The Need for GPP Training

The Need for GPP Training

Whether you are a high-level athlete or someone new to strength training, building and maintaining adequate physical fitness to ensure you can accomplish your typical sport or training tasks is essential. While training to become as strong and fast as possible is important, an athlete must build and maintain the capacity to train at the level required to reach their performance goals. 

There are three phases to consider when discussing physical preparation: general physical preparation, specific physical preparation, and sport-specific preparation. General physical preparation is the foundation of the physical preparation pyramid and represents an athlete's baseline level of physical fitness. 

By improving general physical preparedness, an athlete establishes the strength and endurance necessary to train at levels required to make continuous progress. 

It is a simple concept; we build general physical preparedness to allow an athlete to have the capacity necessary to train at more intense, sport-specific levels. For peak performance to be possible, foundational strength and endurance must be established. Establishing an intelligent approach to general physical preparedness training will help elevate an athlete's performance in the gym and competition. 

What is GPP Training?

General physical preparation training, commonly called GPP training, is the training or training phase used to establish the strength and endurance necessary to accomplish a sport-relevant training program. GPP training builds basic levels of strength, endurance, coordination, proficiency, and durability, allowing an athlete to train at increasingly high levels of volume and intensity. 

This training helps athletes ensure they have the skills and fitness levels necessary to carry out a more advanced training program without becoming excessively fatigued or injured. By having an increased level of overall physical fitness, athletes can expect to be more durable overall and recover faster from training or competition. 

As a beginner to exercise, your introductory level training program will feature GPP-based training designed to provide you with the baseline skills necessary to increase the training volume and intensity you can tolerate. For an experienced or advanced athlete, GPP training is used to maintain baseline fitness levels without placing a significant burden on the athlete's recovery timelines. 

GPP training for a beginner will be structured as a phase. The idea is to meet the athlete at their current level, introduce them to movement patterns they can readily perform, and provide adequate levels of volume and intensity using non-specific exercises to build foundational strengths and abilities. GPP training for an experienced or advanced athlete will be featured as an aspect of the training day, regularly used to help maintain an adequate baseline physical fitness level. 

In either case, GPP training is an essential aspect of the overall training process and should not be overlooked or ignored by any athlete, regardless of experience level. 

The Fundamentals of GPP Training

As mentioned above, general physical preparation training aims to build foundational strength and endurance to allow an athlete to excel during sport-specific training. The generalized training provides a coach many ways to make an adequate GPP-focused training program. 

For instance, a total beginner to physical training could begin by incorporating an everyday three-mile bike ride followed up with 100 total push-ups, 100 total sit-ups, and as many pull-ups as possible. As accommodation sets in, this athlete can either increase the ride distance and training volume or establish a new routine that escalates the training to cause further physical adaptations. 

If a beginner wanted to focus on becoming a powerlifter, they could begin performing exercises such as the barbell squat and bench press, along with other basic movements to train the muscles and muscle groups responsible for proficiency in the squat, bench press, and deadlift. While the selected exercises are similar to sport-specific training, the volume and intensity of the prescribed exercises render them GPP-focused. 

GPP training will be accomplished differently for an advanced-level athlete. The GPP training performed by an advanced athlete will coincide with the sport-specific training required for the athlete to remain competitive in their sport. However, regardless of how advanced the athlete becomes in their sport, GPP training must be regularly included to ensure the athlete maintains the baseline fitness levels necessary to train and compete at a high level. 

For an advanced powerlifter, this means movements like the competition-style squat, bench press, and deadlift will be programmed in a manner that is most conducive to carryover in a powerlifting competition. However, this still leaves many exercises for an advanced athlete to choose from to focus on GPP-style training. 

Due to having an already high level of strength and endurance, the advanced-level powerlifter has many options to choose from when focusing on GPP. The critical part of programming GPP work for an advanced athlete is to ensure the training contributes to the overall strength and conditioning process without interfering with other aspects of training or increasing necessary recovery timelines. 

GPP training options for advanced level athletes include sled drags, weighted carries, belt squats, belt squat walks, Inverse Curl machine, Reverse Hypers, dumbbell presses, dumbbell extensions, various styles of rows and pulldowns, or any other non-specific exercise that helps contribute to the athlete's sport-specific training and overall performance. 

Remember, the goal is to increase working strength and overall capacity, so program all GPP-related exercises accordingly. The training volume should be moderate to high, while the training intensity should be low to moderate. 

Implementing GPP Training Into Your Workout Routine

How GPP training is implemented depends on the individual. For individuals with no athletic or physical training background, it may be necessary to start with exercises as simple as push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and fundamental forms of cardio like cycling or jogging. The idea is to provide a proper stimulus for positive training adaptations without overloading the athlete with an unmanageable amount of training volume and intensity. 

If an individual has an athletic background but is new to barbell training, we will focus on movements such as the squat, bench press, deadlift, and the basic accessory movements that train the muscles and muscle groups involved in these lifts. Additionally, we will focus on developing work capacity by introducing sleds or weighted carries into the training. 

Much of the training will be sport-specific if we deal with an advanced athlete. However, we will still strive to focus on GPP development during our accessory exercises by performing high-volume accessory movements, pulling or pushing sleds, and performing weighted carries. The most important part of programming GPP for advanced athletes is to ensure this training does not interfere with sport-specific training. 

Beginners will focus more on advancing and improving their ability to perform GPP training, while advanced-level athletes will utilize GPP training to maintain a suitable level of physical conditioning to continue training and competing at a high level. 

Here are some examples of GPP programming for beginner and advanced-level athletes.


Assault Bike - 5 mins, moderate pace

Squat - 4 x 8-10

Romanian Deadlift - 4 x 10-12

KB Swings - 3 x 15

Sit-Ups - 4 x 15-20

Sled Drag - 10 trips, 20-30 yards per trip, light to moderate sled. 

Note that the entire training day of the beginner athlete is GPP-based. This is because this athlete is only concerned with establishing a baseline level of strength and conditioning with no immediate expectations of competing in powerlifting. The goal is to build, improve, and move on to more specific styles of training. 


Sled Drag - 8 trips, 15-20 yards per trip, light sled. (GPP)

Squat - work up to a top set single (Sport-Specific)

Front Squat - 4 x 5 (SPP)

GHD - 4 x 8-10 (SPP)

Leg Extension - 3 x 15-20 (GPP)

Belt Squat Walk - 3 x 1 min (GPP)

Sled Push - 10 trips, 20-30 yds per trip, moderate sled (GPP)

Note that the advanced athlete features all three aspects of physical preparation in one training day: general, specific, and sport-specific preparation. 

GPP Training at Westside Barbell

At Westside, the training days are often grueling and require a high level of physical fitness. Considering we train at this level four days a week, 52 weeks per year, our athletes must possess the basic fitness levels necessary to accomplish and recover from these training sessions. 

While many may think that becoming strong only requires size and strength, an athlete will only become as strong as their work capacity allows. For an athlete to continue to progress, they not only need to be able to raise the overall training volume and intensity, but they must also raise their overall fitness level. After all, we can only train as hard as our recovery level permits. 

So, enhancing overall fitness levels was something that Lou remained focused on for many years. He understood that training to the next level was dictated by the athlete's overall fitness level, not by how much they wanted to win. While motivation is great, disciplined training is what ultimately takes an athlete to higher levels of physical performance. 

Here are a few of the common GPP exercises used at Westside Barbell, along with a basic explanation of how we execute the exercise:

Sled Drags

This exercise is the main GPP exercise we use at Westside. We drag the sled forward, backward and step side to side. The idea is to pull the sled at a brisk pace; strength athletes do not run or sprint with sleds. The sled should be loaded light to moderately based on the strength of the athlete. It is recommended that athletes pull the sled for 8-12 trips at distances of 15-20 yds, 25-40 yds, or 45-60 yds, depending on how the sled is loaded, down, and back, making one total trip. 

Wheelbarrow Walks

This exercise is a great way to challenge an athlete's cardiovascular conditioning as well as the ability to remain focused and in control while under strain. The wheelbarrow not only forces an athlete to lift and move the object but also has a balance and control component to the exercise. The wheelbarrow should be moderately loaded based on the strength of the athlete. It is recommended that athletes walk the wheelbarrow for 8-12 trips of 15-20 yards, down and back, making one total trip. 

Yoke Walks

Yoke walks are a great way to develop trunk, hip, and leg strength while improving overall conditioning levels. We use both the SSB and a conventional yoke at Westside to accomplish this exercise. The yoke should be loaded moderately based on the strength of the athlete. It is recommended that athletes walk the yoke for 8-12 trips of 15-20 yds, down and back, making one total trip. 

Belt Squat Walk

This exercise is a great way to develop strength and endurance in the hips, glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. To execute this exercise, an athlete will step into the belt squat as if they were going to squat. However, once on the platform, the athlete will begin to step side to side, driving off each foot to focus on the hips and glutes. We will perform 3-6 sets of 1-2 mins walking when programming this exercise. 

Maximizing the Benefits of GPP Training

For training to be effective, it must be optimal. This means that training should meet the individual where they are at and help take them to the next level. As a coach, it is important to evaluate each athlete and understand their weak points and what needs to be addressed to allow further improvement to occur. 

Maximizing GPP training benefits all comes down to selecting the correct exercises for each athlete and programming them properly to ensure the athlete is improving their fitness at an acceptable rate. This depends on the athlete's ability to communicate with the coach and the coach's ability to evaluate the athlete and make the right training decisions. 

Just because GPP training includes the word "general" doesn't mean you treat it with any less seriousness than you would when programming more advanced levels of training. The issues and details we address during the formative stages of training only help to create a better athlete in the long run. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are the benefits of GPP training?

A: Better overall conditioning, increased work capacity, and improved coordination help to build movement proficiency. 

Q: How can GPP training fit into a training routine?

A: This all depends on the athlete. If you are a beginner, GPP training will be most of your training. However, you will include GPP training during your accessory exercise training if you are an advanced athlete. 

Q: Can I jog or run to increase GPP?

A: Yes, that will improve your level of GPP. However, for strength athletes, we do not recommend running long distances due to the potential damage that can be caused to the joints and the impact on recovery. 

Q: My gym doesn't have a sled or yoke. Can I use a bike or a rower for GPP work?

A: Yes. We would recommend using the bike for an allotted amount of time and the rower for sprints at specific distances. Times and distances should be decided based on the athlete's fitness level. 

Q: Should all athletes include GPP training?

A: Yes, if an athlete seeks to reach their highest level of performance, then GPP training should be included in their training program. 

Simple Training, Significant Impact

GPP training is necessary for all athletes. Whether you are just getting started with training or an athlete who has been training for years, continuous GPP training is necessary for anyone wanting to continue improving year after year. It is simple; GPP training lays the foundation for all other strengths and conditioning-related improvements. 

Beginners have no choice but to focus on GPP, considering they do not have the prerequisite strength required to move on to more advanced training methods. However, advanced lifters often overlook GPP training due to its simplicity and a misunderstanding of athletic performance training. For training to be most effective, an athlete needs a proper balance of sport-specific preparation, specific physical preparation, and general physical preparation. 

As a beginner, a properly programmed GPP-focused training plan will help establish the strength and conditioning necessary to improve basic levels of strength, speed, coordination, work capacity, and movement proficiency to allow you to move on to a more advanced level of training eventually. As an advanced athlete, GPP training allows you to continue building onto already established levels of strength and work capacity to allow successful training to continue. 

At Westside, we have focused on GPP training for many years. Lou long understood that in order for an athlete to reach the next level, they must first establish the fitness level necessary to train at the next level. Just like a foundation leads to a structure being built, increasing GPP leads to new strength and endurance being developed. 

Don't be fooled - just because the training seems simple does not mean it is ineffective. GPP training helps beginners build foundational strength and conditioning and helps advanced athletes maintain and further develop their overall fitness. General physical preparation is beneficial for all athletes. 


Simmons, L. (2007). Westside Barbell Book of Methods. Westside Barbell.

Verkhoshansky, Y., & Siff, M. C. (2009). Supertraining. Verkhoshansky.

Zatsiorsky, V. M., & Kraemer, W. J. (2006). Science and Practice of Strength Training. Human Kinetics

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