General Physical Preparedness (GPP): An Overview


General physical preparedness also known as GPP has been a staple in the training programs of athletes for decades.  What is GPP?  How does it work?  How can the average lifter benefit from GPP?


What Is General Physical Preparedness?

So the million dollar question is, what is general physical preparedness?  The short answer is conditioning.  But not just any conditioning, this is conditioning with a purpose.  Often times when you tell a lifter to do conditioning they will end up doing some kind of hardcore cross-training program.  This is alright every once and a while.  However, in a short time this will start to become counter productive to the lifters goals. 

Just any random conditioning is not going to work.  Some decisiveness and planning is necessary.  A general rule of thumb with conditioning is you don’t want it to be too exhaustive for your main activity/sport. The second and most important thing to consider about general physical preparedness are motor patterns.  The difference between an elite athlete and an average athlete is not their strength, but the effectiveness of their motor patterns. 

General physical preparedness can be considered a leveling motor ability in some cases.  A leveling motor ability is a movement pattern(s) that will help to fill the gap between a specific ability and a non-specific ability.  Specific abilities are motor patterns that directly contribute to your sport.  Non-specific abilities do not contribute to your sport.  GPP will help to link these two attributes with the key movements for your sport.  Thus, making a better athlete.  This is the essence of GPP.      


Does GPP Vary With Sport?

Now that we understand what GPP is and why it is so special, it is time to address whether or not GPP differs with sport.  This answer is more complicated than you might think.  For a beginner, the answer is no.  Most high school level, college level and amateur athletes do not need any crazy type of programing.  These guys just need a good ass whooping to get in shape.  Typically some sled drags and tire flips will do the trick for these guys.  Once they are in shape they will be more conditioned and mentally tougher for their sport. 

Advanced athletes, professional athletes and elite athletes on the other hand need very specific general physical preparedness for their sport.  Earlier we talked about how elite athletes have vastly superior motor programs compared to amateur athletes.  In order for these athletes to remain elite we need to make sure they are doing conditioning that will maintain or improve these motor programs. 

An olympic weightlifter wouldn’t do long slow distance running for their conditioning.  That would be counter productive.  Just like a marathoner wouldn’t do farmers carries for their conditioning.  Good coaching and good programming comes in especially handy here.  The best way to approach choosing exercises is to understand the main movements of your sport and find a variation that is not challenging and can be done for reps.  A good example would be using pushups for the bench press if you are a powerlifter.       


How to Implement GPP?

GPP can be done any time of the week.  With that said, I personally think it is best to do GPP on your “off” days.  I put off in quotation marks because as we all know, there really never are off days.  These are just the days where you are not doing any serious volume.  We want to wake up the next morning without feeling like a corpse.  Find 3-4 exercises that mimic major movement patterns of some of your main lifts (squat, deadlift, etc.).  Then perform the exercises in a circuit like fashion until your working up a good sweat. 

This should not kill you.  If your goal is to train for max strength, you should not be doing any crazy kind of Met-cons.  Your goal is not to be a conditioning monster.  This is GPP.  GPP is “smart conditioning”.  Doing all of those burpees and plyo-lunges will not make you any stronger.  First of all, you will burn too many calories.  Second of all, the amount of impact and shock that will be placed on the joints will place too much stress on the body.  This will slow recovery down.

Proper planning and strategy is the key.  Remember, before you take advice from somebody, really put some thought into what they are saying.  Ask yourself, does this person know what they are talking about?  Does this person have my best interests in mind?  As long as you can answer these questions confidently for yourself, then you have nothing to worry about.  The best rule of thumb I tell people, with regards to programming, is to do less when you are not sure.    


The Big Picture

The road of progress really is a treacherous slope.  There are times when you are sure that all is going your way, then all of a sudden, WHAM!  You are hit with a black swan phenomenon that catches you off guard and throws you off course.  There is no use in running from it.  All the preparation in the world will do you no good.  You just have to accept the fact that it is going to happen.  The key to victory is how you react to it. 

You see it is easy to just give up and admit defeat.  Anybody can do that.  Hence the saying, “If it were easy, everybody would be doing it.” The key to emerging victorious is how you react to these situations.  How well you able to adapt to these changes.  In my opinion, the hardest thing for a human being to do is to change.  But change is a necessary part of progress.  All living organisms change in a dynamic environment. 

General physical preparedness is just a small piece in this very big puzzle of progress.  Although small, it is still a piece.  Unless you get all of the pieces together, you are not getting the complete image of the puzzle.  This is why it is so necessary to incorporate GPP into your training program.  Being lazy and just throwing together a few random exercises is not really a recipe for success.  So I encourage all of you to look at the big picture and see the game for what it really is.      

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