A couple of weeks ago I was invited by Michelle from Elite Basketball Skills to guest coach on the Easter Camp co-run by Hoops Skool Basketball. I was asked to take a 45-minute session to warm the ballers up and introduce some injury prevention work too. I decided to introduce and utilise the RAMP warm-up format for the session. After completing the session, I thought that it would be a good topic for a new blog, covering what it is and how you can apply it as a player or a coach.
What is the RAMP warm-up?
The RAMP warm-up was developed by Ian Jeffreys and is an effective warm-up for all athletes including ballers.
The RAMP acronym stands for:
- Raise – increase muscle and core temperature. Increasing blood flow to the muscles and nerves
- Activate – engaging the muscles you are going to be using during the training session or game.
- Mobilise – mobilising the tissues for the movement patterns used during training/games
- Potentiate – gradually increasing the load on the body for the training session or game.
The RAMP Structure
It is common that not much thought goes into planning warm-ups. I would almost go out on a limb and say that when most coaches put together their session plan (if they do one at all), they are likely to write down something like ‘5-10 minutes warm-up’. No structure, maybe a few stretches, most likely layup lines and only added because everyone knows you should warm-up right?
Now I am sure there are some of you out there that disagree. However, that is likely because you are one of the few that understands that warm-ups can be an essential part of the programme. It might even be because you have realised that the warm-up section of a training session is a valuable time to work on skills and athletic development. Some of you may also have realised that it is a good way of teaching particular movement patterns/skills and can help to minimise the risk of injuries too.
It is exactly those benefits that the RAMP structure can give. It can help you to install medium and longer-term development in addition to prepping for the short-term goal of the session or game. If you aren’t already, consider the warm-up for all its potential benefits. Think of it as something that can be flexible and change dependant on what is being covered but that can still have a systematic structure.
The Systematic Approach to RAMP
The systematic approach to RAMP ensures that each element contributes to the next part of the warm-up. This allows the whole of the warm-up to be greater than any of the individual components. Another advantage of the systematic approach is that the structure can be kept whilst being adapted depending on time available, equipment available, whether there are training or game restraints and dependant on the demands of each session. Finally, the systematic approach can be understood and adopted by, all ages, whether a player or a coach.
Long-term benefits of RAMP
One of the main reasons that I like the RAMP warm-up structure is because it can deliver longer-term benefits for:
- Mastery of movement patterns
- Mastery of technical skills
I personally like to incorporate technical footwork and ball-handling skills into warm-ups to teach players how to control key movement patterns and progress ball-handling skills. This is especially beneficial as players can work on ball-handling skills every session regardless of the overall focus of the session is. The warm-up is a great opportunity to increase skill practice.
In addition to this, the structure also allows the opportunity to integrate mobility and strengthening exercises. Again, this is a great opportunity to give players a snapshot of the types of exercise they can do outside of training sessions. A few repetitions of exercises can help the immediate warm-up but allow a coach to teach key pointers on long-term athleticism goals.
Raise within RAMP
The aim of the initial part of the warm-up is to raise the key biological functions to prep for activity. To raise heart rate and thus blood flow to increase core temperature, make muscles more pliable (elastic) and get the nervous system primed. Generally, low-intensity movements can be utilised for this component of the RAMP warm-up.
Now, remember, the key to the system is to carefully select which movements are going to be used within basketball to help with the short-term benefits of the session but that could also help with longer-term movement and skill development.
There are 2 things I personally try to apply to this system for warm-ups. Firstly, it is worth noting that basketball is a multi-directional sport. Therefore, I like to add multi-direction movements to each section of the warm-up. Secondly, I like to have players keeping the ball in hand as much as possible during warm-up and so add the ball or dribbling where possible. These 2 points can be combined too. For example, skipping forwards and backwards with the ball going over the head and back.
For any skill-based Raise elements, you can incorporate ball-handling, passing and shooting drills. However, these should be done at a low intensity to start with and can be progressively increased as this phase of the warm-up progresses. Additionally, it is worth selecting skills that link with the main aim of the session.
Some examples of exercises that could be utilised in the Raise section:
- Jogging while dribbling the ball
- High knees/heel flicks (with dribbling)
- Forward and backwards skipping (with the ball going overhead front to back)
- Sideways skipping (with the ball going overhead ear to ear)
- Sideways skipping or Carioca (with ball side to side at chest height)
- High Skip (ball side to side/layup)
- Ball handling drills
Activation and Mobilisation within RAMP
Activate: engaging the muscles you are going to be using during the training session or game.
Mobilise: mobilising the tissues for the movement patterns used during training/games
These 2 sections of the RAMP warm-up can be done as separate components or they can be combined. The Activation and Mobilisation phases should continue with the temperature raising element of the warm-up so the benefits of the Raise section are not lost. This is why during the mobility phase, static stretching should be limited. Instead use movement to mobilise and keep warm, lunge and squatting patterns are beneficial for basketball.
Squat and lunge patterns can prepare the whole body (especially overhead versions or using ball-handling), keep body temperature up, mobilises joints, and increase movement capacity. Additionally, these movements can work on longer-term athletic development, increasing performance capacity.
Just a quick note on why I think the goal should be mobility and not flexibility.
Flexibility usually works on individual muscles or muscle group. Mobility can work on the effective movement of multiple joints and muscles groups. This allows the athlete/player to master the movement patterns and improve the range of motion required for basketball. Finally on this point, being flexible statically does not always mean a player can take advantage of that flexibility when moving dynamically. Mobility requires flexibility, stability and motor control.
As a coach, you can also use these phases to correct movement patterns and athletic stances. Additionally, activation of key muscle groups around hips and shoulders can be utilised as rehabilitation exercises. This allows you a bit more time to work on athletic development and minimising risks of injuries.
Finally, one area I think gets forgotten about is the wrists. Everyone will add in the ankle, hip, core and shoulder work but forget the wrists. However, the wrists are important for ball-handling, passing and especially shooting. Make sure you work on the strength and mobility of the wrists. There is even a study that shows that adding additional wrist movements to press-ups can improve shooting accuracy. What’s not to like about improving shooting accuracy?
Options for Activation and Mobilisation:
- Pivot Sumo Squats (can add ball overhead or pound/power dribble)
- ‘Goku’ squats
- Lateral lunge (ball handling can be added or just lunge itself)
- Lateral Lunge with plyo step (can be progressed to plyo step and hop)
- Forward Lunge (ball handling can be added or just lunge itself)
- Forward Lunge with plyo variations as above
- Reverse Lunge (again with any variations added from above)
- Reverse lunge with upper body rotations (look at back foot both ways)
- Worlds greatest (and with rotations)
- Single leg exchanges
- Double leg exchanges
- Frankenstein into RDL
- Downward dog to cobra
- Basketball press-ups (and roll across variations)
- Basketball Plank
- Hang 10s
There are many more that I could list and the possibilities are plenty. Hopefully, though, the list gives you some ideas.
Potentiation within RAMP
The aim of the potentiation phase is to gradually increase the stress on the body in preparation for the upcoming session or game. More often than not, the Raise phase and the Activation and Mobilization phases do not prepare a player for explosive and high force performances. In order to achieve this, progressive development of intensity up to maximal effort is required.
Teams may use sport-specific activities which is great for the potentiation phase, yet, there is often no control of the progression of the intensity. It is important to make sure that the intensity of all components that are going to be used have been appropriately progressed.
How to RAMP up the Potentiation Phase
For a pre-game warm-up, it needs to be a rehearsal of the activities that the players will face in the upcoming game; sprinting, cutting, jumping, hopping and bounding. With training warm-ups, it can be used either as appropriate preparation for the upcoming main training session, as a session in itself, or as a mixture of the two.
A big benefit of the Potentiation phase is it provides an ideal opportunity to deliver effective speed and agility training. Speed and agility development can be effectively integrated into the warm-up, allowing for a great deal of additional training stimulus with minimal increase in overall training load.
Some examples of exercises that could be utilised in the Potentiation section:
- High Skips
- Speed skaters with triple threat lands
- Pogos into single leg stop and hold (up and down)
- Side to side pogos into a defensive stance
- Defensive slides
- Side shuffle to sprint
- Tuck jumps
- Ball handling series
Finally, think of the Potentiation phase as the rehearsal for the game.