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Jeffreys I (2007) Warm-up revisited: The ramp method of optimizing warm-ups. Professional Strength and Conditioning. (6) 12-18

Authors:
  • Setanta College

Abstract

While some elements of the strength and conditioning portfolio have yet to achieve acceptance in the preparation of athletes in all sports, one area of practice which is almost universally accepted is the principle of the warm-up. Today, few athletes at any level train or compete without some attempt at a " warm-up ". However, while the general principles surrounding the need to warm-up remain valid, a large body of evidence is building up which both questions some of our current practices, and provides possible opportunities to improve practice. This article looks at current practice, and presents a model around which to construct effective warm-ups.
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While some elements of the strength and conditioning portfolio have
yet to achieve acceptance in the preparation of athletes in all sports,
one area of practice which is almost universally accepted is the
principle of the warm-up. Today, few athletes at any level train or
compete without some attempt at a “warm-up”. However, while the
general principles surrounding the need to warm-up remain valid, a
large body of evidence is building up which both questions some of
our current practices, and provides possible opportunities to improve
practice. This article looks at current practice, and presents a model
around which to construct effective warm-ups.
Why do we warm-up?
An important starting point in examining optimal application of warm-
up is to examine the rationale behind why we warm-up. In its
simplest terms, the goal of the warm-up is to prepare the athlete
mentally and physically for exercise or competition.21 A well designed
warm-up can increase muscle temperature, core temperature, blood
flow26 and also disrupt transient connective tissue bonds.13 These
effects can have the following positive effects on performance:
• Faster muscle contraction and relaxation of both agonist and
antagonist muscles.21
• Improvements in rate of force development and reaction time.1
• Improvements in muscle strength and power.5,13
• Lowered viscous resistance in muscles.13
• Improved oxygen delivery due to the Bohr effect where higher
temperatures facilitate oxygen release from haemoglobin and
myoglobin.26
• Increased blood flow to active muscles.26
• Enhanced metabolic reactions.13
Additionally, a common reason given by coaches for a warm-up is a
reduction in the risk of injury. Whilst the influence of a warm-up on
injury prevention is unclear, the evidence suggests a positive
effect.17,34
A well designed warm-up can clearly have a positive effect on
subsequent performance, and a useful way of looking at warm-up is
as “performance preparation”, enabling an athlete to perform
maximally in their workout/competition. With this performance
preparation approach, the methods used in warm-up can be selected
and evaluated to provide optimal effect on performance.
A coaching opportunity
One of the challenges facing a strength and conditioning coach is
limited time, and the need to include a range of training stimuli to
the athlete. A well planned warm-up can provide an ideal opportunity
to include a range of stimuli in the training programme, without
creating an additional work load on the athlete. Ideally, a warm-up
should be an integral part of the training session, providing for
optimal performance preparation but also contributing to the overall
Warm up revisited – the
‘ramp’ method of optimising
performance preparation
Ian Jeffreys BA(Hons), MSc, CSCS*D, ASCC, NSCA-CPT*D
Ian Jeffreys is currently Director
of Athletics and Athletic
Performance at Coleg Powys in
Brecon, Wales. He is the
Strength and Conditioning Coach
for the Welsh Schools Rugby
Union National team at Under 16
level.
A registered Strength and
Conditioning Coach with the
British Olympic Association, an
NSCA Coach Practitioner, and a
Board Member of the United
Kingdom Strength and
Conditioning Association, Ian was
voted the NSCA High School
Professional of the Year in 2006.
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16
training effect. To this end, planning of the warm-
up is as important as planning the main session
itself. By carefully selecting activities, the warm-
up can contribute greatly to the overall training
programme, and should be in balance with the
aim of the session, and the aim of the
programme. To facilitate this, activities can be
chosen which contribute to the aims of the overall
session, and contribute to the aims of the given
training cycle. In this way, a well planned warm-
up is an extremely time effective method of
including a number of key elements within a
training programme, elements which may not be
able to be included if they have to entail their
own specific time frame. Most warm-ups will last
from 10-30 minutes. Over a training cycle, that
contributes a massive amount of training time,
which, with effective planning, can be used to
work productively on a range of areas, without
increasing the overall training load.
Traditional components of a
warm-up
If the aim of a warm-up is to prepare for
competition or practice, the the optimal warm-up
is likely to vary between sports, and warm-ups
need to be constructed that address the
specific needs of both the athlete and
sport. These need to take into account
the physiological and biomechanical
requirements of the sport, as well as the
technical requirements of the sport itself.
While warm-up has traditionally focussed
on energy system and muscular aspects
of the physiological processes, the
neurological aspects of warm-up have
often been overlooked. For optimal
effectiveness, a warm-up needs to
provide optimum preparation in all
aspects of performance. Indeed
Gambetta19 argues that the stimulation of
the nervous system is the most important
part of the warm-up.
However, despite this need for specificity,
a number of key phases have traditionally
been identified, a general warm-up and a
specific warm-up.22. The general phase
has been associated with increases in
heart rate, respiration rate, blood flow,
and joint fluid viscosity,12 and normally
consists of light activities such as jogging.
The specific phase has traditionally
consisted of stretching and sport specific
movements.22
The use of stretching
Perhaps the greatest debate regarding
warm-up at present is the use of static
stretching. Static stretching has become
an integral part of many warm-up
routines, with injury prevention and
performance enhancement being given as
justifications for its inclusion. However,
there is little, if any, evidence that stretching pre
or post participation prevents injury.20,29,33,34,37
Similarly, in terms of the performance
enhancement elements, research suggests that
rather than enhance subsequent performance,
static stretching can compromise muscle
performance.23
In terms of performance decrements after static
stretching, research has indicated potential
decrements in force production,3,9,10,11,14,30 power
performance,8,40,43 running speed,16 reaction time,4
and strength endurance.28 PNF7(Proprioceptive
Neuromuscular Facilitation) and ballistic
stretching27 have also been shown to have
detrimental effects of performance. While some
studies have found that static stretching has no
effect on subsequent performance,25,38,41 there is
sufficient evidence to question the use of static
stretching in warm-up, and the justification to
look at other methods which do not have the
potential to reduce performance, and which may
offer more functional methods of enhancing
performance.
Dynamic stretching on the other hand does not
seem to cause the performance reduction effects
There is little, if any, evidence that stretching pre or post
participation prevents injury.
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of static and PNF stretching16 and has been shown
to improve subsequent running performance.16,25,41
Additionally, the dynamic nature of dynamic
stretching is more functional than static
stretching given the need for active and dynamic
methods to be used in functional warm-ups.19
Effective dynamic stretches also require that the
muscle is activated through the range of
movement, which contributes to the neural
activation requirements of effective warm-ups.
Given this, dynamic stretching may be the most
suitable method of mobilization during warm-up
for a number of sports. It is important to note
however, that static stretching before activity
might increase performance in sports that require
an increased range of motion, such as
gymnastics.37
Towards a new classification of
warm-up
Given the opportunity to use warm-ups as part of
the training process and the evidence questioning
many current practices in warm-up, it may be
prudent to develop a new classification of warm-
up phases. This would help remove some of the
key “grey areas” of current practice, and also
provide a framework around which to build
effective warm-ups. In this way the effectiveness
of warm-up practices can be evaluated in terms
of its effect on performance and its effectiveness
as part of the training process. This would be
similar to the approach taken by Verstegen39 who
has re-termed warm-up as movement
preparation, which reflects the approach he takes
to effective warm-up.
To this end the following “RAMP” system may
provide a method by which warm-up activities
can be classified and constructed. This system
identifies three key phases of effective warm-ups.
1. Raise
2. Activate and Mobilise
3. Potentiate
Raise
This phase has the aim of elevating body
temperature, heart rate, respiration rate, blood
flow and joint fluid viscosity via low intensity
activities. Whilst this is common practice, the
methods used to achieve it often represents
perhaps the biggest waste of valuable training
time in many programmes, with the common jog
around a field still a common sight. Given the
limited training time a strength and conditioning
coach has with the athletes, and the contribution
that warm-up can play in the training process,
this phase can be dedicated to movement skills
and/or sport skills. Over a training year these
activities can contribute a massive amount of
time dedicated to developing these key elements.
By identifying elements such as key movement
patterns or techniques involved in a sport, the
strength and conditioning professional can
construct routines that develop and hone these
effectively whilst still providing for the elevation
elements needed within the warm-up.
Activate and mobilize
This phase has two key aims
1. To activate key muscle groups.
2. To mobilize key joints and ranges of motion
used in the sport.
In terms of specific activation, the inclusion of
this will depend upon the needs of the athlete
and/or the sport. In some instances, where key
muscle groups may need to be stimulated,
exercises can be selected that target these key
muscles. This can often involve exercises
traditionally associated with prehab such as mini
band routines, rotator cuff exercises, glute
bridges, overhead squats etc. This is a time
efficient method of including these exercises in
the training programme, and the extent of this
phase will depend upon the individual sport and
the individual athlete’s needs.
The achievement of the mobilization phase of the
warm-up takes a radically different approach than
the traditional static stretching approach. Rather
than focus on individual muscles, the approach is
to work on movements. This has a number of key
advantages. First, the dynamic nature contributes
to maintaining the elevation effects of the first
period. Secondly the movements are more
specific to those found in the sport, and thirdly it
is extremely time efficient. Additionally, it has a
physiologically different approach. Whilst static
stretching involves a relaxation of the muscle, the
activation and mobilization approach involves
actively working a muscle through its range of
motion, which has the effect of activating all of
the key muscles involved both directly in the
movements and also in the stabilsation of the
body through the movements. In this way
preparation for activity is enhanced, as muscles
are activated, as well as mobilized through key
movements.
In designing the activate and mobilization phase,
the strength and conditioning professional needs
to identify the key movement patterns involved in
the sport, together with key muscles that need to
be activated in order to produce these
movements. A series of dynamic stretches can
then be selected which provide for the activation
and mobilization needed for effective sports
performance. This type of approach helps
maintain the beneficial effects of the elevation
section of the warm-up, and can also be
extremely time efficient, as by focusing on
movements, many muscle groups can be
activated and mobilized with the same
movement, rather than with the single muscle
approach of traditional static stretching routines.
Coaches should be encouraged to develop a
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range of dynamic movements that can activate
key areas and which contribute to the overall
session aims. In this way, they can bring variety
to the warm-up routines, and also provide for the
variability which can contribute to training gains.
Potentiation
The term ‘potentiation’ refers to activities that
improve effectiveness, and in the case of the
warm-up involves the selection of activities that
will improve the effectiveness of subsequent
performance. This phase of the warm-up will see
a gradual shift towards the actual sport
performance or workout itself, and will normally
involve sport specific activities of increasing
intensity. Including these high intensity dynamic
exercises can facilitate subsequent
performance,6,15,42 and is the essence of the
potentiation phase of the warm-up. The nature of
the activities will depend upon the specific nature
of the activities to perform, e.g. a sprint workout
will comprise of sprint drills and sprints of
increasing intensity. Additionally, they may also
comprise of activities that increase elements of
physical performance that may contribute to
higher levels of subsequent performance.
The potentiation phase of the warm-up can have
two aims.
1. The first, and most common aim, is to increase
the intensity of exercise to a point at which
athletes are able to perform their
training/match activities at their maximal
levels.
2. The second, and least common application, is
to select activities that may contribute to a
super-maximal effect, where the activities
chosen contribute to an enhanced performance
effect, via the utlilisation of the post-activation
potentiation (PAP) effect.
For the former aim, what is important is that a
series of activities are engaged in that allow the
athlete to achieve their peak performance when
the workout or competition begins. For running
workouts, speed and agility drills are ideal at this
time, in that they provide for a progressive
potentiation effect, which at the same time
provides a very real training benefit. The
performance of speed/agility drills in this section
of the warm-up can be a very time efficient way
of ensuring athletes receive regular doses of
progressive speed and agility training, at the
optimal time in any workout. Using speed and
agility type drills at this time ensures that the
athlete undertakes these when they are fresh,
and when the training will result in the greatest
benefits.
For resistance training workouts, plyometric,
medicine ball, and lighter or explosive resistance
exercises can be used which provide a progression
towards the workout itself, and which provide a
stimulus to allow maximal effort on the first sets.
In terms of the PAP effects, the application of
post-activation potentiation research may provide
an avenue by which to enhance the overall
effectiveness of the warm-up, especially in sports
requiring high force and power outputs. Force and
power production is dependent upon both the
muscles and tendons capacity, and the ability of
the neural system to activate the muscles. As
Gandevia18 asserts, “muscles are the servants of
the brain”. In studying the force output of a
muscle, it is important to note that motor units
are capable of firing at different frequencies, and
that the activation depends upon the level of
excitation of the motoneurones by the CNS.31
Thus there are subtle changes that take place in
the neural control of sports based movements,
and in the muscle tendon characteristics during
different activities. What is important is to
determine whether these can be influenced by
potentiating exercise. In this way PAP type
activities could have a beneficial effect on
subsequent performance.
However, post-activation potentiation in human
performance is a relatively new field of study, and
thus definitive conclusions as to its effectiveness,
and the most efficacious methods of eliciting
performance enhancement through PAP is very
limited.32 Hopefully, further research into this area
will highlight areas which can optimize the
potentiation of performance through the use of
PAP type activities.
Conclusions
The “RAMP” approach provides a framework
around which to construct effective warm-up
procedures for both competition and the workout.
At all times the aim of the warm-up must always
be kept in mind, that is to ensure optimal
preparation for performance, and activities should
be selected that provide for raising, activation,
mobilisation and potentiation, but without the
development of undue fatigue.
Additionally, effective planning of warm-up
periods through the training week can provide for
ergonomically effective workouts. Effective
movement/skill based elevation sections allow for
a great deal of skill or movement development
activity, but with no additional time load on the
athlete. Similarly, effective activation &
mobilization activities allow for the effective
deployment of mobility and prehab training, with
again no additional time requirement.
The potentiation sector also provides an ideal
time to carry out activities such as speed and
agility work, and again can provide a very time
efficient method by which to ensure athletes have
controlled doses of this type of training
throughout the training year. Additionally, as
research on the effects of PAP becomes available,
this may provide a framework around which to
maximize this effect for specific sports.
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... All participants in the intervention group undertook a 12-week, twice-weekly recreational football for health programme based on those previously used [25] and following recommended guidelines for administration of recreational football for heath programmes in older adult groups [26]. Each session comprised a 15 min warm up using a RAMP (Raise, Activate and Mobilise, Potentiate, [27]) protocol, followed by a series of six four-minute small-sided games comprising 4 × 4, or 3 × 3 participant numbers with a fourminute rest period between games and a five-minute cool down for a total of 60 min per session. The rules of the small-sided games were modified to include no placing the foot on top of the ball and no physical contact between players (tackling and pushing) as per guidelines for this form of physical activity [27]. ...
... Each session comprised a 15 min warm up using a RAMP (Raise, Activate and Mobilise, Potentiate, [27]) protocol, followed by a series of six four-minute small-sided games comprising 4 × 4, or 3 × 3 participant numbers with a fourminute rest period between games and a five-minute cool down for a total of 60 min per session. The rules of the small-sided games were modified to include no placing the foot on top of the ball and no physical contact between players (tackling and pushing) as per guidelines for this form of physical activity [27]. There were no throw ins within the smallsided games, with restarts taking place via a pass into the playing area. ...
... The intervention took place on an artificial macadam surface measuring approximately 30 × 15 metres. During each session, at the end of each small-sided game, individual exercise intensity was assessed using the Borg 6-20 rating of perceived exertion (RPE [27]) scale and following recommended guidelines for administration and collation of exercise intensity data [28]. ...
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There is growing evidence that recreational football offers health benefits for older adults and an important pathway for physical activity for older adult groups. Despite anecdotal evidence that recreational football is beneficial for older adults, no empirical data are available to support this assertion. This study addressed this issue and examined the effects of a 12-week recreational football intervention on the functional fitness of older adults. Using a pre–post case–control design, thirteen males, aged 61–73 years (mean age ± SD = 66 ± 4 years) undertook a twice-weekly, 12-week recreational football for health intervention, and were matched with a control group, comprising thirteen males, aged 62–78 years (mean age ± SD = 66 ± 4 years) who maintained their typical exercise habits during the intervention period. Pre- and postintervention, participants underwent assessment of functional fitness, using the Rikli and Jones functional fitness battery as well as an assessment of body fatness, via bioelectrical impedance analysis and dominant handgrip strength using handgrip dynamometry. Results from a series of 2 (pre–post) X 2 (intervention vs. control) repeated-measures ANOVAs indicate significant pre–post X group interactions for the 30-second chair stand (p = 0.038, Pƞ2 = 0.168), 8-foot timed up and go (p = 0.001, Pƞ2 = 0.577) and 6 min walk test (p = 0.036, Pƞ2 = 0.171). In all cases, performance improved significantly after the intervention for the football intervention group but not the control group. There were no significant differences in the 30 s arm curl test or dominant handgrip strength (p > 0.05). There was a non-significant trend (p = 0.07, Pƞ2 = 0.127) towards a pre–post X group interaction for body fatness, showing a decreased percent body fat for the intervention group over the control group. The results of the present study demonstrate the utility of recreational football as a physical activity intervention in older adults to improve functional movement.
... Participants were advised to wear jerseys, shorts, and sneakers, and consumed their main meals not less than 3 hours before testing. A 10-minute standardised Raise, Activate, Mobilize, Potentiate warm-up was provided (Jeffreys, 2007). It included 2 minutes of jogging at a self-selected pace, 4 minutes of activation and mobilisation exercises of the lower limbs and 4 minutes of progressive forward and backward with and without COD runs, at 60%, 80% and 100% of perceived maximum. ...
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... The RAMP structure addresses previous shortcomings and enables the planning and execution of targeted actions throughout the warm-up sequence. RAMP's effect on performance improvements prior to the specific Judo fitness test (SJFT) is an exciting topic [21][22][23]. ...
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