Performance Preparation: Optimised Warm-up

Forget your old perception of a warm-up and now consider a new model for optimising performance preparation for both fights and training sessions. Time is wasted and physical potential goes untapped following typical ill-conceived warm-up routines.

I know it’s been done to death – a warm up will promote faster muscle contraction; relax agonist and antagonist muscles; improve rate of force development, reaction time, muscle strength and power; lower viscous resistance in muscles; improve oxygen delivery via the blood-stream; increase blood flow to active muscles; enhance metabolic reactions; reduce risk of injury etc… We know, we know!

But what isn’t commonly known is how to structure a warm-up to not only achieve all these things and more, but also incorporate essential skill rehearsal and progress seamlessly into full-bore practice or competition.

Ian Jeffreys, senior lecturer in strength and conditioning at the University of Glamorgan published a paper in the Professional Strength & Conditioning Journal regarding the ‘ramp’ method of warming up – which incidentally is also used as the basis for training strength and conditioning coaches attempting UKSCA accreditation. In brief, Ian is super credible and the ramp method is the real deal.

RAMP Method

This method integrates the warm-up as part of the training process and also provides another coaching opportunity to check your fighters movement patterns – no time wasted jogging to merely increase heart rate etc.

The RAMP system consists of three main phases:

  1. Raise
  2. Activate & Mobilise
  3. Potentiate

Each phase rolls into the next, gradually building intensity and specificity.

Raise

The aim of this phase is to raise body temperature, heart rate, respiration rate, blood flow and improve joint viscosity through low intensity activity. For Thai boxers, shadow boxing serves this purpose perfectly, while allowing movement and Muay Thai skills practice. It’s important to be disciplined and practice stance, balance and footwork. Every repetition must be technically correct to reinforce good technique and minimise bad habits. I like to throw in footwork drills at this stage, chaining together various shuffles, steps, switch-steps and blocking movements. Begin with slower paced movements and gradually build to promote the elevation elements needed within the warm-up.

Activate & Mobilise

This phase aims to activate key muscle groups used in Muay Thai, and those needed specifically for an individual fighter (based on injury or observed inefficient movement patterns). We’re looking to ‘switch on’ these key muscles to make sure your body fires them efficiently for the rest of the training session or fight. These activation movements typically involve exercises associated with prehab such as rotator cuff exercises, glute bridges, overhead squats etc. Although there are general movements that can and should be used, it’s also an opportunity for the coach to either substitute or offer bonus exercises to those with specific injury or stability/mobility issues.

The mobilisation phase doesn’t use static stretching of individual muscles, but dynamically works movements. Kick stretches and more vigorous shadow boxing meet this requirement, actively working the muscle through its range of motion while simultaneously stabilising the body though the movements. I personally like including split, lateral and rotational lunges in warm-ups to not only dynamically stretch but also build unilateral (1-legged) strength and hip stability – after all Thai boxers spend a great deal of time on one leg. It also allows me to quickly assess mobility, stability and strength of individual fighters, and provides the opportunity to give some personalised corrective exercises to improve performance and reduce injury risk.

Potentiation

The term ‘potentiation’ may be new to you — it simply means any activity that improves effectiveness of subsequent performance. This potentiation phase has two aims; the first is to increase the intensity of exercise to a point at which boxers can perform activities at maximum levels; the second is to employ activities that contribute to a super-maximal effect, enhancing performance using the post-activation-potentiation (PAP) effect.

The first aim involves a progressive intensity increase to allow the boxer to achieve peak performance for the training session or fight. During fight prep, this typically comes by way of careful, progressively paced pad rounds. For fights and training sessions, I gradually turn up the screw with carefully selected dynamic, explosive bodyweight drills and/or partner sparring drills. I include explosive bodyweight resistance and plyometric exercises to utilise the PAP effect to supercharge the CNS and promote maximum power/strength potential for the rest of the session or fight.

Summing Up

The RAMP method provides a framework for highly effective warm-ups for both training sessions and competition. It’s important to remember that a warm-up is about preparing the fighter for optimum performance with activities that raise, activate, mobilise and potentiate without developing undue fatigue. A warm-up is not a ‘pre-beasting’. That’s neither an intelligent use of the time or going to make for a productive training session where quality technique can be executed at maximum speed and quality.

As always, let me have any comments below and please share this info around.

8 Comments

  1. DonHeatrick March 26, 2013 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    Rich Cadden (via Facebook)
    So would you say it should raise heart rate to 50-55% of max heart rate, or am I missing the idea, and should be focussing on neuro-muscular activation?

    Also, some weight-lifting guys say that you shouldnt stretch BEFORE training…… and focus on core stabilisation and raising heart rate

    • DonHeatrick March 26, 2013 at 12:02 pm - Reply

      Hi Rich,
      The ‘ramp’ warm-up works through phases achieving ALL of the objectives: Raise, Activate, Mobilise and Potentiate.

      Heart rate should begin low and ”raise’ to whatever is required for the activity – I’d suggest a minimum of 75-80% of max heart rate.

      You should also be aiming to ‘activate’ essential muscles to make sure they aren’t dormant and fire properly.

      Static stretching will reduce the maximum force/power produced in that muscle, using dynamic stretches won’t – these are the ones to use to ‘mobilise’.

      The final phase ‘potentiation’ greases the CNS groove enhancing subsequent strength and power performance using post-activation-potentiation.

  2. DonHeatrick March 26, 2013 at 12:45 pm - Reply

    Rich Cadden via Facebook:
    I was talking to Antoine Pinto and he said he doesnt do ‘slow’ shadow boxing, he even wouldnt hold a long knee ‘pose’ for a photographer, as thats not how his body works, and he doesnt want to get it in to bad habits, allowing his body to do the moves that should be done fast. So by definition he wouldnt even entertain isometric exercises/stretches

    • DonHeatrick March 26, 2013 at 12:46 pm - Reply

      Interesting. Shadow boxing should definitely increase in intensity up to full speed. In my opinion, isometric stretches have a place in improving flexibility, but not in a warm-up – which should be performance preparation. Also, bad habits will depend on the specificity of the movement (how closely it models the velocity, mechanics and energy demands of the technique), I can see how Antoine would not want to perform too many movements in slo-mo!

  3. News | Super Fight Series March 26, 2013 at 5:45 pm - Reply

    […] Link: Performance Preparation: Optimised Warm-up | Heatrick Strength & Conditioning for MuayThai Don Heatrick posted a link to SUPER FIGHT SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP's wall: Your warm-up can be much better. MUCH better. Performance preparation is how professional athletes 'warm-up', optimising physical performance. Read my post to find out how. […]

  4. […] interest to Thai boxers. These exercises are just one piece of a holistic framework designed to activate and mobilise key movement patterns before training or fighting. After this sequence you’ll be primed for […]

  5. […] warm ups are great for preparing for the specifics of the training session to come. And they’re a great ‘catch all’ for group sessions. But, […]

  6. […] better too). Power movements (under resistance) can follow these Speed exercises – which can serve to potentiate – without hindrance. Finally, less technically demanding Strength exercises can be trained […]

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