Use GPP Training To Your Advantage

Posted: August 28, 2013 in Training
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 The Basics Of GPP

Many lifters and athletes make the mistake of only training the movements or lifts that specifically impact the unique demands of their sport. For instance, some powerlifters only perform deads, squats, and bench press, with assistance exercises designed to increase only those three lifts. And some athletes only perform exercises that are designed to increase their running speed, swing power, or whatever else their sport demands. This constant over-specialization is a mistake, and such lifters would do well to integrate GPP training into their programs.

General Physical Preparedness (or GPP) refers to the body’s ability to react and adapt to unfamiliar physical stimuli in any situation. By training to increase GPP, we improve our base level of strength and body control, which in turn can lead to improved performance on the field and in the weight room.

The basic idea behind GPP is asking the body to do things it is not accustomed to. In this way, we can create a more well-rounded athlete. If we look at GPP like this, it greatly broadens the definition of what constitutes GPP, and it also gives us a more fluid definition of GPP training, depending on what sort of lifter is using it. For a football lineman who spends all of his time squatting and deadlifting for improved drive off the line of scrimmage, running sprints could be considered GPP. For a sprinter who spends all of his time on the track, squats and deadlifts could be considered GPP. Basically, anything that does not serve to increase specialization can be considered GPP. At the risk of sounding like a Crossfitter, I’m going to go ahead and say this: a little generalization can be a good thing.


How to Include GPP Work  in Your Program

GPP work can be done either at the end of a workout as a “finisher”, or on an off day to promote recovery. That said, most people either aren’t motivated to go to the gym every day to do restorative work, or they just don’t have time, so for the purposes of this article, we’ll assume they are being performed as finishing exercises.

Rotating GPP exercises every 1-2 weeks is a good way to build a solid base of fitness. It also keeps athletes from getting bored and breaks up the monotony of training, which Mel Siff lists as one of the main functions of GPP in Supertraining.

The Exercises

Here’s 3 of the most effective GPP exercises, and the benefits they provide.

1) Body Control and Torso Stiffness – Yoke Walk

One of the first things I noticed during my first-ever set of yoke walks was the fact that my core was absolutely on fire, which was a sensation I had never experienced before while standing completely upright. The fact that the yoke sways back and forth slightly forces you to constantly work to stabilize your core. This not only sucks enormously, it drastically improves your ability to control your body in space.

For lifters, this improves your ability to make small mechanical adjustments on the fly. It will also allow you to lift more weight, as a tighter core and increased torso stabilization will allow for more powerful contraction of the extremity muscles. For athletes, this increased torso control makes you more able to make quick athletic moves on the field, and will lead to better mechanics in sport-specific movements, as well as sprinting.

If you have access to an actual yoke,you should use that, obviously. But if you don’t, you can elicit a similar training effect by hanging plates from chains or bands attached to a barbell.

The distance for yoke walks can vary from 100 to 200 feet, depending on your level of conditioning and the weight used.

A good place to start for yoke walks is around 80% of your squat 1RM for 100 feet.  Once that becomes easy, work your way up to 200 feet, and then start adding more weight to the bar.Walking with the weight hanging down from the bar is very awkward, so definitely start low to get used to the feeling. Rather than just hauling ass Strongman-style, try to move in a controlled manner, while maintaining a tight core and keeping your hips from flopping around. Once you are comfortable with carrying the yoke and can maintain good core stability, start increasing your speed.

If you don’t have the space for yoke walks, perform step ups on a short platform no more than 2-3 inches high. Again, start out with 80% of your squat 1RM, but instead of walking, do 10-20 step ups on each leg. Again, focus on maintaining torso stiffness and keeping your hips stable.

2) Improved Strength Endurance – Sled Drags

Strength endurance refers to the body’s ability to perform work for an extended period of time with little or no rest. By dragging a sled, you’re essentially performing lots of lower-body reps with almost no rest. Your rest between reps is only as long as it takes for you to take a step with your other leg. For sled drags, Louie Simmons recommends performing 6 sets of 200 feet,  And there are a LOT of reps involved in dragging a sled 200 feet.

If you feel like you’re running out of steam on heavy squats and deadlifts, there’s a chance that increasing your ability to apply force to the bar for a longer time will enable you to lock out heavier weights. This is especially true if you have trouble with sticking points. On heavy lifts like PR attempts that may take longer than average to complete, having a higher level of strength endurance can be the difference between running out of juice and missing, or grinding through your sticking point and finishing the lift.

To build strength endurance for the deadlift, perform forward sled drags to target the posterior chain. To build strength endurance for the squat, perform reverse sled drags to more heavily recruit the quads.

3) Improved Conditioning – Barbell Complexes

By rotating through different exercises with barbell complex training, we’re able to switch the focus of training from muscular endurance to cardiovascular endurance and metabolic conditioning. Running sprints also works extremely well for improving conditioning, but running sprints in a fatigued state can have negative effects on speed development. For this reason, barbell complexes are a better choice for improving cardiovascular fitness. They elevate the heart rate just as effectively as sprints, while also allowing for a bit of strength work at the same time.

To improve conditioning with barbell complexes, keep the weight relatively light and perform 8-10 reps of each lift. Try to keep rest times between sets to 1.5 to 2 minutes, and complete 4-5 sets.

Fair warning: If you’re finding that you are enjoying your life a little too much, and would like for it to immediately become much less enjoyable, high-rep barbell complexes are a great way to achieve that.

Here’s a sample conditioning complex to get you started:

3 Front Squats

2 Overhead Presses

2 RDLs

2 Bent Over Row

2 Hang Cleans

Repeat 4 times before resting

Rest 1.5 to 2 minutes and repeat 3-4 times, or until your brain can no longer justify doing these horrible things to your body.


If you aren’t already doing them, start including GPP work in your program. Studies have shown that improving your level of basic fitness through GPP training can make you faster, stronger, and more powerful, so there’s really no reason not to.


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