Less is More: Warm-ups Are Bad for You

Intriguing result with respect to the performance consequences of pre-event warmups. It turns out standard warmups — long-ish and moderate intensity — are bad for subsequent performance. Better is to do short, sharp effort, and that’s it.

Less is More: Standard Warm-up Causes Fatigue and Less Warm-up Permits Greater Cycling Power Output

Elias K. Tomaras1 and Brian R. MacIntosh1,*


The traditional warm-up (WU) athletes use to prepare for a sprint track cycling event involves a general WU followed by a series of brief sprints lasting at least 50 min in total. A WU of this duration and intensity could cause significant fatigue and impair subsequent performance. The purpose of this research was to compare a traditional WU to an experimental WU and examine the consequences of these on the 30 s Wingate test and electrically elicited twitch contractions. The traditional WU began with 20 min of cycling with a gradual intensity increase from 60% to 95% of maximal heart rate (HRmax). Following this, there were 4 sprints at 8 min intervals. The experimental WU was shorter with less high intensity exercise. Intensity increased from 60% to 70% HRmax over 15 min, and this was followed with just 1 sprint. The Wingate test was conducted with a 1 min lead-in at 80% of optimal cadence (OC), followed by a Wingate test at OC. Peak active twitch torque, after the traditional WU (86.5 ± 3.3 %) was significantly lower (p<0.05) than that after experimental WU (94.6 ± 2.4 %) when expressed as % of preWU amplitude. Wingate performance after experimental WU (PPO=1390 ± 80 W; Work=29.1 ± 1.2 kJ) was significantly better (p<0.01) than after traditional WU (PPO=1303 ± 89 W; Work=27.7 ± 1.2 kJ). The traditional track cyclists’ WU results in significant fatigue which corresponds with impaired peak power output. A shorter and lower intensity WU permits a better performance.

via Less is More: Standard Warm-up Causes Fatigue and Less Warm-up Permits Greater Cycling Power Output. [-]


  1. That is a little surprising. Mostly useful for competition, though, since it doesn't necessarily tell you anything about what kind of exercise yields health benefits or increasing performance.

    • Paul Kedrosky says:

      Yes, this is competition specific, but many care about non-competitionperformance as well, myself included.

    • When you understand specificity, it's not surprising at all.

      And it's extremely useful outside of competition: if it's not making you better, don't do it.

  2. Paul, here's a longer version of my response on twitter.

    The nervous system is *very* fast, and very specific. Specific adaptation happens all the time, in real-time. The researchers asked the right question, got the right data, but came to the wrong conclusion.

    To divert for a moment with a similar example, there is a Sports Science episode where they measured bat speed before and after swinging a heavy weighted bat. After swinging a weighted bat, the bat speed of the unweighted bat was actually slower than before. They too, go on to make an erroneous conclusion about muscle fiber types etc.

    It's more simple than that: you simply get good at exactly what you do.

    Back to the cyclists….it's not that they were actually "fatigued", but that they "instantaneously trained" to output less power, so they output less power.

    Whatever position you'll be competing in, train in. That includes "warm-ups".