• General Physical Preparation and Specialized Physical Preparation
    The right type of coaching begins by preparing each athlete to achieve a desired training adaptation.
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  • General Phys PrepWithin the conjugate sequence system, there are two types of foundational training methods. These methods are associated with different means that allow for the targeting of the desired adaptations within the process of achieving sports mastery. 

    These two methods are General Physical Preparation (GPP) and Specialized Physical Preparation (SPP). 

    General Physical Preparation

    The first method of foundational training is called General Physical Preparation (GPP). This type of training is rooted in the fundamental element of all sports, and that is movement. Prior to discussing GPP in more depth, there needs to be a differentiation made between GGP cycles for the different levels of athletes. 

    Higher level athletes maintain a certain level of fitness throughout the year so there is never really an extensive “preparatory period” but GPP-type training is still very applicable to individuals that are of novice level but still athletes. 

    There should also be a distinction between general preparation exercises and general development exercises. Development exercises are used to improve specific physical qualities and/or skills, and are not geared to all around physical preparation. With GPP-type exercises, the objective is to strengthen the overall body (more all around preparation) and prepare each athlete for more intense training that occurs in the latter periods of the process of achieving sports mastery.

    For the novice athlete, GPP should consist of movement-based exercises that target total physical development and should also include concentrated technique training. This will allow for total development along with improved exercise technique associated with various exercises.

    Technique work is done with elite-level athletes but the time spent on technique development within GPP phases is minimal, and most of the technique work is done in the specialized period. 

    So, for higher level athletes technique improvements come in the SPP phase while novice athletes improve technique within the GPP phase and into the SPP phase.

    Specialized Physical Preparation

    Specialized Physical Preparation (SPP) is training that should duplicate what occurs during the execution of a specific sport skill. This type of training is very dependent on the needs analysis performed by the strength and conditioning coach. This needs analysis will allow the coach to have a better understanding of what transpires during the execution of the sport skill, and will allow for a more accurate prescription for SPP-type training. 

    This training also involves exercises that are based on developing the physical abilities, specific to the sport event. In turn, the physical abilities needed to perform well in the sport should be a main target within SPP-type training. To make SPP exercises more specific, they should be tailored to duplicate the motor pathways and muscle actions seen within the sport. This is a very specialized form of training that is done on a solid foundation of GPP training.

    According to Russian literature, when exercises duplicate a portion of the total skill or single joint actions during sport, the athlete will gain strength, speed strength (or other physical qualities) as it is displayed in the execution of the competitive sport skill. 

    For example, for greater strength in the same range of motion and in the same neuromuscular pathway used in the execution of a sport skill, the athlete also develops a muscular feel for the muscle actions in addition to increasing strength within that range of motion seen within the sport skill. This is why SPP-type training is so important to the transfer of training to sport skill. In order to get the most out of SPP training reference the three points below.

    1. The exercise must duplicate the neuromuscular pathway seen in execution of the competitive sport skill
    2. Strength must be developed in the same range of motion as it is displayed in the execution of the competitive sport skill
    3. The exercise must involve the same type of muscular contraction as used in execution of the competitive sport skill

    Training programs that incorporate such specialized exercises encompass the true meaning of the conjugate training system. This means that as different motor abilities are trained using skill technique execution, sport skill technique is accompanied with the motor ability being trained, thus improving sport performance.

    Practical Application

    GPP and SPP-type training are foundational to the conjugate sequence system. These types of training play a very important role in the process of achieving sports mastery. SPP training is done in the latter stages of achieving sports mastery and is directly related to the time spent in the GPP phases. 

    As a strength and conditioning coach, it is important to monitor the interplay between these two types of training. The reason for this is that if there is too much volume (GPP or SPP) it can have a detrimental effect on the training process and affect the athlete’s ability to achieve sports mastery or sport competence. So, adequately prescribing the “right” amount of GPP and SPP is of vital importance.

  • Kevin Cronin

    About the Author:

    Kevin Cronin, MS, CSCS,*D, USAW

    Kevin Cronin, MS, CSCS,*D, USAW has worked with Collegiate, Olympic, and Professional level athletes over the last three years, working with All-Americans, All-Conference selections, NCAA National Champions, National Champions, and World Champions. Kevin has worked at Stanford University and the University of Texas as a volunteer Strength and Conditioning Coach. He currently serves as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Colorado College.

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  • Disclaimer: The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) encourages the exchange of diverse opinions. The ideas, comments, and materials presented herein do not necessarily reflect the NSCA’s official position on an issue. The NSCA assumes no responsibility for any statements made by authors, whether as fact, opinion, or otherwise. 
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