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Increase General Physical Preparedness

June 2, 2003 11:02 AM

General Physical Preparedness, or GPP, has become a buzz term around the strength and conditioning over the last few years. As with any important aspect of athletic performance, the essential components stand the test of time. This is not a new term or a new way of preparing athletes and weekend warriors. But remember, it takes about a decade (at least) for the best information to "trickle down" to the mainstream fitness community.

Remember the good old days? No, not when your granddaddy was bustin' his ass for twelve hours a day in the coal mines - a more recent time than that. I'm referring to a time when physical education courses where an integral part of the American school system. Exercises such as: squat thrusts, pull-ups, sit-ups and push-ups used to be the foundation of physical education classes. Nowadays, those exercises, and mandatory participation in PE classes have gone to the wayside. Therefore, it is no surprise that the increase in obesity and subsequent decrease in physical performance of non-athletes has become the norm in America.

What's all this PE talk about, you ask? Well, GPP is increased by performing these old-school exercises on a consistent basis. If you were one of the individual's who was lucky enough to be forced to participate in an adequately designed PE program, you were much more prepbgvbgared for greater athletic performance once you undertook an exercise program. But instead of dwelling on the downfall of the American school system, I am going to show you how to dramatically increase GPP within a workout scheme.

So, what does GPP really mean anyway? General Physical Preparedness (GPP) is defined by the late, great Dr. Mel Siff as a preparatory phase of training that, "?is intended to provide balanced physical conditioning in endurance, strength, speed, flexibility and other basic factors of fitness?" (1) It is nearly impossible to bring up the topic of GPP without mentioning its close partner, Specific Physical Preparedness (SPP). These two types of preparatory conditioning almost always form an interconnected component. For now, I will focus on GPP and save the SPP information for another article.

If you have fallen prey to the soft, sedentary life, almost any physical activity that increases your heart rate will boost GPP. In other words, for couch-potatoes, simply running around the block a few times each day will help increase GPP levels. But, if you are reading this article I assume you haven't fallen prey - have you? Then let's get to the guidelines!

Just like big, basic compound movements are almost always more beneficial than sissy isolation exercises, GPP exercises should involve as many muscle groups as possible. Therefore, the cardiovascular demand will be greater and the performance of more muscle groups will increase. Exercises such as squat thrusts, medicine ball throws and squat jumps are excellent examples.

If you haven't been performing any GPP exercises in your workout program, keep in mind that these exercises do not need to be performed to the point of nausea. Instead, stick to an intensity that keeps your heart rate between 65-75% of max heart rate for 10 minutes. Over time, increase the intensity, not the duration. The goal is to build up to 85% of max heart rate for 10 minutes straight. Any time frame longer than 10 minutes might start to eat away your hard-earned muscle.

GPP training is an excellent way to accelerate recovery from a previous workout and induce fat loss. You can either perform your GPP exercises at the beginning or end of workout. If fat loss is one of your goals, perform the GPP training after your strength training assault. Perform GPP training on your "off" days to accelerate recovery. Here is a sample routine:

Goal: Increase GPP levels
Frequency: 3x/week
Duration: 10 minutes
Intensity: 65-75% of Max Heart Rate

GPP Workout
Forward Overhead Medicine Ball Throws - 10 repetitions
Squat Thrusts - 10 repetitions
Backward Overhead Medicine Ball Throws - 10 repetitions
Walking Lunges/Dragon Walks - 10 strides

Exercise Description:
Forward Overhead Medicine Ball Throws - perform this exercise with an 8 kg medicine ball. While standing and holding the medicine ball, reach behind your head as far as your shoulder joint allows. The elbows should be flexed and the medicine ball should touch between your shoulder blades. Maximally extend your elbows and throw the ball as far as possible in front of you. Walk, or run, to the ball and repeat for the prescribed repetitions.

Squat Thrusts - from a standing position, squat down so your hands are resting on the ground on the outside of your feet. Jump your feet back so your body is in a push-up position. Jump your feet back to the crouched position. Stand up and repeat for the prescribed repetitions.

Backward Overhead Medicine Ball Throws - perform this exercise with an 8 kg medicine ball. From the standing position with the feet wider than shoulder width, squat down and drop your arms (and medicine ball) between your legs. At this point, your arms should be straight and you should be reaching behind your body, between your legs. Maximally throw the medicine ball backwards over the top of your head. You should be jumping (i.e., airborne) at the end of the movement before releasing the ball. Walk, or run, to the ball and repeat for the prescribed repetitions.

Walking Lunges - most of you know how to perform this one. Keep your hands on your hips and execute long, extended strides for the prescribed reps. Keep your torso as erect as possible to stretch your tight hip flexors on the back leg.
This exercise can be substituted with Dragon Walks - an excellent exercise I learned from my esteemed colleague Pavel Tsatsouline.

Perform this four-exercise sequence continuously for 10 minutes. Keep track of your heart rate with a heart rate monitor, or by manually checking your pulse. Rest as much as required to stay within the heart rate intensity zone. The prescribed repetitions are just guidelines, you may need more or less depending on your fitness level. Therefore, it is imperative to keep track of your heart rate to know if you are performing enough (or too much) work.
Good luck and let me know how you progress!

(1) Siff, Mel & Verkhoshansky, Yuri (1999). Supertraining. Supertraining International, Denver USA. p. 320


Chad Waterbury holds Bachelor of Science degrees in Human Biology and Physical Science. He is currently studying graduate work in Physiology at the University of Arizona. He owns and operates Chad Waterbury Strength & Conditioning in Tucson, AZ where his clientele ranges from athletes to non-athletes seeking exceptional strength and performance. Contact Com. Waterbury through chadwaterbury.com.
 

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