cyclists warm up

Cyclists Warm Up: Which warm-up for cyclists?

A new UK study has shown that cycling performance is boosted by prior moderate and heavy exercise, but not by sprint exercise.

The researchers set out to determine the effects of three different warm-up regimes on cycling work output during a seven- minute performance trial. Although it is widely accepted that prior warm-up exercise should be performed before the main bout of sporting or exercise activity, previous studies have tended to focus on the physiological effects of warm-up rather than on its potential performance benefit.

Twelve well-trained cyclists completed four seven-minute performance trials 10 minutes after each of the following, in random order:

  • No prior exercise (the ‘control’ condition);
  • A six-minute bout of heavy exercise;
  • A 10-12 minute bout of moderate exercise, in which the participants completed the same amount of work as during heavy exercise;
  • A 30-second all-out sprint.

Previous research had suggested that the effects of warm-up on performance were related to levels of blood lactate induced by the warm-up exercise. The different warm-up regimes used in this study were intended to result in marked differences in baseline blood lactate after a 10-minute recovery period. And the researchers had hypothesised that prior heavy exercise, inducing a mild ‘lactic acidosis’ would improve power output during the performance trial, while moderate exercise, with little or no impact on lactate levels, would have no effect, and the sprint, inducing severe acidosis, would result in reduced power output.

This theory was borne out only in part because in fact:

  • Performance was improved by 2.7% after both moderate and heavy exercise, despite the differences in lactate production; heavy exercise elevated baseline blood lactate to about 3mM, while moderate exercise had no effect on the baseline;
  • Prior sprint exercise, which raised baseline blood lactate to about 6mM, did not significantly diminish performance by comparison with the control condition.

‘The present study therefore suggests,’ the researchers conclude, ‘that, for performances that are dependent on maximal or perimaximal rates of aerobic metabolism, both moderate and heavy exercise are equally effective as "warm-up" procedures.

‘Of importance… is that many subjects benefit from a mild "acid-up", and in a few cases this "acidup" may be even more effective than a classical moderate warm-up.’

Med Sci Sports Exerc 2005; 37, 5:838-845

Get on the road to gold-medal form and smash your competition.
Try Peak Performance today for just $1.97.

Tagged in Cycling & Warm Up
Privacy Policy [opens in new window]
Please Login or Register to post a reply here.