The concept behind General Physical Preparedness (GPP) is the development of basic fitness skills-flexibility, strength, endurance and speed-by doing mostly functional exercises or movements that involve multiple muscle groups. It’s basically all about balance in your body and building a good solid base using old school exercises that involve as many different muscle groups as possible. GPP is not a “style” of training but rather, it is a component of training-and it doesn’t require and special training or fancy equipment .
If you are interested in developing balance among fitness, strength and size, then you ought to be taking a good look at GPP. For example, a guy can lift and lift and lift until he’s as big as an ox with bulging muscles of steel but be short of breath from a climb up a flight of stairs. Or, if you are into competitive sports, adding the GPP component to your training mix can really give you a competitive edge. Guys also use GPP to improve weak spots, to be more adaptable, improve their overall fitness levels and to boost and speed up their bodies’ capacity to recover.
The sled pull, tire flip, farmer’s walk, wheelbarrow push and plate lifting are some of the more common GPP exercises around. In doing any of these exercises you start out with a goal of doing it for maybe ten minutes or so, with a long-term goal of working up to about 30 minutes. It’s important to remember this part: Once you reach 30 minutes, don’t keep striving to be able to do longer stretches of time. Rather, enhance your capacity by increasing the weight, not the amount of time you’re doing the exercises. This is where you’ll really see improvements in your performance.
One of the great things about GPP is that it involves compound exercises that require you to use multiple muscle groups and multiple skills (balance, coordination, etc.) at the same time. By doing compound exercises you’re not only improving your all around fitness level but you’re also significantly lowering your risk of injuring yourself. Lots of bodybuilders get totally caught up in building size, focusing on doing the same exercises over and over again. By keeping the focus just on the muscles that you see in the mirror (the “beach muscles”) and not training the core, they are setting themselves up for injury.
Powerlifters are equally guilty on totally concentrating on their maximum strength without paying much attention to their hearts or work capacity. If you can squat 700 pounds you should be able to squat 225 for 15 reps without getting totally winded. Many powerlifters myself included could use the fat burning benefits of incorporating some GPP training. Maybe there’d be a little more gas in the tank by the time the deadlift rolls around on meet day.
The other great thing about GPP exercises is that you can do them with whatever you have handy. If you don’t happen to have a sled hanging around the house-no worries-push a vehicle around. And if you aren’t able to do that, then maybe you can flip a tire or attach some rope to a piece of plywood, put a bunch of bricks on it and start dragging it around. With GPP you’re not tied to a specific routine or exercise. It’s not a requirement that you do specific exercises or follow a particular routine-it’s more important that you do strongman type exercises that are really going to challenge you.
Even if you live in the heart of the city you can incorporate GPP exercises into your training routine. The farmer’s walk can be done anywhere. Just grab a couple of heavy dumbbells and start walking. As you improve, use heavier dumbbells. If the weather is lousy then you can do it at the gym. At the gym you can also carry around plates instead of dumbbells, if you’d like. Kettle bells are great for doing GPP exercises too. You can use them to do snatches, the farmer’s walk or any number of other compound exercises.
You can even do GPP exercises if you don’t have anything more than your own bodyweight. Jump squats are just one example of a bodyweight GPP exercise that you can do. The point is that GPP allows for a great deal of creativity, flexibility and adaptability. Watch the Strong Man competitions on the television if you want some great ideas for coming up with your own GPP routines.
To wrap up, by including GPP exercises into the training routine, dangerous imbalances-and the injuries that often accompany them-can be avoided. Adding GPP exercises into the mix can also help keep boredom at bay and can also keep you from getting burned out on training. You’ll also be giving yourself a serious competitive edge and as an added bonus, because the body is in all-around better physical condition, you’ll also find that you recover more rapidly and will probably have more energy too.
Men’s Domain note: This guest article is from Mike Westerdal, who writes a Free Online Weight Training Magazine. Be sure to check out his website Critical Bench