Warm-up is an integral part of any exercise routine, whether it be in the water for us swimmers or in the weight room before a lift. Though there are an infinite number of ways to warm up the body, there are specific goals of the warm-up and a general pattern to follow. The two key reasons for warming up our bodies before we workout are:

Increase workout performance → optimize efficient adaptations. Decrease possibility of injury. 

Workouts in the weight room, and in the pool, will essentially generate better adaptations if the body is properly warmed up. By giving our blood vessels time to react and adjust for vasodilation, we increase blood flow, which very much favoured. In addition, our body temperature increases, which then creates the most efficient metabolic environment for our muscles to perform.

By increasing blood flow we are able to increase the joint viscosity. The synovial fluid between our joints prevents friction on the bones, ligaments and tendons but it gets stagnant when we are not moving a lot. Increasing blood flow helps get the fluid moving which helps protect our joints and will help improve range of motion. This increase in blood also leads to an increase in muscle temperature allowing our muscles to be more pliable. By activating out Golgi tendon organs (GTO’s), our muscles are able to relax which reduces risk of straining or pulling them during the workout. Range of motion is again increased further. Both these physiological changes lead to an increase in metabolic efficiency. In other words, our metabolic energy systems begin to “wake-up” and start working better to prepare us to push the body during the workout.

Furthermore, central nervous system activity is increased during the warm up. As out body prepares to start working harder, neurons begin firing faster allowing us to move more quickly and efficiently. Typically, our mental focus increases as we have more things to focus on and we become more awake should it be the ugly hour of 5h30am. Structure Your Warm-Up

masters swimming stretching-SwimIndia

A generalized template to follow when creating a warm up has three main parts.

  • Tissue Prep: 5-15 min

This low-intensity prep mainly consists of static stretching and/or foam rolling. It is a good way to ease your body into getting ready for the workout. 

  • Blood Flow, Body Temperature and Metabolic Functions ~ 5-15min

Following the tissue prep we have a low-to-moderate intensity activation phase that can include: jogging, biking, jump roping, butt kicks, high knee runs, and skips. The purpose is to raise the heart rate to ~50-70% of its max. Now, our energy systems are getting ready and the body temperature is raise as heat being produced in the metabolic reactions.

  • Sport and/or Workout Specific ~5-10 min

Lastly, moving to specific work at a moderate-to-high intensity will ensure the body fully getting ready for a heavy lifting session. This can include: sport specific and dynamic movements, proprioception work and injury prevention if necessary. This could comprise of agility work, body weight (or light weight) exercises and spinal movements. The heart rate should reach ~70-80% of max during this phase of the warm-up.  Depending on what time of the season the swimmers are in, this can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 40 minutes. The body goes through changes constantly during the season, and depending on what the workout is, these warm-ups can be manipulated to be of great future performance benefits. This prep work can also be customized for any individual swimmer, whether they are built to last only 75 meters in a race, or a swimmer who has shoulder pain.

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After going through this your body should be awake, supple and ready to go! If you are lifting heavy, be sure to work your way into the max weight you are planning for that session. Power exercises such as cleans, deadlifts and even squats should have their own mini warm-up as you slowly add weight before starting your official first set.

The best pre-swim warm-up you’ve ever done.
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