RAMP-ing it up
With a solid foundation in place, we can now use the above principles and apply them to the RAMP outline Jeffreys has created.
To this point, although we have made a warm-up fairly complex, the most important aspect is that it simply raises body temperature (hence the name warm-up). To get the increased heart rate, breathing, and blood flow that improves the way we move and feel, we need to get to work.
This is where the ‘jog a lap,’ the most boring and basic activity, has its merit. There are, however, so many more opportunities to include the variety and specificity we are after – where any form of locomotion (moving from one point to another) has its place.
So rather than simply jogging, we can skip, shuffle, cycle, lunge, crawl, and roll – get moving! The only limit is space and creativity. This is where we can be supportive of the enjoyment and ‘play’ side of exercise as well. Not making it work, but instead, making it fun – get started by doing anything and everything imaginable.
Boost athleticism by creating new ways to move, dodge, or recover – falling, shifting, and twisting are all great options. Promote movement, energy, and positive vibes through freedom of movement. In a group setting, this could be in the form of a low-intensity game. For an individual, this could be simply setting a timer and doing random movements that come to mind, changing up every 20-30 seconds.
Ultimately, this initial part is very broad, and as long as we raise the body temperature and keep things safe and appropriate from an intensity and experience standpoint – mission accomplished.
I generally hate the term ‘activate’ as it signifies that muscles have an on/off switch that needs to be flipped – but that’s beside the point. The target here is to ‘engage’ the primary muscles that are going to be used during training. Many times, this involves the hips, mainly glutes, as well as muscles in the trunk or posterior shoulder.
The muscles that are used in jumping, throwing, and sprinting – those that are seemingly inactive while we sit at our desks all day – need to be ‘activated’ and engaged (or contracted) before they are used at full speed and potential. This promotes the critical mind-muscle connection, as well as improves performance and reduces injury risk.
We are now progressing from the wide-ranging options into the specifics of the session and the individual. Now is the time to find what works best. Involve additional equipment, like bands, that help to challenge a joint and muscle differently, isolate contractions, and prepare them for more intense work or use. This ‘Band Glute Series’ from ‘the Glute Guy,’ Bret Contreras, is a great example.
With body temperature raised and muscles engaged, we now need to ensure that our primary joints have exposure to the full range of motion needed for safe execution of high-intensity movements – continuing with the concept of starting general and working toward specific activities.
Primary areas that typically need to be addressed are ankle, hip, thoracic spine (upper back) and overhead shoulder mobility – a wide mountain climber with rotation is a great go-to exercise for this. You’re welcome.
As we focus on each problem area, use a ‘tri-planar’ approach – moving in all three planes of motion (forward-backward, side-to-side, and rotational). Rather than simply up, down, forward and back, we may also work at a 45-degree angle, lateral, or add in a rotational component to how an individual moves, ensuring control while doing so – this leg circuit is a great way to hit all planes and angles.
Regarding specificity, this can easily be individualised to focus on either a particular problem area or simply allow for freedom and autonomy based on personal preference – continuing to be time efficient and effective throughout. It’s important to consider both the needs of the individual(s) involved and their activity or sport while constantly getting feedback on any preferences they may have. This will promote the mental engagement we are after, as well as encourage commitment to the opportunities to improve flexibility and mobility – something that is a common weak point for many of us (if you can’t touch your toes, you know what I’m talking about!).
Spending time to warm up before the session can be a long-term investment to becoming a better and more efficient mover – this has great potential to boost performance and prevent injury.
With essential mobility, flexibility, and muscle function ready to go, exposure to high and specific intensity is our final step. The focus here is on exposure to explosive and aggressive actions (high rates of force development) to engage the brain and body connection. This could be considered a dress rehearsal of sorts, priming the brain and body for activity and ensuring optimal performance.
Here is where we finish our warm-up with full-speed, 100 percent focused and purposeful actions (e.g., single repetitions of 5-10m sprints, flying sprints, or plyometrics at a ‘working set’ load), possibly getting even more sport-specific with a drill that involves a ball or collision pad – creating a reactive game-like experience for athletes. Remember, performance does not always hinge on force and velocity outputs, it sometimes depends on quick decision-making. So, involving some sort of quick, coordinative, and responsive activity can challenge the athlete in a way that prepares them to perform at their full potential.
Immediately following the warm-up, there is a window to execute high-quality work. We must value this time and opportunity and look to micro-dose (perform at low quantities) these full-speed activities when individuals are in their most ‘ready’ state. From an adaptation standpoint, this can help someone maintain and even develop higher outputs with minimal volume. This is something that is incredibly important for team-sport athletes that are busy with in season skill-based practices and competitions.