A few weeks ago I was reading a great training book titled Easy Strength written by Dan John and Pavel Tsatsouline. While reading it, I experienced one of those moments where everything seemed to click in my mind. A light bulb went off as I experienced one of those "aha" moments. This moment occurred as I was reading on the concept is General Physical Preparation (GPP) and this article is going to help break down what exactly that is. But first, let me share a story...
A few years I set off on a journey to Syracuse to visit friends and watch a basketball game. As I was approaching the turnpike, I made a poor decision and ended up heading in the wrong direction. I checked the GPS to see where I could turn around and the next turn around wouldn't occur for about 30 miles. This frustrated me. So what did I decide to do? I started driving too fast to make up for lost time and eventually I saw the flashing lights of a police officer and I pulled over. This mistake that I made early in the journey ended with me rushing to reach a destination without thinking about the risk. Because of this, I was put into check by a New York State Trooper.
There is an old saying that goes something like a step in the wrong direction at the beginning of a journey takes you hundreds of miles away from your goal. This statement could not be more true in regards to physical fitness! Often times, coaches and parents want their child on the fast track to success. The groundwork is often ignored and eventually, this lack of foundation back fires on them. Just like I saw put in check by the state trooper, athletes get put in check with burnout, injury, premature peaking, or a general lack of interest in physical fitness that results in quitting. In an age where two-thirds of the population is overweight or obese, these are things we need to avoid!
So where do we begin? With General Physical Preparation (GPP) of course! If I had to sum up GPP into one sentence it would be this: lots of physical qualities performed at a low level.
Think about gym class back in the day. There was running, stretching, obstacle courses, a variety of games, and challenges like the Presidential Fitness test. The goal of all this was to be a generalist. As a student, you would learn general endurance, general strength, general joint mobility, general coordination, and general psychological preparedness. If you couldn't pick up on it, the key word in all of this is the word GENERAL! There is no specialization during this period of time. It is all about expanding your bag of tricks so that when the day comes, and you need to enhance a skill, you have a great amount of tricks in that bag to pull from.
The question then becomes, how do I apply this idea to my child or the athletes that I coach? To me, this GPP phase is best served in those during the pre-pubescent years. I would classify this as those under the age of 10 or 11. During this time there are a variety of exercises one can perform. Remember, think about the gym classes of yesteryear that includes things like running, jumping, pushups, monkey bars, and so on (If you want to see my Top 10 GPP exercises for young kids, click here). When developing these skills, it is important to remember that it is better late than early. Don't worry about being the champ at 10 years of age. Take the long road, stay on the path, and continue to hone your skills. This a mindset that can not only make you a champion in sport but also, and more importantly, a champion at life!