Purpose: This study aimed to determine the effect of passive insulation versus external heating during recovery after a sprint-specific warm-up on thigh muscle temperature and subsequent maximal sprint performance.
Methods: On three separate occasions, 11 male cyclists (age = 24.7 ± 4.2 yr, height = 1.82 ± 0.72 m, body mass = 77.9 ± 9.8 kg; mean ± SD) completed a standardized 15-min intermittent warm-up on a cycle ergometer, followed by a 30-min passive recovery period before completing a 30-s maximal sprint test. Muscle temperature was measured in the vastus lateralis at 1, 2, and 3 cm depth before and after the warm-up and immediately before the sprint test. Absolute and relative peak power output was determined and blood lactate concentration was measured immediately after exercise. During the recovery period, participants wore a tracksuit top and (i) standard tracksuit pants (CONT), (ii) insulated athletic pants (INS), or (iii) insulated athletic pants with integrated electric heating elements (HEAT).
Results: Warm-up increased Tm by approximately 2.5 °C at all depths, with no differences between conditions. During recovery, Tm remained elevated in HEAT compared with INS and CONT at all depths (P < 0.001). Both peak and relative power output were elevated by 9.6% and 9.1%, respectively, in HEAT compared with CONT (both P < 0.05). The increase in blood lactate concentration was greater (P < 0.05) after sprint in HEAT (6.3 ± 1.8 mmol·L(-1)) but not INS (4.0 ± 1.8 mmol·L(-1)) versus CONT (4.1 ± 1.9 mmol·L(-1)).
Conclusions: Passive heating of the thighs between warm-up completion and performance execution using pants incorporating electrically heated pads can attenuate the decline in Tm and improve sprint cycling performance.