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Pre-Activity Preparation

The daily strength training session should be properly planned and a systematic process of the necessities of development needed for athletic success. The key to a successful training day, in my opinion is the first actions of the session. This beginning part of the training session is what I call the Pre-Activity Preparation (PAP) program. This is a term I learned from expert strength and conditioning coach Charles Staley.

The PAP program should not be considered a “warm up”. It should not be seen as general field work consisting of dynamic movement and light calisthenics. This is a program with the specific goal to prepare the athlete’s body for the rigors of the main session’s script. Within this plan, certain movement patterns are implemented as part of the protection of the athlete. Posterior Chain movements for the low back, hamstrings, and shoulders, as well as head support movements will be implemented for the athlete’s ability to build resiliency.

When designing our PAP program, we utilize terminology from Mike Robertson’s 7R programming to help organize our process. As a big fan and working partner of Mike’s, I have taken the liberty upon myself to add in some additional R’s to the overall programming. As most coaches are under certain time restraints, there are some things that need to be placed under the athlete’s direction. In this scenario, this is what I would call Pre-PAP, as it is voluntarily recommended, but it is not mandatory.


“PRE-PAP” The recommended “extra” work, the Pre-PAP consists of Release and Reset movements.

Release - methods that help to decrease stiffness of the muscles. This is generally done with foam rolling and self-myofascial release techniques.

Reset - drills such as breathing exercises, crawling, rolling, and rocking drills to optimize biomechanical positions and help bring balance to the autonomic nervous system. I recommend studying PRI and Original Strength for more information or reset work.

“PAP” The Pre Activity Preparation program has 4 parts that should be implemented before the athlete begins the main session. These are:

  • Root – movements to help strengthen what most coaches refer to as the “core”. These actions can be flexion/extension of the truck, lateral flexion, rotation, anti rotation, and stabilization iso holds.

  • ReBoot – movements that help to “fire up” muscle groups that are going to be utilized in the training session. These movements can be done with or without resistance. I prefer to use bands to for some moderate resistance to help activate the muscles we are trying to isolate.

  • Readiness – helps prepare the athlete for a tremendous training session. These movements are usually strength related movements to help prepare the athlete for the priority emphasis of the session. These are generally done for higher reps per set and lighter loads.

  • Head Support – movements to help support the head. These are direct neck movements, movements of the scapula to enhance the entire trapezius, and movements for the posterior shoulder capsule.

In the example below, this is a program utilized for a priority squat session. This is an actual PAP plan that was implemented with a professional football program. I have at times also done the PAP plan in a medley/circuit fashion also.

The PAP plan is an important part of the daily session. It properly preps the athlete for the priority work of the session as well as provide specific preparation to the health and safety of the athlete.

As a bonus to this week’s blog and 60 Second Strength Coach, we will be hosting an Instagram Live Discussion on Pre-Activity Prep on Thursday, May 7th at 3pm EST on the Dynamic Fitness and Strength Instagram Page. During this 30-minute program, we will go over Pre-Activity Preparation template.


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