GPP: Train for Life and Prepare for Anything

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This post was written by Jon-Erik Kawamoto, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, fitness writer, and master’s student in Human Kinetics in St. John’s, NL, Canada. The opinions expressed herein are his. To learn more about Jon, visit www.JKConditioning.com.

I’ve been in the fitness industry long enough now to notice that if it doesn’t have a three-letter acronym, it isn’t cool.

Enter GPP.

GPP is short for general physical preparedness and is used to describe your overall fitness level or your ability to perform work. Sounds a bit general, but it’s as simple as that. On the other hand, SPP, or specific physical preparedness relates more to your ability to perform and handle the rigors of your sport, whether it is MMA fighting, playing soccer or running a 10K road race.

Athletes who follow a periodized (structured and planned) training program over a few months, a year or several years, will incorporate exercises and workouts that develop both their general and specific physical abilities in order to prepare them for competition. For example, in the off-season, middle and long distance runners will log lots of slow miles to develop their aerobic capacity while improving tissue tolerance and running efficiency. This type of training improves their work capacity and prepares them to handle more intense runs later in their program.

The concept of periodization has been applied to resistance training since the 1950s [1]; so GPP and SPP are nothing new. Depending on the program, season, sport and athlete, GPP and SPP type training can be planned to occur in sequence or concurrently [2].

Some of the parameters can be a little confusing, so the take home message is this: With our modern day lifestyle gluing us behind our computers and the fact that empty calories are as abundant as oxygen, we are losing our physical preparedness for life. Our ability to climb stairs is lost. We always look for the easiest way out and fixes that are quick and take minimal effort. We are growing weak, obese, and out of shape.

With the popularity of high-intensity training and fitness shows such as The Biggest Loser, exercise systems such as P90X, Insanity, CrossFit, bootcamps, and Zumba have all been suggested as the next best thing, each targeting a specific population. P90X and Insanity target those who want to workout in the privacy of their living room, while CrossFit targets the x-athletes, military, and emergency personnel, often the hard-cores. These systems are examples of GPP-type training based on the consistency of the end result: improved fitness level, body composition, stamina, and strength. CrossFit prides itself on the fact that its participants train and prepare for the unexpected. Life couldn’t be more unexpected, so maybe they’re on to something.

GPP's Benefits

Essentially, your readiness to handle the stresses of intense workouts or actual competitions is based on your body’s ability to perform while developing and managing fatigue. GPP-type workouts are designed to improve your overall fitness, strength, stability, speed, mobility, and flexibility. Typically, the exercises chosen will include full body movements, which strengthen all major muscle groups and joints. Isolation-type exercises can also be performed to strengthen weak muscles — this is also a great time to perform any form of rehabilitation-type exercises for previous injuries.

Think of GPP training as creating a well-balanced developed body ready for anything. The higher your fitness level, the more you can handle. The higher your work capacity, the faster you can recover. The higher your strength, the more force you can produce. The lower your body fat percent, the better your metabolism. These results are commonly the goals of the general population, whether they workout or not. Your competition is with yourself and your life. Strive for continuous improvement in the gym and your life. With the obesity epidemic only worsening, your challenge is to NOT get fat and NOT to lead a sedentary lifestyle. If everyone could improve their GPP, way more people would be leaner and healthier. You don’t need a sport to have to improve your GPP — do it to improve your quality of life.

GPP and Personal Training

Personal training clients hire a personal trainer or strength and conditioning specialist to either a) lose weight (fat) and improve body composition, b) increase strength and muscle mass, c) improve posture, d) increase joint mobility and muscle flexibility, e) improve cardiovascular fitness, f) improve balance, g) improve agility, h) enhance coordination, i) increase speed, j) improve movement quality, and lastly k) improve how they look naked.

The above lists (a through k) the benefits of GPP training, but it doesn’t end there. You will also gain a new level of confidence and mental strength. You will walk taller and prouder and you will just overall feel better and be healthier — these are the benefits of being more active and participating in a well thought out and executed exercise program. I always say you can invest in your health now or after when you’re hit with illness. I don’t think I have to twist your rubber arm any further.

You might be confused and ask, "What is SPP type training and where does it fit in?" This type of training can be referred to sport-specific training where the athlete practices skills required by their sport. Such skills include puck handling skills in hockey, batting practice in baseball and serving practice in volleyball. Don’t compete? Then your sport is life and there's no need to worry about SPP. Focus only on improving your GPP and you’ll improve your life.

GPP Sample Workouts

GPP workouts can take on many forms. Minimal equipment is needed and often times your body's weight is enough. GPP workouts can be performed on days in between your gym workouts or at the end of your gym workouts — most times, your gym workout IS your GPP workout. The times recommended below are not set in stone, so feel free to perform shorter or longer sessions. If performing a GPP session at the end of your workout, go 10 to 15-minutes.

1. Field Circuit — Best for all abilities, beginners to elites

Start on one end of a soccer field. Set your timer to 20-seconds. Perform these exercises in sequence for 30 minutes alternating with slow jogs.

A. Jumping Jacks
B. Push-ups
C. Squats
D. Low skips E. Mountain climbers
F. Walking lunges

2. Load the Leg Press — Best for people with a decent level of strength and lifting mechanics

I learned this from strength and conditioning coach Chad Waterbury. Load all the 45-lb plates onto the leg press machine. Fit as many plates as you can. Now, take them all off. Repeat this for 30-minutes. Remember to mop the puddle of sweat off the floor when you’re done.

3. Bodyweight Circuit — Best for those strong enough and able to perform 10 strict pull ups (band assisted pull ups are a great alternative for those not able to perform body weight pull ups)

Here you’ll need a chin up bar and some space. Perform the exercises below in sequence for 30-minutes.

A. 5 pull-ups
B. 20 squats
C. 15 push-ups
D. 10 lateral lunges per side
E. 5 burpees
F. Bear crawl, 15 steps away and back

4. Carries — Best for all abilities, beginners to elites

Grab two moderately heavy dumbbells or kettlebells. Set up two cones roughly 50-feet apart. Start with the weights in your hands beside your hips (suitcase carry) and walk to the other cone. Put them down and now place them overhead (waiter’s carry). Walk to the other cone. Put them down and now hold them in front of your chest (front racked). Walk to the other cone. Repeat this sequence for 30-minutes.

5. Warm Up GPP — Best for all abilities, beginners to elites

As I mentioned above, GPP work can be done in the warm-up. Here’s a great GPP style warm-up that will prepare you for your workout ahead. If you foam roll, let’s assume you’ve already completed that.

A. 12-15 shoulder dislocations with stick
B. 10 overhead squats with stick
C. 15 wall slides D. 12 glute bridges E. 10 side-lying leg lifts per side
F. 8 crossover lunges per side
G. 8 lateral lunges per side
H. 8 reverse lunge hip stretches per side
I. 10 push-ups

Wrapping Up

GPP is nothing new, as athletes have been doing it for years. What I want you to get out of this article is the idea that your GPP is highly related to the quality of your health. Sit less and move more. I didn't mention nutrition once, but eat real food. If your grandparents don't recognize it, don't eat it! Participate in a regular, intelligent, structured and effective exercise program, whether in a class or with a trainer. You'll drastically improve the quality and longevity of your life — you can thank me later. Make this a priority so you and we can win this uphill battle.

Photo: Mark Burnham Photography

What's your experience with GPP? Has this type of training improved your quality of life? Tell us in the comments below!

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About the Author
Jon-Erik Kawamoto
Trainer, coach, writer and obsessed with anything fitness, Jon-Erik Kawamoto, owns and operates JKConditioning in St. John's, Newfoundland,...

Works Cited

  1. Effects of linear vs daily undulatory periodized resistance training on maximal and submaximal strength gains. Journal of Strength and Conditioning ResearchMiranda, F., Sima, R., Rhea, M., et al. 25(7): 1824-1830.
  2. Siff, M.C., (2002). Functional training revisited. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 24(5): 42-46.

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