What is GPP and why is it important for sports performance?

This week I’m going to cover an area which is often overlooked by many sports people when designing and implementing training programs, but if included wisely can be of great benefit. General Physical Preparedness, or GPP for short, is a very simple yet effective way to boost overall performance by:

1)      Increasing overall metabolic conditioning

2)      Improving quality of movement

3)      Limiting weaknesses

4)      Having a restorative effect on the body.

Training Hierarchy

What, How, When & Why?

Strength coaching legend Louie Simmons defines GPP as ‘a degree of fitness that’s an extension of absolute strength’ , and it is essentially anything you do to help your overall physical preparation to perform in your sport through improving upon your weaknesses & developing greater general fitness. Simmons advocates one of the best methods of implementing GPP is through sled drags or prowler pushes, which replicate fundamental human movements (i.e. walking, dragging things or pushing things) due to their concentric only nature, these simple exercises lead to minimal soreness & a boost in overall conditioning.

Another icon in the world of strength & conditioning, Dan John, also recognises the need for GPP when training athletes & suggests replication of the 5 basic movements we do everyday within a GPP program, these are; push, pull, hinge, squat & carries. The concept of this form of training is not to be handling large amounts of weight or indeed perform overly complex exercises, instead it is to build an overall foundation of general fitness which will aid you & transfer through into the more sport specific aspects of your training.

So what would a GPP session look like and when would you do it?

Well, GPP can be implemented in many different ways and so it is up to the athlete (and their coach) to decide how to do it. One simple method which could be employed (especially if the person is regularly training on 4-5+ days a week) is to add in two or three basic exercises at the end of a normal training session. This could be perhaps in the form of burpees, skipping rope & step ups done in a circuit for 2 or 3 rounds as an example. You may then change this on a session-to-session basis to include different exercises (jumping jacks, press ups, glute bridges etc.) to develop an overall well balanced level of conditioning.

An alternative way of implementing it may be to have 1days session entirely dedicated to GPP which you can use as an active recovery/restorative workout. This may typically revolve around light sled dragging & pushing with a couple of other light whole body exercises that mimic Dan John’s 5 fundamental moves. The idea here, as with all GPP, would be to take minimal rest periods to maximise the conditioning & overall fitness aspect.

One other simple way, that I find most beneficial for improving on specific weaknesses, is to spend 10-15mins every day (be it in the evening or first thing in the morning), for instance, to perform 2 or 3 simple exercises that will help to improve upon any weaknesses or deficiencies you might have. As an example if you’ve had issues with your Achilles in the past you might want to do 100reps of slow calf raises each day along with a couple of other general exercises. Alternatively if you need to strengthen your upper back & shoulders consider doing 50, 60 or even 100reps of band facepulls (done as multiple sets of 10-20). Essentially you just need to recognise one or two weaknesses and put in a relevant exercise to help them – a resistance band here is a really good investment here by the way! One area that is always a good idea to spend a few minutes on, with perhaps 1 or 2 exercises that you rotate around every few days, is core stability.

Generally it is a good idea to use quite a comprehensive GPP plan early on in the season as you build up your fitness and then start to cut it back (but not remove completely) as time progresses & you move into the competitive season.

You’d be surprised how just a little GPP can go a long way in your overall sporting performance, helping you in a number of ways to be more successful and improving your longevity.

Give it a try and let me know if you need any further advice 🙂



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About Roy Barber

‘I am aspiring athlete and fitness enthusiast, currently studying Sport and Exercise Science at Loughborough University, widely regarded as the best course of its type in Europe. I am currently a 3 time County Athletics gold medallist over the sprint disciplines at junior level and am working hard every single day to continually improve myself mentally, physically and athletically. With a great passion for all things fitness and sport, I hope over the coming years to forge a successful and fruitful career in sport, dealing with a variety of aspects such as strength and conditioning, nutrition and recovery. ‘ ‘I ended up at Loughborough studying what I am because I’ve known for a few years now if I was going to go to university, sports science was the degree for me, I’ve always loved sport, PE and learning about all the different areas of science in relation to the human body so it was a natural move for me. In terms of why Loughborough specifically, I always heard great things about the university, I had a relative who came here and loved it, and I was incredibly impressed with the campus when I came on an open day and fell in love with the place. Who inspires me to compete is a more difficult question, I’d have to start by saying my coach who has done a fantastic job in turning me into a 'proper athlete'. I am also inspired by a range of people in my life, from world class athletes to friends and family. Roy Barber is 20 years old and comes from a small Leicestershire town called Market Harborough
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