May 31st, 2007
By Mike Minium
“Optimal physical competency is a compromise, a balancing act; a compromise between not only conflicting but perfectly antagonistic skills. The manner in which you resolve this conflict defines the quality of your fitness and is the art of exercise prescription.”
–Coach Greg Glassman, Co-Founder, CrossFit
“Unfortunately, many of today’s athletes ignore the importance of GPP. This problem runs rampant across the sporting world, not just with combat athletes. In essence, all athletes can benefit from improved GPP.
“After all, if you were able to work harder and more frequently, you would realize improvements in all aspects of training, not just strength and conditioning, but also skill work. Have you ever worked through a vigorous strength or conditioning routine, and then felt ‘flat’ during the following day’s sparring session? Improved GPP would enable you to quickly recover from the previous day’s workout. You would enter the ring feeling fresh for the sparring session.”
–Ross Enamait, from his book Infinite Intensity
[Ed Note: Ross is referring to combat athletes in his quote, but the applicability to all athletes is evident.]
“Develop the capacity of a novice 800-meter track athlete, gymnast, and weightlifter and youâ€™ll be fitter than any world-class runner, gymnast, or weightlifter.”
–From CrossFit Journal #2, “What is Fitness?”
The Bottom Line on GPP
There’s often a great deal of confusion surrounding general physical preparedness (GPP) in general, and CrossFit’s brand of GPP in particular. This post is an attempt to stimulate conversation over what GPP is, and hopefully in the process, clear up any misunderstandings over what we do and how we train our athletes.
When defining a word or concept, it’s often useful and highly instructive to discuss what something is not before jumping into what it is.
GPP is not training for a set of skills germane only to a particular sport or physical activity. We’d no sooner adopt the training program of a marathon runner than we would a sumo wrestler (both have relatively narrow, highly specific needs for their sport of choice), assuming GPP is the goal of the training program, as it is here at CrossFit Oakland. GPP is not about putting your eggs in one basket and focusing on a single aspect of training, or a single general physical skill such as endurance, stamina, or strength.
GPP, and specifically CrossFit’s brand of GPP, is about, quite simply, increasing an athlete’s work capacity across broad time and modal domains (thanks to Coach Glassman for coining this phrase). This means that one can do well in any endeavor, whether it’s of long duration, short duration, high power, or low power (although what’s the point of being good at low-powered activities–they’re so boring!), and whether it involves one’s own body, external objects (e.g., barbells, dumbbells, and throwing implements), or any combination of these two modalities.
Problems occur, though, when athletes and coaches try and fuse GPP with sport practice. What happens is that both aspects of training suffer. This type of fusion usually results in ill-conceived concepts such as practicing the swing of a (tennis) forehand while using the cable pulley machine. Not only is the use of the cable pulley a colossal waste of the athlete’s time, adding little if anything to his off-court strength-and-conditioning base, the carryover to actually hitting a forehand on the tennis court is nonexistent, and can even cause the tennis player’s forehand skill to erode.
(As an aside, the reason the scenario above doesn’t work for the tennis player is because swinging a tennis racket weighing between 12- and 14-ounces and swinging a cable pulley, which offers significantly more resistance than a tennis racket, cause different neuro-muscular firing patterns; thus there’s no carryover and it can actually be detrimental to the development of a forehand.)
It’s far better to keep GPP and sport practice separate. Use the GPP program to allow the athlete to become supremely conditioned and, at the same time, free the athlete up to devote more time to practicing his or her sport.
Post to Comments any thoughts you have on the purpose and benefits of GPP training.
***Gymnastics Clinic Postponed***
We’ve canceled the Gymnastics Clinic that was scheduled this Saturday, June 2. We’re looking to reschedule the clinic for some time in mid- to late June but we need at least 10 participants to make it happen. Stay tuned for a future post or two on the new date and time for the clinic.