Full Guide to General Physical Preparedness
How you finish is determined by how you start.
If you start a punch with sloppy technique, you’ll finish with sloppy technique.
There’s no correcting course in the middle.
Same goes for a kick.
And the same goes for a sprint, or any other athletic movement.
And that’s why I thought it was important to write this post. Because when it comes to your training, the same applies.
How you finish is determined by how you start, no matter what.
That’s why I place such an emphasis on general physical preparedness.
General physical preparedness is the phase of training in which you lay the groundwork for the more specific training you’ll perform later in your training cycle.
In less words… General physical preparedness is all about building a solid base.
The general physical preparedness phase is important for ANYONE, not just fighters, not just athletes.
It’s a crucial training phase for ANYONE training, whether they’re just trying to get into shape, they’re preparing for a season, or they’re preparing for a fight.
And this is because the GPP phase lays the foundation that you’ll build upon later in your training.
So, how do you organize the general physical preparedness phase of your training?
That’s what I’m going to share in this post, along with the physical qualities you should focus on in the general physical preparedness phase, as well as the tools and exercises I like to use in the general physical preparedness phase.
And if you’re a coach who’s reading this, and you want to uncover how to become a world-class coach, the go-to guy in your community, book a call with me and my team. We’ll guide you through getting from where you are to where you want to be in the ability and business aspects of coaching. We only have a limited amount of slots available, so book soon.
Alright, you ready?
Let’s get into it.
What Is The Focus Of General Physical Preparedness?
As I said above, the focus of general physical preparedness is developing a strong base that we can build upon to enhance the qualities needed to succeed in competition.
There are eight general qualities that should be emphasized in the general physical preparedness phase. These eight qualities are strength, stamina/conditioning, stability, flexibility, mobility, coordination, balance & body awareness, and hypertrophy.
Later on in our training, we’ll turn our attention to speed, explosiveness, agility, power, and other qualities that help an athlete succeed in sport.
For now, let’s go deeper into each one of the general qualities below:
Building a sturdy base of strength is critical for the general physical preparedness phase.
Some power athletes may be scratching their heads wondering why they need strength.
There are multiple reasons.
First, strength, or a general base of force production, carries over to many qualities that lead to success in sport.
The most glaring example of this is power. The equation for power is force times velocity, or force displayed rapidly.
In this way, your level of strength plays a role in how powerful you are, provided you build your strength the right way.
Another reason strength is important is that strength can play a role in your endurance.
Imagine two guys repping out 225 on bench. One guy has a one rep max of 315. The other has a one rep max of 250. Who’s going to perform more reps?
The guy with the 315 one rep max.
In a more sport specific scenario, imagine you’re fighting a guy who’s 225 pounds, and you lift him off the ground. If you only squat 315 pounds, you’re going to be a lot more gassed than you’d be if you could squat 405.
There are many more reasons that a base of strength is important, like movement quality and body control, but I think you get the idea.
The two points of emphasis for strength are strength endurance and strength speed.
These points of emphasis will help increase the ability to strain under load, as well as the time in which you can endure that strain.
A strong base of stamina and conditioning is critical in sport for obvious reasons.
All sports require repeated bouts of movement. Repeated bouts of movement require both aerobic power and aerobic capacity.
Aerobic power is needed for repeated movements in the two to five minute time frame while aerobic capacity is required for longer durations.
The emphasis of stamina and conditioning in the GPP phase is developing the slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibers’ ability to turn oxygen into energy, as well as the heart and lungs’ ability to deliver oxygen.
Many people overlook stability, but it’s absolutely critical to ANYONE who’s training… Especially athletes.
The ability to control the trunk and the joints that support movement is absolutely crucial for power, strength, proprioception, agility, speed, and so much more.
This is because stability helps us prevent injury, it helps us produce more power by remaining stable maintaining the force that is being transferred through the body, and it supports our ability to move without being compromised.
When we train stability, we want to make sure we’re gaining joint integrity and control in the trunk and its support systems.
For those who don’t know, joint integrity has to do with the soundness of the joints and the balance of the muscles surrounding said joint.
As far as “support systems”, that means we’re working on the hips, the ankles, the knees, and more to make sure they have a proper foundation of movement quality.
Flexibility is all about increasing the passive range of motion of the joints to increase force production and prevent injury.
And really, flexibility has to do with bringing balance to the muscles surrounding our joints.
Imbalances in the muscles surrounding the joints are sparked by repeated movement patterns without performing countermovements. This is known as pattern overload.
Imbalances restrict the movement of our joints. And this restriction can cause injury, drain performance, and diminish displays of power, strength, and agility.
Naturally, we want to take measures to maintain healthy range of motion and balance in the muscles.
Mobility goes hand in hand with flexibility. While flexibility is increasing the passive range of motion of a joint, mobility is increasing your ability to control the joints at end ranges of motion.
I see a lot of guys stop at increasing their flexibility, and this opens the door to injury and other chaos simply because these guys can’t control their joints at the newfound ranges of motion they unlocked with their stretching.
Lack of control is not good.
So, we want to take measures to increase our control over our joints at extended ranges of motion.
I’m not speaking of coordination in terms of clumsiness, balance, or kinesthetic awareness.
Coordination in the general physical preparedness phase is about the nervous system and muscle contractility.
If you’re an athlete, your end goal is to move at high velocities and produce powerful contractions. In order to make that happen, we need to make sure the proper mechanisms and muscles fire at the right times.
That means we need to teach the central nervous system to move with quality AND we can activate the appropriate muscles at the right times.
Balance and Body Awareness
Balance and body awareness comes down to increasing kinesthetic awareness, the proprioceptive response (the body’s ability to vary muscle contractions based on external stimuli), and the ability to move well through space.
Without these abilities, you simply cannot succeed in sport.
If you’re unaware of where your body is in space, you’ll get injured, look clumsy, and be unable to perform.
If your brain can’t compute external stimuli and adjust the body’s position accordingly, you won’t be able to react at the speeds needed for sport.
That makes balance and body awareness critical for success in sport.
The last focus of the general preparedness phase may have some guys scratching their heads.
Why would hypertrophy be important to sport?
It’s important to remember that the general physical preparedness phase is about building a sturdy foundation.
And muscle is important to that sturdy foundation for multiple reasons.
Muscle can play a role in keeping the body safe.
Building muscle can help protect the bones and joints by absorbing shock from impact, and reduce friction in the joints. When you build it the right way, muscle also is key in maintaining healthy joints.
Muscle also plays a role in balance and stability. If the muscles surrounding a joint are weak and atrophied, that joint won’t be able to bear load, or manipulate quickly enough to support healthy movement.
Another factor to consider is that hypertrophy training stimulates a pro-hormonal response. This pro-hormonal response of hypertrophy training can carry over to other aspects of performance.
All this said, we’re not training to be body builders. We don’t want big bulging muscles, or muscles filled with fluid. And we certainly don’t want to train like bodybuilders.
We want to build just enough muscle to benefit performance.
Tools for The General Physical Preparedness Phase
Now, I want to go into a handful of the tools I like to use for the general physical preparedness training phase. This is not an exhaustive list of the tools I use. In truth, the tools I use really depend on the athlete that I’m working with, and their particular strengths and weaknesses.
Let’s get into the list.
Sled drags are one of my favorite tools for the general physical preparedness phase.
I like sled drags because they’re extremely versatile, there’s no eccentric loading (which means we’re not excessively damaging the muscle), and they provide numerous benefits to the athlete – mainly increasing balance, stability, coordination, and of course strength.
Sled drags also build the athlete’s ability to produce force into the ground, which sets up other qualities like power, explosiveness, speed, and more.
Sled drags can be done for distance or for time. It really depends on what your goal is with your athlete.
Here are a few sled drag variations I like to use for the GPP phase:
Forward Sled Drag
In this sled drag variation, you’re walking heel to toe, staying upright, grabbing the ground with the toes, and pulling with the hamstrings while squeezing the glutes to extend the hip.
This accomplishes a few things.
First, it builds the posterior chain. The posterior chain is underdeveloped and weak in most athletes, but it plays a powerful role in performance.
Sled drags also accomplish contractility of the hamstrings and glutes.
That essentially means that sled drags enhance the athlete’s ability to recruit the hamstrings and glutes in his movement. This comes with performance benefits and prevents injury.
Backward Sled Drag
The backwards sled drag has the athlete sink the hips down slightly and pushwith the balls of the feet to move the sled.
This places more emphasis on the quads.
Remember, the goal of the general physical preparedness phase is to build a general base of strength. So it’s important that we develop all muscles of the body in a balanced, intelligent manner.
Crossover Sled Drag
The crossover sled drag has the athlete produce force laterally while getting internal torque of the hip.
This is great for athletes in sports that place heavy emphasis on lateral movement.
This movement trains the frontal plane, an area not usually addressed by many coaches. It’s also a great builder of the posterior chain.
Controlled Articular Rotations (CARs)
Controlled articular rotations are one of my favorite tools to unlock new ranges of motion while increasing the athlete’s ability to control the joint in those newly acquired ranges.
In less words, controlled articular rotations enhance mobility and the body awareness of each joint capsule.
This can go a long way in enhancing performance, preventing injury, and increasing overall force production.
Here are a few CARs I like to use with my athletes:
The shoulder CAR requires the athlete to work the shoulder throughout a full range of motion without compensation.
Many athletes will try to get more range of motion by arching the back or hiking the shoulder up.
The shoulder CAR will bring awareness to this compensation.
When you perform the shoulder, make sure you keep the core tight and the glutes contracted. Then, work the shoulder through a full range of motion.
At the start of the movement, keep the shoulder protracted. As you reach the end range of motion, internally rotate the shoulder and keep it locked down.
Many people don’t think of the knee as a joint that rotates.
It does, just very minimally.
You may think it’s a small detail, but the money is in the details. And the ability to rotate the knee is absolutely crucial if you’re creating torque, or force sparked by rotation.
To perform the knee CAR, flex the toe and rotate the ankle internally so the tibia glides. Then, extend the knee. Rotate the ankle externally. And lower the heel back down to the ground.
Repeat this for desired reps.
Again, make sure the hip is not involved. You want to rotate the knee in complete isolation.
If you’ve been watching my YouTube channel, you know I’m a big fan of kettlebells.
They’re versatile. They can be used to enhance mobility, build strength, improve conditioning, and increase power.
They also teach the body how to contract and relax efficiently (coordination).
Really, the benefits are endless.
Here are two of the many ways I like to use kettlebells in the general physical preparedness phase:
Kettlebell swings aren’t anything groundbreaking.
But they’re a powerful and simple movement that comes with many performance benefits.
For one, kettlebell swings enhance body awareness, or the ability of the muscles to contract and relax on cool.
They also improve grip strength along with power production.
Kettlebell swings can also be used to build endurance.
It really depends on how you program them.
I like to perform my kettlebell swings Russian style. That means the shoulders stay locked down, I don’t swing the kettlebell higher than chin level, I just like to get the stimulus of hip extension.
I’m also a big fan of kettlebell carries, particularly suitcase caries.
The suitcase carry has the athlete holding a kettlebell in one hand while walking.
This activates the obliques, transverse abdominis, lats, and serratus. And it really teaches the athlete to stabilize the body through movement – something that’s necessary for success in any sport.
I also like to program kettlebell bottoms-up carries.
This movement still forces the athlete to stabilize through movement. But it also brings an element of shoulder stability into the mix and forces the athlete to focus (try thinking about your plans for the day while performing a bottoms-up carry).
Assault Bike, Stadium Stairs, Track Running, and Swimming
These are the basic modalities I like to use to enhance aerobic power and aerobic capacity.
If you don’t know, aerobic power is the ability of the muscles to use oxygen to produce energy.
Usually, this quality is developed with a 2:1 work to rest ratio (2 minutes on, one minute off).
Aerobic capacity is your aerobic base. It’s your heart and lung’s ability to get oxygen to the muscle. This is measured by your V02 max.
To train your aerobic capacity, you’ll do longer, lower intensity conditioning at a steady pace for about 20-45 minutes.
Ultimately, you can train both of these qualities with any of the above – assault bike, stadium stairs, running, and swimming.
They’ll all improve your gas tank, increase oxygen utilization, and get the blood flowing to the working muscles.
However, I like to use the assault bike best because it gives me more of a controlled environment.
I’ve echoed this throughout this entire post – the goal of the general physical preparedness phase is to develop a solid foundation that you can build upon.
Part of that strong foundation is balance of strength and size in the muscles.
That’s where unilateral exercises come in.
I like to use unilateral exercises to hammer away at left-to-right imbalances, build strength and size in the muscles in isolation, and develop balance and body awareness.
Ultimately, this will allow you to produce force equally throughout the body.
One of my favorite unilateral exercises to use is the split squat.
The split squat is a great builder of the hips and glutes. And it develops the leg while the other leg is on stretch.
The split squat is very versatile as well.
You can load the split squat in many different ways. You can hold one dumbbell contralaterally, you can hold two dumbbells, you can do a front load, you can throw one sandbag over the shoulder, you can also use a barbell (though I recommend against that in the GPP phase).
These different loading positions work a variety of different qualities and place emphasis on different muscles.
I like to use simple and efficient bodyweight exercises to build strength, stability, coordination, and endurance.
For instance, one of my go-to’s is a push-up to controlled sit-out.
This movement has the athlete push-up, then swing his leg through the body. This forces him to stabilize the shoulder and the core.
Done at fast paces, this movement can be used for conditioning. It also has obvious strength carry over.
This is just one of many simple bodyweight exercises I like to throw at my athletes in the GPP phase to increase relative strength, stability, body control, and movement quality.
I like to keep it simple when it comes to the exercises I use for strength and hypertrophy.
Mainly, I use what I call, builder lifts.
These are your standard squat, bench press, and deadlift. I may use some variations depending on the athlete’s limitations.
Because the emphasis of the GPP phase is building a solid base, we’re going to be using higher reps than usual.
We’ll train anywhere from 6-12 reps to build technical proficiency with these lifts, increase our ability to keep the muscles under tension, increase endurance, and stimulate that healthy amount of hypertrophy.
With all of this, it’s important that these lifts correlate to the sport.
How Long is The General Physical Preparedness Phase?
The length of the general physical preparedness phase depends on the circumstances in which you’re using it and any time restrictions you may have. In general, the general physical preparedness phase can last anywhere from 1-4 weeks.
If I know I’m going to be working with an athlete for an extended period of time, I may extend the GPP phase to four weeks.
If I only have eight weeks to prepare an athlete for competition or season, I may cut it to 1-2 weeks.
You can also use general physical preparedness as a deload to give the athlete a kind of active recovery, or hammer away at their weaknesses.
What Does a General Physical Preparedness Workout Look Like?
Here’s an example general physical preparedness workout I used with one of my fighters, Junior Dos Santos. Before I go into it, you should know that this GPP workout is not something I would perform with a new client or athlete. I know Junior, I know his weaknesses, and I know he can handle himself in the weight room. As a result, I’m having him perform more advanced movements than I would typically use in the GPP phase.
Banded Terminal Knee Extensions – 3×10 Each Side
Terminal knee extensions are one of my go-to correctives for the knee joint. They are great at developing the small muscles that support the knee. These muscles aren’t usually developed by your bigger lifts.
A-Skips – 2×15 Yards
A-Skips are typically a speed exercise. However, I use them to develop movement quality as well as raise the body temperature.
Lateral Shuffles – 2×10 Yards Each
Lateral shuffles are a great way to build an athlete’s movement efficiency in the frontal plane. They also enhance the athlete’s ability to change directions, which can support the athlete’s agility.
Power Bounds for Height and Distance – 2×15 Yards Each
These are very general, easily accessible plyometrics to develop a base of horizontal and vertical power. I like to use these in the GPP phase because they’re very easy to perform, and easy to become proficient in.
Lateral Broad Jumps – 2×10 Yards
Again, the GPP phase is about developing a well rounded base. And if we’re developing power in the sagittal plane, we need to develop it in the frontal plane as well. Lateral broad jumps are a go-to for this.
Eccentric Split Squats – 2×3 Each Side (4 Second Eccentric)
For this workout, I was developing Junior’s joints to ensure they were ready for the stresses of camp. Eccentrics are great for this. They also support an athlete’s ability to absorb force, and the more force you can absorb, the more you can produce.
RDL – 3×6 (3 Second Eccentric)
The posterior chain is commonly underdeveloped in most athletes. However, it plays a powerful role in performance. The RDL is a great exercise to hammer away at this weakness, develop the muscles of the posterior chain, and deliver quick results.
Barbell Rows – 3×8
Barbell rows are a great builder of the back, a commonly undertrained area for most athletes. The back plays a huge role in an athlete’s posture, joint integrity, and even stability.
Forward Sled Drags – 3×90 Seconds
As you read above, forward sled drags are great for building the hamstrings and glutes. I had Junior front-load a sandbag to stimulate the upper back and as a cue for him to maintain strong posture.
Diaphragmatic Breathing – 6 seconds in, 8 seconds out for 6 minutes
Diaphragmatic breathing is a great way to jump start recovery, activate the parasympathetic nervous system, and speed up restoration from a workout.
General Physical Preparedness Is Just The Beginning
They say it’s not about how you start… It’s how you finish.
In the case of training, it’s about how you start AND finish.
That’s why, if you’re a coach, it’s important you understand the underpinnings of EVERY phase of training, the appropriate strategies and periodization models to use, and the methodologies you have at your disposal to elicit specific qualities.
If you want a better understanding of all of that, book a call with my team.
We’ll answer your questions, help you through your struggles, and help you correct any mistakes so that you leave the call a better coach.