The RAMP Protocol Part 4: Potentiation
Arguably the most important phase for preparing athletes to perform, but also probably the most simple, "potentiation" refers to the priming or potentiating of the nervous system in preparation of what the athletes is about to do. The goals of this phase are to:
- Challenge the nervous system to produce maximal muscular recruitment
- Challenge the nervous system to coordinate similar movement patterns at a maximal intensity to the subsequent training session
- Ramp up arousal and attention to the appropriate level (refer to arousal-performance phenomenon)
- Give an athlete confidence that they're ready to perform
In a gym warm-up this might be as simple as completing a few warm-up sets of the first exercise with maximal intent. For a field/court session, we need to deliver max effort speed, agility, or plyometric type drills that allow athletes the opportunity to execute a 100% intensity performance that is similar/identical in nature to what they're about to complete in training. There are several reasons as to why this is important and failing to properly challenge athletes during this phase can be detrimental to their performance and/or injury risk. Firstly, completing maximal effort movements during the warm-up can be a great way for athletes to judge how they're feeling, and make educated decisions regarding how they're feeling and how they should approach training. Secondly, micro-dosages of maximal intensity work completed multiple times per week will add up and benefit the athlete's long term athletic development. Thirdly, it will allow athletes to seamlessly transition into training, and work at 100% intensity from the start. Fourthly, it allows athletes to mentally "get their head in the game" such that they're both physically and psychologically ready to perform.
Although this phase is possibly the most simple, it is often executed poorly by new coaches. Too often new coaches accept poor standards of effort from athletes during this phase, resulting in "missed opportunities" for athlete development. Hence the challenge at the start of the module to make sure that our warm-up "makes our athletes better", rather than just being a time-filler. If you're athletes aren't having to work at 100% power output for brief periods during this phase, then you're doing your athletes a disservice, and setting them up expectation wise for low-effort session. Set the standard right at the start of the session, challenge your athletes appropriately, and watch your athletes succeed!