By: Regan Quaal
WHAT IS GENERAL PHYSICAL PREPAREDNESS?
There are many terms in the fitness/strength & conditioning industry that are overused to the point where people can no longer actually define them. GPP or general physical preparedness is an example of one those terms, that is often spoken about, but hard to define.
In its simplest form GPP training is any training that isn’t specific to what is required in your sport or occupation. Even though GPP training is not specific itself, the idea behind it is that improving your general physical qualities will transfer over to improving your sport specific performance by making you a more robust individual.
Robustness is developed by minimizing your weaknesses in your general physical skill set and by widening your scope of physical capabilities to answer any performance related problems you may encounter.
GPP: WIDENING THE BASE
As we have all heard many times, a pyramid can only be as tall as its base is wide. Essentially, this means having a wide base is very important if you want to reach peak performance. GPP is the base of the pyramid, so spending a dedicated period of time establishing this is essential for long term success and development. In order for this to happen certain components of training must be included in the program to lay a solid foundation.
The major components that should be focused on are motor pattern learning, work capacity, and movement variability. Obviously, there is a long list of other things one may choose to focus on as well, but these three components cannot be overlooked because of the pivotal role they play in athletic development, as I will discuss later on.
GPP: MAJOR COMPONENTS
In the fitness industry everyone loves advertising the flashy training methods like max strength, speed work, and power development because it is what people like to see and think is most important. In reality though, those methods are only a fraction of what goes into an individual’s training.
Today, many athletes are specializing early in a specific sport, so they are spending their time only developing the qualities they need for that sport. This does not make for a robust individual and limits possible future development. Leading them to reach their peak too early in their careers, since a base (GPP) was never developed in the first place.
Time must be spent developing general physical skill sets for peak performance to be reached. Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day. Below I explain the main components of GPP training:
-Motor Pattern Learning:
-All individuals should master the 4 basic human movement patterns before moving onto more complex and higher intensity training methods. This is because they are the basis of everything we do. These movement patterns are the push (squat), hinge (rdl/deadlift), press (horizontal/vertical), pull (horizontal/vertical). You can think of these 4 movements as the base of the movement “pyramid”.
-In order for an individual to train at high intensities in the future they must first develop a capacity to handle training at lower intensities. During GPP the focus of training is on volume, not intensity because the goal is to build up work capacity. If work capacity is improved future training will be more effective. This is because they will be able to train at higher volumes, both within a week or a single session, presenting more opportunities to improve. Also, the ability to recover between training sessions will amplify, so performance will be optimal more often.
-With training intensity typically being lower during GPP, it is a great time to introduce a wide variety of movements to the individuals you work with. Giving them the opportunity to become proficient with them before they intensify in future phases. Also, you can drill in the finer details of all these movements, so no compensation patterns are developed, minimizing the risk of future injury.
WHEN TO USE IT
A GPP phase is applicable at many times throughout a training year for every individual, below I will go over the particular times I have found it most effective.
-Start of off-season/post-break training:
-After finishing a competitive season most individuals take a break from training to recharge their batteries from the physical & mental stress they endured. A great way to gradually re-introduce training after period or rest is with a GPP phase because it rebuilds the base of the pyramid that was discussed earlier. This ensures training does not advance to quickly and capacity is developed before intensity. The same applies above for an individual who has taken time off from training due to reasons other than competition.
-Returning from an injury is similar to taking a break from training, except the process is much more stressful due to the body working hard to recover. A GPP Phase is a good option for them early in their return to play for building capacity back up, like mentioned above. Also, it will reintroduce a large variety of movements at a low intensity, so any compensation patterns that were wither develop while dealing with the injury or that caused the injury in the first place, can be corrected while intensity is low.
-After a period of intense training it is very common for trainers to implement a deload, so the individuals they are working with do not overtrain and have an opportunity to recover. A brief GPP phase is a good option for a deload because its shifts the focus of training from intensity to volume. Giving the trainees nervous system an opportunity to recover while the focus is on work capacity.
-A GPP type workout is a great choice for an active recovery workout because ample blood flow is generated, there is minimal eccentric loading, and the training intensity is low. All these factors contribute to individuals feeling better leaving the gym than they did when they entered. Active recovery workouts are typically applied when individuals are feeling run down as a second option from their normal training session or as a way to break a sweat and get some movement in on an off day.
HOW TO IMPLEMENT
Now that you have an understanding of what GPP training is, why it’s important, and when to use it I am going to go over some general points on how to implement GPP training.
-The length of a GPP Phase is dependent upon what your purpose for using the phase is. If your using it at the beginning of an off-season after time off, it can last anywhere between 1-4 weeks depending how much time was taken off. If it is being utilized for deload purposes, then it will normally only last 1-2 weeks. Lastly for active recovery, it should be used 1-2 days a week pending the individual’s needs.
-Major training variables:
-Due to the nature of GPP training being more volume driven than intensity driven, the focus will be on maximizing the individual’s work capacity. This will be done by adjusting two different variables, volume and density. The first is gradually increasing the total volume of work that is performed on a session or weekly basis. The second is increasing training density by either minimizing rest between sets or speeding up the rate at which sets are performed. Leading to more work being performed in the same amount or less time.
-For GPP training my preferred method is utilizing circuits because they are such an efficient use of time, especially when working with large groups of individuals. They allow for large amounts of volume to be accumulated in short periods of time. Many different movements can be used in one workout with the use of stations. Also, the entire session can be based off specific work to rest ratios, allowing more control over the total volume performed.
-Movements to include:
-The bulk of the movements I prescribe during GPP are either bodyweight, dumbbell loaded, or band loaded to keep intensity lower. With these movements I focus on improving movement proficiency in all three planes of motion, both unilaterally and bilaterally Also, if I have access to sleds and prowlers, I utilize them as well because they cause minimum muscle damage being a concentric based exercise and are effective at developing capacity. Another great option is including isometrics because of the minimal mechanical damage they cause, since no movement takes place.
GPP GIANT CIRCUIT
Below I have attached the GPP Giant Circuit, it is an effective training tool I have developed over the years to use during a GPP phase. Below I will list the reason why I have found it to be an ideal option:
-Works well in a large group setting because each exercise in the circuit can be used as a station
-Controlling volume is manageable by adjusting work to rest
-Develops basic movement patterns in multiple planes of motion
-Targets every muscle group (both locally and globally)
-Simple to progress by increasing load or volume of each exercise
-Improves coordination by performing movements that include upper and lower body actions
-Enhances work capacity (aerobic system), preparing individuals for future high intensity training
-Can be performed individually as well with minimal equipment (great at home workout option)
I hope this article explained what GPP is and why it is important for long term development! Also, I hope you utilize the GPP Giant Circuit and find it as effective as I have.
Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at Shakopee High School