RAMP up your Warm Ups
A warm up as part of any exercise programme prepares your athlete, both physically and psychologically, for the activity ahead. When done correctly, they have been shown in studies to improve performance, reduce the risk of injury and lessen the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Effective warm ups function to: increase blood flow and by extension, oxygen delivery to the muscles, increase the body’s core temperature and metabolic reactions and speed up muscle contractions through improved nerve transmissions. But how do you structure an effective warm up? One useful framework to use is the RAMP system proposed by Ian Jeffreys.
Raise refers to raising your client’s heart rate, blood flow, respiration and joint fluid viscosity. Most fitness professionals are including this stage in their programming already. It could be jumping on the bike for 5 minutes, a mini circuit or game but is increasingly becoming a time professionals are choosing to focus on sport specific movements or exercises.
Activate simply means to wake up and animate the key muscle groups for that workout. This will depend on the athlete and the sport, but typically this is where I would include dynamic stretches. Why not static? There is very little evidence to suggest that static stretches are useful to set in motion any of those physiological processes we would expect or need of a warm up. Simply put by Paul Ingram of painscience.com, “It’s like trying to cook a steak by pulling on it...” Morestill, what sport requires stillness? In activating muscle groups, the coach needs to consider the movements he/she is preparing their athlete for (rotation, horizontal pull, vertical push, etc).
Mobilise is to mobilise the key joint and ranges of motion used in the sport. This is usually combined with the above stage using a combination of dynamic stretches and mini band exercises but proves to be a good time to work on areas of deficiency. If your client struggles with the front rack position, perhaps due to hyperkythotic posture or tight pectorals, you might spend a short time here to include drills to improve their range of motion.
Potentiate means to increase or improve your athlete’s performance. This stage of the warm up is to provide your athlete with increasing intensity so as to build up to their peak performance. When weightlifting, this would be your warm up sets or technique focus. In plyometric training, it might be speed drills and so on.
This method of organising your warm ups ensures that they remain structured and functional. Not only emphasising warming your clients up, but preparing them for movement through a focus on mobility, skill and sport specific components of fitness.