A Fresh look at GPP (General Physical Preparedness)


A Fresh look at GPP (General Physical Preparedness)

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Will Vatcher takes a closer look a GPP (General Physical Preparedness). Will explains more in detail with guidelines to follow for your goals and beginner and advance techniques

Please consider the following:

  • Is an occurrence of injuries a rarity?
  • Am I as fast as I need to be?
  • Am I as strong as I need to be?
  • Do I recovery sufficiently quickly to be able to perform sufficiently well?
  • Sports specific skills aside, is my performance level what it could be?

If you answer no to any of those questions then you will greatly benefit from added General Physical Preparedness (GPP).

What is GPP?

Please let me make this statement. GPP is not an exercise in itself. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve seen people posting videos on youtube or on blogs that put across sled dragging or jumping jacks as the definition of GPP.

According to Mel Siff it is defined in 3 ways:

  • To form, strengthen or restore motor skills, which play an auxiliary, facilatory role in perfecting sports ability.
  • To teach abilities developed insufficiently by the given sport; increase the general work capacity or preserve it.
  • To provide active rest, promote restoration after strenuous loading, and counteract the monotony of training.

The purpose of GPP is to address weak links that will undermine ones performance. Think of GPP as a form of cross referencing. If you read an article without reviewing the references cited your information will be limited. But if you look at the cross references your understanding of the main text is enhanced.

Just like cross references, your performance in a given activity is enhanced by doing extra activities that have a carryover to that given activity. That could be extra strength, mobility, speed or restoration measures. The idea is to enhance, not to take away from other activity.

Some guidleines

To illustrate the importance of GPP, let’s have a peek at a cross section of 3 very different categories of sports. Some are more strength dominant, some speed & explosive strength dominant, some are more endurance dominant. I say dominant because no sport ever relies completely on one type of strength or motor skill.

For more strength dominant sports such as powerlifting,  olympic weightlifting & strongman try some or all of the following:

  • Hamstring, oblique, ab, glute, back, hip, triceps, lat and deltoid work for the muscles not sufficiently worked when deadlifting, squatting, benching, snatching, cleaning or performing strongman events.
  • Interval training utilizing periods of maximal activity followed by rest intervals. Depending on the duration of maximal effort, either the anaerobic phosphate system or the anaerobic lactate system can be targeted. Interval training will also increase heart/lung capacity which is essential for faster cell replenishment.
  • Using maximal effort good morning, deadlift, squat and pressing variations to raise absolute strength
  • Jumping & plyometric exercises for increased explosiveness during competition lifts
  • Mobility & restoration work to increase range of motion and speed recovery

For more speed & explosive dominant sports such as sprinting, soccer or basketball, try some or all of the following:

  • Hamstring, oblique, ab, glute, hip, back, triceps, lat and deltoid work for extra strength and muscular balance
  • Jumping & plyometric exercises for increased explosiveness and acceleration
  • Using maximal effort good morning, deadlift, squat and pressing variations to raise absolute strength
  • Mobility & restoration work for extra range of motion and faster recovery

For more endurance dominant sports such as long distance running or ultra- marathons, try some or all of the following:

  • Hamstring, oblique, glute, ab, hip, back, triceps, lat and deltoid work for extra strength and muscular balance
  • Interval training to raise anaerobic capacity and lactic acid tolerance during portions of a race requiring maximal sustained sprint capacity
  • Jumping & plyometric exercises to increase explosiveness and maximal sprint speed
  • Mobility & restoration work for extra range of motion and recovery

Details, details…

Here are some details and guidance on how to implement the specific techniques mentioned above.

For repetition exercises:

Beginner: use 1, 2 or 3 sets of each exercise. Work on reducing your rest periods from 2 minutes to 1 minute for example. Keep increasing the resistance over time, but never sacrifice solid form. For strength, use weights that you can do for approximately 5-10 reps on the first working set.

Advanced: use methods such as cluster sets, rest-pause training and density training. Use shorter rest periods and always keep increasing the resistance up over time. For strength, use a weight that you can do for between 5-10 reps on the first working set. Incorporate more rep ranges in 15-20 and 25-35 range to train other muscle fibres also.

For absolute strength exercises:

Beginner: a beginner may need more time using basic repetition exercises before using the maximal effort method, perhaps several months. If you choose to use it, work up to 1 or 2 sets of 1 or 2 reps at or near failure. Keep from as solid as possible to avoid injury. Keep an eye on your recovery and see how you respond. If you do not recover well, use this sparingly (once or twice per month) until your recovery speeds up. As your overall training volume increases so should your ability to recover faster. Rest about 2-3 min’s between sets.

Advanced: use weights in the 90-100% range. Work up to 4 singles at over 90% of max. Don’t be afraid to miss a weight or two, the strain is the most important thing here. Rest about 2-3 min’s between sets. Choose movements that will cause you to strain hardest at your sticking points.

For interval training:

Beginner: Do a pre-determined amount of work with a set rest period. Start with 2 or 3 seconds of maximal work (sprinting, sled dragging or jumping for example). Start small, perhaps using a set or 2 only. Gradually cut your rest periods over the weeks and months. This will help increase your heart/lung function. When the quality of work deteriorates, stop. For someone who is literally just starting out or is coming back from a long layoff, avoid interval training until your basic strength and mobility is up to scratch. You will be asking for a hamstring pull or an achilles rupture.

Advanced: Do a pre-determined amount of work with a set rest period. For improving the phosphate system do 8-15 seconds of maximal work (sprinting, sled dragging or jumping for example). For improving lactic acid tolerance capacity use 45-60 seconds of maximal exertion (sprinting, sled dragging or jumping for example). Both methods will greatly increase your heart/lung function. Work on increasing the number of sets while decreasing the rest periods in between. When the quality of work performed starts to deteriorate then you should stop.

For jumping & plyometric’s:

Beginner: Do basic broad jumps, vertical jumps and hurdle hops. Use a max jump for 4-7 sets of 1 rep or use 70%-90% of a max for 6-8 sets of 1-3 reps. Rest 45-90 seconds between sets.

Advanced: Do depth jumps, drop jumps, light weighted jumps. Use a max jump for 7-10 sets of 1 rep or use 70%-90% of a max for 8-10 sets of 1-3 reps. Rest 45 seconds between sets.

For restoration, recovery & mobility:

Beginner or advanced: use contrast showers, hot tub, sauna, light indian club swings, band traction or light high repetition exercises performed at a moderate tempo. For mobility, try some straight leg toe touches, static hip flexor stretches and indian club swings. Hip and shoulder mobility are premium.

Some extra guidelines:

  • I did not mention intermediate trainers – the reason being that intermediate trainers should use a blend of methods from both beginner and advanced. Keep gradually working up to an increasingly advanced level.
  • Don’t use the same exercises or same methods for more than 3 weeks. For instance, change from a broad jump to a vertical jump or from a triceps extension to a partial bench press. If you choose to keep the movement the same, work in a different intensity range or adjust your rep tempo.
  • For a sports person with a busy competitive schedule, keep the GPP volume lower during season. In the off season, do more GPP work and less sports specific work.
  • For a recreational sports person with less of a hectic schedule you should gradually work on increasing the volume of GPP work you can do.
  • Only do what you can recover from. If your performance starts to decrease in the sports you are involved in your volume of work is probably too high. You may need to either cut back a little or take smaller increases in volume.
  • If you are a soccer player for instance and you have 2 x 90 min’s matches per week and it is during the season, you may want to keep your strength training volume to 1 upper body and 1 lower body session per week. If you played on a Saturday afternoon, do your lower body session later that day. This will allow more recovery time until the next match on Tuesday or Wednesday. Upper body can be trained with more flexibility, possibly in midweek. Plyometrics & jumping movements can be done in a warm-up prior to a competitive match.
  • Extreme workouts take around 72 hours for the muscles or motor abilities involved to recover from. What is extreme? Very intensive weight training, very intensive interval sessions or very intensive speed sessions would come under this category. Training sessions stressing different motor or muscular qualities can be trained on consecutive days to avoid burn-out. There are times when deliberate over training is acceptable and even result producing but this should be implemented extremely carefully & infrequently.

Why should I implement these methods?

There have unfortunately been great sporting talents emerge only to fade away before their time due to lax physical preparation. A lack of GPP will prevent an athlete fulfilling their full potential.

To provide an example, if a sprinter sprints and does technical practice only, he will reach a point of diminishing returns. All the technical practice in the world will not help at this point. He will be able to apply force very quickly, but he will not be able to produce more force per step to increase his speed. Why is this? Absolute strength controls all other strengths. Body weight is high resistance and a significant amount of force must be exerted to move, let alone move at great speed. So force not only must be applied quickly but there must be increasingly higher amounts of force present per unit of time.

A distance runner may have great aerobic endurance but lack the anaerobic or lactic acid tolerance capacity to sustain a high speed sprint at the end of a race. Or they may develop chronic muscular weaknesses leading to over-use injuries.

A powerlifter may have good technique but lack the conditioning needed to get through the volume of extra work needed to increase strength further. They may also lack the explosive strength needed in the deadlift, squat or bench to quickly increase force as fast as possible.

The wrap up

Unfortunately, the term GPP gets thrown around the internet a lot. To get the most out of it though, you must remember it purpose: To provide training you would not usually receive during your main activities or sports, to fill the gaps and bring balance.

Don’t be afraid to get creative. Research and experiment with what works for you using some or all of the suggestions earlier. Everyone has different weaknesses so will need different exercises at different volumes. If in doubt, start small. If for instance your conditioning is not great and you struggle with a high volume of hyperextensions, abs, triceps work etc. then use 1 or 2 sets per exercise with longer rest periods. Gradually with time and persistence your volume will grow to more sets, your rest periods can reduce, and your level of performance will increase.

No matter what sport you do, please do not underestimate the potential GPP training can have on your performance. It may be just what you need to take you to another level. It may save you from a career ending injury. It may keep your energy levels full at the end of a long competitive season. Need I say more..?


“Supertraining” by Mel Siff & Yuri Verkhoshansky

“The Science & Practice of Strength Training” by V. Zatsiorsky & William Kraemer

“Weekly Schedule of Workouts” by Thomas Kurz


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