before the performance (Hoffman, 2002;
Palmer et al., 2009; Vanhatalo and Jones, 2009; Volcansek, 2002). So far, by observing the data
from this study it is possible to say that high intensity played significant role in dropping in the
performance. The best split time after first 50 meters on the 100 meters performance, swimmers
had during the first trial which was performed after long duration swimming session. However,
comparing to trial 2 that was performed after short duration session the difference in the time
was not significant (p=.43). But, as in overall performance the difference in split times was
significant between trial 1 and trial 3 (p=.03). That means the swimmers have performed first 50
meters after long duration session much faster compared to first 50 meters after high intense
warm-up. On the other hand, the interesting finding is that split time after first 50 meters was
very similar during trial 2 and trial 3. In this study, first time there is not significant difference
between performance after one low intense warm-up and high intense warm-up (p=1). However,
that means that last 50 meters were significantly better performed after short duration session
with low intensity compared to high intense warm-up. Here, the conclusion can be that the level
of the lactic acid in the blood significantly increased and caused the drop in the performance
during last 50 meters during last trial. Even it cannot be said for sure, because there are no
provided data about the level of lactic acid in the blood, the high intense warm-up without
appropriate recovery caused drop in the performance on 100 meters race, especially during last
50 meters. To compare the level of the lactic acid during the race the best option will be long-
term swimming performance. There are evidences that the lactate level in the blood is dropping
faster after performance that was done after proper swimming warm-up session (Bishop, 2003;
Genovely and Stanford, 1982; Robergs et al., 1990). Now, with the data for 100 meters
performance and without lactate blood sample it is not clear how duration of the session and the
amount of swimming can influence on the performance. In the case of short term performance
Influence of warm up sessions on swimmersí performance
the duration of the warm-up session and the amount of swimming during it did not show any
significant influence on the result.
It is established that the warm-up session prior short term swimming performance is
benefitial and can improve swimming performance (Bishop, 2003; Maglischo, 2003). However,
there are still many questions about warm-up sessions that should be answered in the future. It is
still not 100% clear what should be appropriate content of every warm up session, how great
should be the total amount of swimming during those sessions and how intense those sessions
should be. Furthermore, there are no many clear evidences about the recovery period between
warm-up and the performance. From the results from this study and many others already existing
evidences it can be said that the recovery period between high intense swimming during warm-
up and performance should be long enough or there is going to be visible drop in the results
(Bishop, 2003; Ferguson et al., 2007; Palmer et al., 2009). In the case of this study, very short
recovery period after high intense swimming caused drop in the performance, compared to the
100 meters swim performed after sessions with low intensity swimming.
One of the key findings from this study was non-significant difference in the performance
performed after long duration and short duration warm-up. However, these results should be
interpreted carefully and the readers should be aware that in this study was tested short-term
swimming performance only. That finding can have its role in planning of the warm-up sessions
before swimming races, but before the training sessions as well. If something can significantly
improve performance it can have very useful role in making training sessions more productive.
Good warm-up session should be planed for every swimmer individually, because
different strokes, different distances, and different persons need different warm-up sessions. That
is the only way for the athletes to be well prepared for the performance. The best warm-up
session for some athlete is the session that gives the best results to that athlete, even if that warm-
up session may be does not look very best and does not have all important findings implemented
This study has revealed some interesting findings but many research need to be done in
the future. If the researchers and sports scientists want to improve swimming performance and to
move the limits in the modern swimming they should pay a lot of attention on the prior exercise.
Especially, more research is needed with high intense parts of the warm-up sessions. Those
sessions should be as much realistic and similar to those during competitions as it is possible.
Suggestion for further research projects can be the testing of high intense part of swimming
sessions at different part of the session and different recovery period before the performance. A
lot of attention should be putted on the recovery period between high intense part of the warm-up
session and the performance. Duration and the content of that period should be tested. Many
important findings the researchers have already found out, but still there is a gap in the
knowledge. It is sure that in the future swimming warm-up sessions will have some different
structure, but that structure will not be the result of only some new findings, but the result of
already existing evidences improved with some new findings.
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