Updated: Aug 10, 2020
That dreaded 10-15 minutes at the beginning of each training session. You run through the same monotonous "Sunday League" warm-up of jogging a lap and completing some static stretches while leant up against the fence you so dearly want to jump and escape into the darkness without being noticed.
Surprisingly, despite the large volume of information and resources available disparaging the use of these archaic warm up techniques, they continue to be used.
The team at TRIAX Performance want to clear this stigma and help to educate grass roots and sub-elite coaches and athletes to maximise their preparation through the use of modern and evidence-based warm-up strategies.
Warm-ups and the science behind them
I am going to RAMP things up (yes, I went there) in this section and break down the current evidence-based protocols and science of warm-ups and explain them in the simplest way possible.
A number of scientific approaches to the warm up have been explored in the modern era of sports science but the most scientifically supported and primary model used is the “RAMP” protocol (see the following link for more information on the origin of RAMP) (1-4).
The RAMP protocol focuses on 4 key areas; Raise, Activate, Mobilise and Potentiate and is designed in a way that it can be universally applied to any sport or activity (1). Additionally, the scientists who created the RAMP model also highlight that athletes, coaches and practitioners need to re-evaluate the way they think about a warm-up (1).
"The warm-up should be seen as the opening scene that sets the story for the rest of the film (the main session) that is to follow."
Researchers suggest that rather than seeing the warm-up as simply being the credits before the movie, the warm-up should in fact be seen as the opening scene that sets the story for the rest of the film (the main session) that is to follow. Therefore, the warm-up should be an integration or extension of the main training session, with the movements, skills and performance prescribed within it directly linking to the aims/objectives of the training session (1, 3, 4, 5).
What is RAMP?
Before we delve deeper into the specifics of the RAMP protocol and how it can be applied to take your teams warm-ups to the next level, take a few minutes to watch this video of a RAMP warm-up in action.
Raise is the first phase of the RAMP protocol and the objective of this component of the warm-up is in the name, to raise or increase various functions within the body to be prepared to perform during the main session or game (1-4).
The key aims of this phase are to:
Increase heart rate
Increase body temperature
Increase respiratory (breathing) rate
Increase blood flow
Increase joint & muscle movement
You might ask, but can’t all of these mechanisms be achieved by jogging a couple laps? The answer is yes, but this may not appropriately prepare your athlete for the movements or skills they will perform in the main session.
While we want to increase each of these physiological responses within an athlete during the warm-up, we also want to ensure the exercises or movements are specific to the sport or activity they are about to perform.
Example of the raise phase
Note: Be creative and include sport-specific movements or skills in your run throughs, such as performing a skill at the end of the run through or utilise games to raise.
This could include:
AFL - receive and complete a handball at the end of your run through
Soccer - control and pass a ball at the end of your run through
Rugby – receive a pass and pass the ball back at the end of your run through
Contact/Tackle Sports - grapple & wrestle games (see examples below)
ACTIVATE & MOBILISE
The next stages of the RAMP protocol are the Activate and Mobilise phases. The way I like to explain this two-pronged phase is like preparing to cook a meal, if we don't get it right we will end up like Homer.
Before we prepare the ingredients, we want to pre-heat the oven, or in our case, activate (pre-heat) the major muscles we will be using during the training session or game (1,5).
Once the oven has begun pre-heating, we can then begin preparing the ingredients for the dish, or in our case, mobilising (preparing) the specific joints and muscles that we will be using by taking them through their full range and replicating movements that occur during training or games (1,5).
Example of the activate & mobilise phases
Note: The mobilise phase should focus on utilising dynamic stretches that involve flexion/extension/rotation movements.
The final stage of the RAMP protocol is the Potentiate phase. This phase quite literally aims to RAMP things up and is designed to be the final primer for our athletes before their training session or game. Therefore, the aim of this component of the warm-up is to replicate the intensity and performance demands of the training or game they are about to complete (1, 3, 4, 5).
To achieve these outcomes this portion of the warm-up needs to focus on:
Increasing intensity (at or as close to match/training intensity)
Speed and agility Drills
Compact and fast-paced Small Sided Game drills
Example of the potentiate phase
Watch the below video for some examples of potentiate drills that can be included in the final stages of your warm-up to prime your athletes.
Bringing it all together: what does a RAMP warm-up look like?
Now that you understand the science and theory behind the RAMP warm-up protocol it’s time to piece all of your new found knowledge together and start using the RAMP warm-up method.
To get you started the team at TRIAX have designed a series of example warm-up programs for you to follow to begin implementing your own RAMP style warm-ups.
Example warm-up #1
Example warm-up #2
For a video demonstration of the grappling and wrestling games that you can implement in your warm-up watch the below video:
Additional warm-up resources
The RAMP protocol has also been widely adopted by a number of sporting bodies (FIFA, AFL and Netball Australia) and adapted to suit their sport-specific needs. To read further about how the science of RAMP has been applied by these sporting bodies to create sport specific warm-up programs see the below links:
There you have it. That's TRIAX's 4 step guide to RAMP up your teams warm-ups.
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about the author
Strength and Conditioning Coach
M.App.Sp.Sci, ESSA L1 Sports Scientist, ASCA L1 Coach
Available for individualised online coaching
1. Jeffreys I. Warm-up revisited: The ramp method of optimizing warm-ups. Professional Strength and Conditioning. 2007;6:12-8.
2. Bishop D. Warm up II. Sports medicine. 2003 Jun 1;33(7):483-98.
3. Fradkin AJ, Zazryn TR, Smoliga JM. Effects of warming-up on physical performance: a systematic review with meta-analysis. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 2010 Jan 1;24(1):140-8.
4. Silva LM, Neiva HP, Marques MC, Izquierdo M, Marinho DA. Effects of warm-up, post-warm-up, and re-warm-up strategies on explosive efforts in team sports: A systematic review. Sports Medicine. 2018 Oct 1;48(10):2285-99.
5. Joyce D, Lewindon D, editors. High-performance training for sports. Human Kinetics; 2014 May 16.