davedraper.com home

First Things First

Before you get distracted by all the great options you're about to find here, please sign up for Dave's free weekly newsletter so he can continue to encourage and motivate you toward your fitness goals.
Chris M writes:
"You blend plain-spoken wisdom, motivational fire and wry humor into a weekly email jolt that leaves me itching to hit the gym. Whether I'm looking for workout routines, diet tips or a friendly kick in the butt, the Bomber comes through every time." ... Read more...

What is GPP?

Lots of trainers are thinking about GPP as an important factor in their training. There is definitely some confusion on what exactly GPP is. Consider this excerpt from a post on a popular musclehead web site:

I’m curious how GPP workouts differ from regular cardio like running and HIIT? For those who have incorporated GPP like farmers walk, sled dragging and other exercises, how has if benefited you and your physique? What makes it better then sprinting or doing HIIT?

The poster is a little confused, but at least he knows he’s confused.

The term General Physical Preparedness, or GPP for short, comes from translations of Russian texts on physical training. The Russian system of training was extremely scientific, elaborate, and planned, and it produced many great athletes. It has been adapted and updated and used all over the world with great success.

In the Russian system the coaches and trainers found benefit in paying attention to an athlete’s GPP – his or her ability to perform all different types of tasks, to do lots of work and recover from it quickly. At times in their planning, they would focus on GPP to potentiate upcoming training specific to that athlete’s event -training for Specific Physical Preparedness, or SPP.

This is a very good practice for everyone to observe! Whatever your chosen sport or form of exercise, don’t get so wrapped up in it that you don’t occasionally focus on whatever it doesn’t develop. You’ll be healthier and ultimately better in the main event if you work from a broad base of fitness.

So how did the poster mentioned above get confused about this? Enter the prolific and influential powerlifting coach Louie Simmons. Louie has adapted the Russian system used to prepare olympic weightlifters to powerlifting, and with great success. His gym, Westside Barbell, probably has more elite powerlifters per capita than any other. Louie wrote some well received articles that discussed some innovative ways of developing GPP – things like sled dragging, and pushing a wheelbarrow. Others wrote more articles with their own ideas for GPP – sledgehammers, sandbags, stones, barrels, etc.

This is where the confusion crept in. People confused innovation with generalization. Anything that was difficult to work with or looked like manual labor was called “GPP work.”

No exercise or activity is necessarily GPP work. Any productive form of exercise will develop certain aspects of fitness. If you are a powerlifter, lifting heavy stones is not going to help improve your GPP. Stone lifting is basically strength training, and powerlifters have a high degree of strength from their sport (obviously). Now stone lifting may develop certain aspects of strength that the powerlifts do not, but that does not make it GPP work; assistance work maybe, but not GPP.

Working on GPP means working on aspects of fitness that your main training neglects. If you are a powerlifter, cardiovascular training will improve your GPP. Training for the powerlifts does not develop much cardiovascular fitness. Adding in some running, cycling, rowing, or other aerobic activity will improve this neglected component and raise GPP. Now so will endurance or interval workouts with a sled, and a sled may be a more appealing choice for a powerlifter than the usual options; but all of the above improve GPP.

GPP is just all around fitness. Whatever that is.

6 Responses to 'What is GPP?'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'What is GPP?'.

  1. Paula said,

    on November 29th, 2006 at 10:52 pm

    This concept makes all the sense in the world. I am a great fan of cross training – to cover all bases, to use my body in all possible ways. My cardio consists of walking uphill/jogging/wind sprints, rowing machine (the most underrated machine!), revolving staircase, and cycling. Supplemented by 3x a week weight training for an hour – entire body, not just certain parts. I assume this would be GPP. There is great physical synergy in cross training.

  2. Ketch Rudder said,

    on May 6th, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Cross-training is NOT GPP training.

    Cross-training uses the methods of one sport to train the same energy systems and muscles systems for another sport.

    Say that you have a goal of running six 440s in in 90 seconds per 440. With Cross-training, instead of running, you would
    cycle or row all-out for 90 seconds @ 6 times + some weight for drag.

    GPP training has someone focus on both aerobic and anaerobic energy capacity as well as strength.

    Thus, an athlete might use Tabata protocol for one training day perhaps performing thrusters or sprint/jog intervals and muscle training through resistance on another day.

  3. Paul Sullivan said,

    on June 8th, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    great website,thanks guys!

  4. Doug said,

    on April 13th, 2010 at 8:15 am

    Made myself a sled, two actually, one for the winter,(snow) and my new one that I drag around on the ground. I have chosen to be a powerlifter, but you need cardio to suport the training volume to get to the big iron. I have used Westsides template to do this, but i varry it. Recently some huge men have come into the gym to train for strongman comp. (These guys are Monsters) I have found value in the Farmer walk and do those as part of GPP. Also the superset for aux. excersises is a great GPP. Dynamic days as well, by reducing the rest intervals between sets. My excersice has to be interesting, I demand this, so tredmills, and jogging are the most boring thing to me. Rather play soccer with my kids, or drag them around on the sled. interval wind sprints are fun and remind me of my young man football days. Kettlebell swings, this ancient strong man excersie has been redicovered by me and is great form of GPP. Jump rope has got to be the ultimate. Boxers jump rope, and for good reason.
    Thats my idea of GPP. My next training cycle will include three weeks of these GPP excersises I plan not to go near rack or barbell, looking forward to it as well. GPP or general fitness training in my minds eye is the foundation from which all sports training must be based.

  5. on June 26th, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    […] you are looking for a multi-disciplinary approach to strength training and GPP training would be to investigate Strongman training.  It is highly functional, […]

  6. Brandon Green said,

    on December 27th, 2013 at 7:40 pm


    I think that Michael Yessis had the most accurate
    concept of GPP (the one that the Soviets intended).
    Gymnastics,Acrobatics,Sprinting,Jumps of all kinds
    including the “shock” method and Volleyball. This would be for weightlifters. GPP is actually specific to the sport. For example cross-country would not be good
    for Olympic lifters.

Post a comment