There seems to be little consensus on how to perform an adequate warm-up. We posted on sports-specific warming-up for football where the practice is to graduate from low intensity activity into higher intensity activity including sprints and plyometrics. This protocol has been shown to prevent injuries, however no reference is made by the studies as to the physiological effect of performing high intensity warm-ups on subsequent performance.
A nice (random cross-over) study by Mujika et al. (2011) has just been published here. They took fourteen highly trained rowers (peak aerobic power of 350W) and randomly assigned them to either a 30min short low intensity warm-up (mean heart rate 121b.min-1) or a 60min long low intensity warm-up (mean heart rate 131b.min-1). Each group performed a 10min maximal effort time-trial following their warm-up.
The results show that following the short warm-up, the time-trial power maintained for the first 7.5 minutes was higher than in the long warm-up (322 v 316W). However, the data does not indicate if statistical significance was reached or not. While stroke rate and blood lactate levels were identical for both groups, the perceived exertion of rowers prior to their 10min time-trial effort was that they had worked harder in the long warm-up than in the short warm-up.
In my view, this study answers a general question about warming-up but doesn’t specifically tackle it’s effect on rowing performance. One conclusion we can draw from it is that an athlete shouldn’t warm-up any longer than necessary. Warming-up is not only about physical preparation, it’s also about mental preparation. Prolonging a low-intensity warm-up appears to negatively effect athlete’s perceived exertion, this cue should be enough information for coaches to control the intensity of the warm-up so as not to sacrifice the quality of work that follows. It would have been nice to see what effect each warm-up had on 2000m time-trial (on water or ergometer) as it would have added some specificity to the question being asked.