‘Perfect’ Swimming Warm-down

‘Perfect’ Swimming Warm-down

Dr. GJohn Mullen Blog, Competition, Training 4 Comments

If you missed the ‘perfect’ swimming warm-up, read it already!
Warm-up research is minimal, warm-down is a different story. Vast research has looked at different swimming warm-down speeds, lengths, and lactate level. As discussed in past pieces (check out Groin Kick Syndrome ), lactate is not the devil; the body’s inability to convert lactate to ATP is a problem which leads to the fun acidic burning in your gut). If your body can improve this system, then you can tolerate more stress and improve workload and performance. Warm-down research is quite popular, whether Dr. G is pricking your ear or your buddy stabbing your finger, the result is almost always….you need more warm-down!
Make sure you know your individual plan and needs, but realize there are some generalities for everyone and if you don’t have the available technology it shouldn’t be held against you, even the late Steve Jobs won’t be mad if you don’t have the Blood Lactate Application.
We went over suggested Swimming Warm-Down durations before and concluded:
“Differences in opinions exist between warm down speeds and duration. One study determined swimming for 15 minutes at 55-75% of racing speed resulted in blood lactate retuning to below 2 mmol/L-1 (McMaster 1989). A more recent study has determined the lactate threshold as an optimal pace for warm-down (Greenwood 2008). Toubekis 2010 found repeated sprints to recover best at a pace of 40% 100 free.”
Despite the conflict in opinion on warm-down, one thing is clear; everyone needs a lot of warm-down. Just look at these suggested warm-down distances associated with their event:

Some things to note are different strokes elevate more lactate than others and sprinters typically need more recovery.
However, there is even research about passive recovery. Touberkis 2008 noted:
“Five minutes of active recovery during a 15-min interval period is adequate to facilitate blood lactate removal and enhance performance in swimmers. Passive recovery and/or 10 min of active recovery is not recommended.”
These athletes swam at 60% of their 100-meter time and recovered within 15 minutes of the race. This mixed evidence raises some conflict, which I feel is unable to explain at this time.
But these are purely based on blood lactate volumes and if you read me earlier I said lactate isn’t the devil we once suspected.
The devil or forgotten Little Nicky for optimal race results is neural fatigue. This forgotten and unknown variable rises higher in events with high force production. Make sure the nervous system has achieved proper time to recover. If the nervous system does not recover it will not have adequate time to react and will fail…no good! It is estimated the neural system takes seven to ten times the length of the muscular system to recover.
Make sure you have enough time for recovery and are able to turn the brain off for optimal neural recovery.
Swimming recovery is essential after a race for neural and lactate improvement. The amount of active, swimming recovery should be around 60% of your 100-meter time and be performed for at least five minutes (typically much longer).
Next installment, will discuss what to do without a warm-down pool available…
  1. Toubekis AG, Tsolaki A, Smilios I, Douda HT, Kourtesis T, Tokmakidis SP.Int J Sports Physiol Perform. Swimming performance after passive and active recovery of various durations. 2008 Sep;3(3):375-86.

Comments 4

  1. “The amount of active, swimming recovery should be around 60% of your 100-meter time and be performed for at least five minutes (typically much longer).”

    I understand 60% of max heart rate, but what does 60% of my 100-meter time mean?

  2. We use 8×50 @~:50-55 dependent on age/speed done at :8-10 over 1/2 100 time
    1×400 as 100m kick first 15m Max. 85 easy alt 100 swim SC at HR 12-13 for six seconds check
    1x200m Swim with optional snorkel if allowed to block out others and just swim easy.

    We may shorten this depending on available time between races but always finish with this.

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