Coaches can play a pivotal role in the overall health and development of athletes of all levels (beginner to elite). Through the inclusion of more generalized training phases throughout one’s training cycle, coaches and athletes can better prepare and transition athletes for more sport specific and intense training cycles to get ready for competitions and events. By understanding the role that general physical preparedness (GPP) development plays in nearly every athlete, regardless of sport, coaches and athletes can promote greater fitness, sport performance, and athlete health.
What Is GPP?
General Physical Preparedness (GPP) can be defined as any training period devoted to the general development of (but not limited to) conditioning, power, strength, skill, flexibility, endurance, and structures.
GPP can be very specific to sport, however in this article we will stay broad and discuss the role GPP plays across most power, strength, and fitness sports, and why all coaches and athletes should look to continually increase their GPP.
A successful GPP phase will transition athletes into a Specific Physical Preparedness (SPP) phases of training, often when preparing for a specific sporting/competitive event.
Why Is GPP Important?
Enhanced general physical preparedness will allow for a smoother, and more successful transition into the later SPP stages. The following are expected outcomes of a sound GPP training phase for most power, strength, and fitness athletes:
Preparedness for Sport
During a GPP phase, the goal is to develop an overall foundation for the inclusion of more sport specific training, movements, and intensities to best prepare an athlete for the specific demands of their sport. The GPP phase will further their baseline potential and can allow for greater advanced in fitness and sport.
The ability to do work at a given intensity over a period time is a baseline attribute of most power, strength, and fitness athletes. To developed work capacity will allow an athlete to train at a higher relative training intensity (% of max) without residual fatigue, ultimately allowing training volume to be systematically increased during GPP phases. Additionally, an increased work capacity will allow an athlete to train more frequently, which is very beneficial for increasing volume, muscle mass, and skill development.
The greater prepared an athlete is for the increased demand of training volume, intensity, and stress, the better they will be at recovery. While there is no substitution for rest, hydration, and proper nutrition, having a greater baseline of fitness can allow for greater resilience to fatigue and/or the ability to buffer byproducts of intense exercise.
Increased Muscle Mass
The development of muscle tissue and overall hypertrophy can have profound effects on long term strength, power, and athletic potential. During the GPP phase, programming can set out to increase systemic hypertrophy and/or target weak muscle groups to further performance in future stages.
As with most progressive training programming, neuromuscular adaptations will occur resulting in greater pools of motor units firing, more synchronization of those impulses, and faster rates or firing, all waiting to increased power and force output. During the GPP phases, athletes and coaches can expect fundamental adaptations to take place allowing for more maximal impulses in later SPP phases.
During this training stage, coaches and athletes should develop sound movement patterning in both sport-specific and prerequisite movement patterns to best allow for increased volume and intensities in later SPP phases. Additionally, emphasis should be placed on asymmetries and/or weaknesses in movement patterning to best prepare an athlete for more sport-specific training.
Technique and Skill Development
During this phase, foundational skills necessary for sport are practiced and/or progressed at lower intensities to allow for overall advancements during the transitions to the specific preparedness phases of training.
While injury is often an inherent risk in most sports, a great deal of them can be prevented through sound programming, skilled coaching, and thoughtful progressions of an athlete based upon their readiness and preparedness to advance. During the GPP phases, coaches can assess and rebuild an athlete to be able to withstand greater demands in later stages and competitions.
Examples of GPP Programming
Below are some very general examples of GPP programming means for athletes in the given sport.
Weightlifting: The goal is to develop awareness and skill with that barbell, increase neurological development for power output, and to increase overall athleticism.
- Jogging, Sprinting, etc
- Bodyweight and gymnastics (basics)
- Weightlifting (technique emphasis)
- Squats, presses, pulls
- Assistance training to develop muscle and movement patterns
- Mobility and flexibility
Powerlifting: The goal here is to build a lifters awareness with basic technique, offer a set of main lifts to develop basic skill and foundational strength, and to add muscle mass.
- Main lifts (squat, bench press, deadlift)
- Variations and/or regressions from main lifts (rack pull, ½ squat)
- Mobility and flexibility
- Hypertrophy training
- Bodyweight training
- Sleds, rowing, and other cardiovascular/recovery means
Functional Fitness: The goal is to build general aerobic and muscular fitness, improve coordination, and acclimate athlete to more formal movements.
- Bodyweight and gymnastics
- Rowing, Biking, Cycling, and other aerobics
- Squatting, Pulling, and Pressing (Barbell, Dumbbell, Kettlebell)
- Entry-Level Weightlifting Movements (Fundamentals)
- Mobility and flexibility
Being prepared for hard training, long-term programming, and competitive seasons and events is something many entry level and intermediate level lifters/athletes/coaches may overlook when starting out. Coaches and athletes must understand that the ability to train and compete on high levels is earned, and developed through systematic increases in volume, intensity, and preparedness, only then segwaying into more sport-specific phases. Dedicating time and energy into more general preparatory phases can be a very beneficial part of the overall health and development of lifters and athletes at nearly every level.
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