Warm-ups most commonly last for approximately 10-30 minutes, meaning all desired content must be strategically factored in this short period of time. Though each warm-up is short, over a long timeframe such as a 12-week training cycle, the accumulation of a 10-30 minute warm-up each session equates to a huge increase in total training time. For example:
- A 15-minute warm-up performed 4 x per week for 12-weeks = 12 hours of training time.
Over a 12-week training cycle, the exercise professional can utilise an additional 12-hours of high-quality training time. This further demonstrates the importance and potential of a strategic and effective warm-up.
In an attempt to advance current performance preparation practices, two primary warm-up models have been developed by Dr. Ian Jeffreys (4) and Mark Verstegen (11). The framework “RAMP” protocol developed by Dr. Jeffreys allows for activities to be easily classified and constructed in the following warm-up sequence:
- Activate and Mobilise
- Potentiate (or Performance in this articles modified variation of the RAMP protocol)
It should be the aim of the exercise professional to have the athletes fully prepared both mentally and physically following the end of the third phase (i.e. potentiation phase) of the RAMP protocol and ready for competition or activity. Each of the three phases of this warm-up model plays an important role in the athlete’s preparation.
Phase 1 – Raise
The aim of the ‘raise’ section is too:
- ↑ Body temperature
- ↑ Heart rate
- ↑ Respiration rate
- ↑ Blood flow
- ↑ Joint viscosity
Although this is often a common practice in the form of a ‘jog around the field’, this is often viewed as a large waste of valuable training time. Whilst the primary aims of this section should match those listed above, it can, and perhaps should be performed using exercises or simplified sports-specific movements which will be abundant during the session. For example, if the athletes are preparing for a technical rugby session, then this section of the warm-up may include low-intensity, multi-directional movements or dynamic range of motion exercises which will be abundant during the session. Some examples of raise exercises may include:
- Sprint technique drills (A-skips, B-skips, Bicycles, Heel cycling, Waterfalls)
- Planned change of direction drills
- Squatting, lunging, or crawling.
Phase 2 – Activate and Mobilise
The aim of this phase of the warm-up is two-fold:
- Activate key muscle groups
- Mobilise key joints and ranges of motion used in the sport or activity
During this phase of the warm-up, typical activation and mobilisation movements include:
- Mini-band routines
- Balance work
- Superman’s and inchworm’s
- Squats and lunges
- Sumo shuffles
- Spinal mobility exercises (flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation)
These exercises may be used for the majority, if not all of the athletes competing in the same training session or activity. However, after the generic group movement exercises have been completed, stricter attention should be paid towards individual preparation requirements. For instance, this may involve exercises prescribed in the athlete’s prehabilitation programme such as specific joint mobilisation exercises, glute-ham exercises, mini-band routines, rotator cuff exercises, balance work and so on. Incorporating these exercises into the warm-up may result in better time utilisation, and therefore perhaps lead to a reduced injury risk and improved performance.
When designing the activation and mobilisation phase, it is essential the strength and conditioning coach carefully considers the fundamental movements and demands imposed by that particular sport or activity. For example, what fundamental movements will occur during a rugby match, or during an Olympic Weightlifting session in the gym? This will allow the coach to be very specific with the movements/exercises selected for the warm-up, and therefore have the best possible chance to effectively prepare the athletes for training or competition and preventing them from injury.
It is encouraged that coaches develop numerous exercises that activate and mobilise the same key muscles, joints, and ranges of motion which can be used for training variability to prevent monotony and emphasise performance improvements. In addition, some exercises may irritate or be painful for some athletes, so having an assortment of backup exercises for the same joints and muscle groups is vital.