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GPP and the Year Round Athlete By Brett Klika

Most young athletes in California play sports year-round.  There really isn’t an “off season” when the weather is 70 degrees and sunny all the time.  While playing and competing can develop skills for specific sports, general physical preparation may be neglected.  General physical preparation, (GPP) is the process of developing all of the attributes associated with athleticism.  Overall body strength, coordination, balance, stability, flexibility, aerobic fitness, movement technique, and other skills play a role in every sport.  When a youngster spends all of their time playing one sport, they usually only develop the physical skills needed for that sport.  This contributes to problems such as muscular imbalances that have been found to contribute to injury.  In addition, certain skills may be neglected to a point in which they fall below a threshold level for strength, coordination, etc., negatively effecting performance.   For example, the game of baseball does not require a great degree of aerobic fitness.   However, if you do not have a basic level of aerobic capacity, your ability to recover and maintain your abilities throughout the season may suffer.   Additional research has demonstrated that one of the best ways to prevent injury is to include GPP in every young athletes training regiment.

GPP is also referred to as “cross training.”  It is important both in and out of their sports season.  When the young athlete is out of season, they can train general abilities more days with higher volumes and greater intensities.  When they are practicing and playing games daily, they may only be able to train these abilities a couple of times a week for an abbreviated amount of time.  In either situation, it is important that GPP is included in training. Here are some general guidelines for both in season and out of season GPP for young athletes:

Out of Season:

1. Perform GPP 2-3 times per week prior to puberty.  For pubescent athletes, they can handle 3-5 times per week.

2. Each workout should be about 20-30 minutes prior to puberty, 40 minutes to an hour for pubescent athletes.

  • Both groups can handle longer durations and training frequencies, but for the sake of practicality of schedules, these amounts of time are plenty.  With warm-up, cool down, teaching time, and mobility work, one should allow for a minimum of 45 minutes to an hour.

3. Workouts should consist of modalities to challenge of a variety of physical capacities including:

  • Strength (push-ups, lizard crawls, climbing, lunging, etc)
  • Power (jumping, throwing, racing or timed drills)
  • Endurance (sustained constant activity)
  • Coordination (agility ladder, jump rope, boxing, off hand and foot work, proper movement technique)
  • Balance (1-leg work, unstable surface)
  • Flexibility and mobility (stretching, mobility drills)

i.      2-3 exercises for each, 40 seconds to a minute at each circuit

4. Assuming that a pubescent athlete has sufficient development of the above skills, a “circuit” style of training may not allow for enough time of focus on each specific skill.  The program may have to be further regimented into “weight room” and “field” work.

  • This is the case ONLY if they are proficient at all of the general skills in a circuit format.  (Most high-school aged kids are not, yet we push them into more regimented programs.  Thus the ever-increasing rates of injury we see in athletes age 15 and up.)

5. Regardless of the sport, a basic level of aerobic fitness should be a focus.  This, along with basic strength is the foundation from which all athleticism is achieved.  If a youngster can’t do a push-up and is unable to keep their heart rate elevated for a sustained amount of time, they will have problems down the road regardless of their level of sport skill.  Guaranteed.

Below Brett demonstrates an actual in season GPP workout for all young athletes:



1. Perform GPP 2 times a week prior to puberty.  For pubescent athletes, 2-3 times per week.

2. Workouts should be 15-20 minutes prior to puberty, 20-40 after puberty.

3. For both recommendations above, youngsters can handle more, but for the sake of practicality this should suffice.

4. To create an in-season program, consider the skills that may be neglected during practice or game play and create a circuit involving those skills.  For example during practice in soccer, the skills of sprinting, agility, and lower body coordination will be practiced.  Upper body strength, lower body stability, movement technique, and general power development will not.

5. The workout can take place immediately before or after practice for cohesive scheduling.

6. For more mature athletes that need to further regiment their general preparation, the focus of this type of training should be a lower volume of training at moderate to high intensities.

  • This is the opposite of what most idiotic high school coaches implement with their teams, especially football.  They lay off during the off season, ramp-up during pre-season, and then lift every day with bodybuilder-like volumes and intensities during the in-season. Got it backwards, guys.

7. During in-season training, a good coach should run a practice in which activity is sustained the entire time.   This decreases the need for general aerobic work during GPP.  If there are athletes standing around a field, there is a horrible coach nearby.

  • A quality sports practice should have the intensity and sense of urgency of an organized air raid drill.

Whether it’s during the off-season or the regular season, GPP is the key to improving performance and decreasing injury as an athlete ages.  Taking the time to include this in a training regiment for a young athlete will pay dividends in both the short and the long run.  Otherwise, we could keep doing it the way we are and watch injury rates double AGAIN in the next 10 years, not to mention the rates of childhood obesity.  I think we can do better.

Let’s help create happy, healthy, pain-free adults!

Brett Klika C.S.C.S., Director of Athletics at Fitness Quest 10, is a human performance specialist, motivator, and educator.

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