A passive warm-up, unlike a continuous active warm-up, during a transition period between the active-up and exercise performance allows a rise in muscle and/or core temperature without the reduction of energetic substrates (Faulkner et al, 2013a; Faulkner et al, 2013b). Initial studies emphasising passive warming strategies were solely laboratory based, with the method of increasing body temperature being accomplished by methods, such as hot baths/showers. Although impactful, these passive warm-up strategies are not often practical in a sporting scenario. Therefore, alternate methodologies and passive warm up strategies have been sought after, given that: (1) a lengthy period is expected (transition phase), between the end of the warm-up and the beginning of an event; (2) muscle temperature starts to fall immediately following exercise termination; and (3) substantial declines in body temperature occurs as early as ~ 15–25 minutes post-exercise (Mohr et al, 2004; West et al, 2013).
4.1.2 External Heating Garments and Blizzard Survival Jackets and Performance
All of the included studies in this review used either blizzard survival jackets or external heating garments, the majority of heated garments used across various sporting activities have heat filaments in the fabric. Faulkner et al. (2013a) reported an improvement in muscle temperature (1°C rise in muscle temperature at a depth of 1 cm and a 0.4°C rise at a 3 cm depth) and ~ 9% improvement in relative and PPO during a sprint cycling task when using an active warm up and heated tracksuit pants in the 30-minute transition period in comparison to standard tracksuit pants. Additionally, further research by Faulkner and colleagues reported that muscle temperature remained increased when wearing heated tracksuit pants solely during the transition period (36.9 ± 0.3°C) and when worn throughout the active warm-up and transition phase (37.0 ± 0.2°C) in contrast to only an active warm up (36.6 ± 0.3°C; Faulkner et al., 2013b). Although, an additional performance benefit was not found when wearing the heated tracksuit pants during an active warm-up and during the transition phase (Faulkner et al, 2013b). Supporting this, Cook et al. (2013) reported that wearing a blizzard survival jacket produces a rise in tympanic temperature and improved a 20 m sled sprint performance. Additionally, Kilduff et al. (2013) reported an improved repeated sprint performance in elite rugby players when an active warm-up was followed by wearing a blizzard survival jacket throughout a 15-minute transition period. The decrease in core temperature during the transition phase was minimised when the blizzard survival jackets were worn (− 0.19 ± 0.08°C) compared to the standardised tracksuit top (− 0.55 ± 0.10°C). Therefore, participants began the tests with an elevated core temperature, suggesting that an increased core temperature prior to exercise can improve exercise performance (Kilduff et al, 2013).
The use of passive warm up strategies hasn’t been a common method of practice however, the application of it maintaining body temperature during a transition period is gaining recognition. Passive heat maintenance through the wearing of blizzard survival jackets and athletic heating garments appears to be an optimal technique in offsetting the reduction in core and/or muscle temperature and therefore improving exercise performance. However, athletic heating garments can have their limitations. Wired heated garments, do not provide uniform heat across the heating elements. Furthermore, for optimal heat transfer and increase in muscle temperature, the heating elements should be in direct contact with skin, which involves the garment being tight to the skin (Wang et al, 2010). Additionally, Faulkner et al, (2013a) reported a significant decrease in muscle temperature during the inactivity period when the heated garments were worn, however, the decline in muscle temperature was significantly less compared to the application of standard tracksuit bottoms. Furthermore, Raccuglia and colleagues demonstrated by using water-perfused heated trousers, heated to a higher temperature, 43°C, successfully maintained and even increased muscle temperature in the passive recovery period following warm-up (Raccuglia et al., 2016). However, water perfused trousers are not very practical for use in a competition setting as they need to be connected to a heating system, consisting of a temperature-controlled water bath and powered water pump. Alternatively, numerous studies have reported a significant improvement in exercise performance following the application of battery powered athletic heating garments which use integrated flexible heating elements (Cowper et al, 2020; Falkner et al, 2013a; Falkner et al 2013b; Wilkins & Havenith 2017). This allows consumers to use the garments portably, however without multiple batteries, for a limited time period.
All the reviewed literature found a significant improvement in exercise performance (P < 0.05); particularly time trial performances, which have shown to display a wide variety in percentage increase. When examining these in more detail, the type of exercises might influence the overall percentage improvement. For example, Cowper et al (2020) exhibited a performance increase of 1.1%, this slight increase in performance, might be because of the competition duration being long (> 5 minutes) in comparison to the other studies which are all predominantly anaerobic and short lasting in nature. Limited studies have determined the physiological outcomes of warming-up passively for long duration performances. This might be because a well-known limiting physiological factor for long-duration performances is excessive bodily heat (Kozlowski et al, 1985; Romer et al, 2001). Consequently, a rise in core temperature before exercise might be detrimental to long duration performance due to impaired thermoregulatory mechanisms (Fortney et al. 1984) and/or a decrease in heat storage capacity (Nadel, 1987). Thus, ambient temperature is a significant aspect to be considered. However, when a heated jacket is utilised following an active warm-up in cool environments, body temperature would be comparatively lower against if the same protocol was applied in standard ambient temperatures (18–20°C) (Mariano et al, 2002). During colder environments, a delayed duration that the body takes to reach critical core temperature would occur and performance might improve. Alternatively, in standard ambient conditions, the use of a heated jacket may elevate core temperature to critical levels and possibly decrease the capacity for exercise performance (Cowper et al, 2020). Therefore, further research is needed to determine the effect on performance following the use of passive heating garments in below ambient temperatures.