The more I interact with patients and clients who regularly participate in a structured exercise program, the more I find many of them are either A) not performing an exercise warm-up AT ALL or B) not performing an ADEQUATE exercise warm-up. I don’t like to jump to conclusions, but could this explain their presence in therapy to begin with?
A good pre-exercise warm-up can be a game changer for exercise-related orthopedic pain (i.e. knee pain with squatting or back pain with deadlifts). Why? Because our warm-up is preparing the body for stress. You see, many orthopedic pain problems are the product of UNDER-PREPARATION. In other words, the body wasn’t prepared to handle the stress or load place upon it, resulting in pain and dysfunction. Enter…RAMP protocol
The RAMP protocol is an easy way to remember the key elements of a proper warm-up sequence. Let’s break down the RAMP protocol for you –
R stands for “Raise”. Raise refers to increasing body temperature, increasing blood flow to muscles and vital tissues that will be used for exercise and raising the heart rate.
A stands for “Activate”. I feel this may be the most neglected component of a warm-up. Many people do a good job of raising their heart rate and tissue temperature (mostly by a quick jaunt on the treadmill, rower, or bike) but fail to adequately “activate” the necessary muscles. You see, since our bodies love to repeat the same patterns over and over throughout the day, that means we use the same muscles throughout the day, muscles that may be different from what will be used in exercise. Activating those key muscles, the muscles that will specifically be used for exercise, allows A) better movement patterns, B) appropriate distribution of stress to the CORRECT areas, and C) improved performance (more weight lifted, more mobility, etc.).
M stands for “Mobilize”. Some people do a pretty good job of this before exercise. Mobilize refers to using a foam roller before exercise or performing static or dynamic stretching. Similar to activation, mobilizing the correct areas of the body will allow for better movement patterns, better muscle activation, and a more appropriate distribution of stress.
P stands for “Potentiate”. Potentiate refers to increasing nervous system activity. In other words, “priming” the nervous system and the body for the stress of exercise. An example of this is performing bodyweight squats and progressing to weighted squats. Not to confuse you with RAMP, but potentiation is ramping your body up in preparation for moderate or vigorous exercise.
Hopefully this helps clarify the essential components of an effective and adequate exercise warm-up. Just remember, RAMP it up before you exercise! Thanks for reading!
Dr. J.A. Graves, PT, DPT