There’s only one place that has adequately defined general physical preparedness (GPP) and that is in the infamous book “Supertraining” by the late Dr. Mel Siff. According to Siff, “the GPP is intended to provide balanced physical conditioning in endurance, strength, speed, flexibility and other basic factors of fitness…GPP may include participation in a variety of different physical activities which provide low intensity, all-round conditioning, with little emphasis on specific sporting skills.”
Some folks in the industry have misinterpreted “all-round conditioning” as a suggestion that in GPP, we should attempt to prepare for ALL general physical skills and capacities. The goal of GPP then becomes an attempt to create a base level of fitness that is as broad as possible. GPP programs with this aim have very unfocused program design, if any, as the mission becomes to include as much variety as possible. But, effective GPP aims to go deeper, not broader.
What is your ultimate goal? Do you want to excel at a particular sport? Do you want to be able to carry your groceries up 3 flights of stairs without getting out of breath? Do you want to be able to defend yourself or successfully escape from an attacker? These specific goals require their own practice or training, something that we refer to as SPP, or specialized physical preparedness. Once you have identified what your SPP will consist of, then it makes it possible to make decisions regarding your GPP as it relates to:
- Providing balanced physical conditioning
- Providing the most appropriate base for further development of the SPP
- Avoiding overall training redundancy
Let’s take a closer look at the second bullet point. This refers to developing more depth within a few carefully selected general fitness qualities versus going wider by training all, or as many as possible, fitness qualities. This is focused GPP. A deep, focused GPP program is significantly more effective than a broad, unfocused GPP program. In fact, a broad and unfocused GPP program may leave you with undesirable or useless results that hinder the SPP rather than enhance it.
This is analogous to paint tint base. Tint base is used to form the foundation for a specific color. It helps determine how tough paint is, how well it can resist dirt and stains and how well paint holds up under tough scrubbing. So, the specific desired outcome of your painting project will determine the appropriate choice in tint base. Combining all tint bases to be used as the foundation for your painting project will leave you very disappointed with the final result!
So, steer clear of GPP programs that promise to prepare for every known and unknown situation. Not only is this an impossible pursuit, but it leads to reckless and dangerous programming that doesn’t effectively accomplish what it sets out to do.