How We GPP

 In Uncategorized


Today’s workout:

Heavy cleans. Wanna work up to a PR today? Why not?

Deadlifts for reps
. 2 sets of rally heavy sets of 3-5 reps.

NEW Brutal Recess Combo: William of Ockham. Video coming soon…



Strength. Physical strength is always described as the ability to generate force (look it up in any physiology text). Not maximum force, simply, ‘force.’ Sure, this is not new babble from my pie hole. Any of you who have been within earshot of the Bodytribe machine has encountered this nonsense before. But let’s drill it a bit more…

Force development. We use it to some degree for everything physical thing we do. If we’re good at it, if we have ‘ability,’ then according to the definition above we are ‘strong.’ Good at what, though? There are multiple channels of force generation. If we lift a car, we’ve created MAXIMUM force development, generating as much force as possible for a quick burst. BOOM!


But is that the only force development scenario? Take a second and think of how many ways we use the force, so to speak. If we are to get better at ANY movement, from yoga to jogging to team sports to martial arts, we need to increase our ability to generate force. In other words, we need to get stronger, according to the definition, by being able to generate force better in any scenario.

And most of those won’t require lifting a car. Force development has many faces. In fact, we like to refer to it as a spectrum… a Spectrum of Strength, if you will.


Every goal of movement – speed, hypertrophy, workload, metcon, VO2 max, energy systems, coordination – is an adaptation of force development. SOME type of force development, not always gut wrenching, eye bleeding, single burst car lifting-style.

What does this mean?

  • Endurance is a type of strength.
  • The term ‘strength and conditioning’ is redundant.
  • We can be specifically strong or generally strong.
  • .

    This also means that the term ‘functional strength’ might need reinterpreting. All strength is functional, somewhere, somehow. Ya just gotta figure out if the strength you are embracing is best suited for your desired outcome. Will that max bench press help your hula career?


    General Physical Preparedness. This is a great term that simply means ‘be ready… but generally speaking.’ This is often considered workload training, increasing your body’s ability to accept larger training intensities or durations while also aiding in your recovery. It’s ‘general’ because it avoids specificity. You’re not trying to drill a required movement pattern or skill set, rather you’re just letting your body handle more work, or, as Mel Siff wrote, “the general ability of the body as a machine to produce work of different intensity and duration using the appropriate energy system of the body.”


    In other words, GPP is simply a dance with differing levels of force development, which leads to the ability of your body to get more done, which could be defined as being stronger. And that ‘more’ could then be training with a more specific goal, but that’s what your other training is for. To keep it simple, GPP is training to increase your training.


    Funny enough, GPP has recently been adopted as THE methodology by a great chunk of the fitness underground, where randomness, strange combinations and even competitive GPP seem to dominate entire programs. Here’s some observations with these trends:

    Randomness: Random attempts produce random results. Maybe there’s an excitement to not knowing what tomorrow’s workout will bring, and there can be a true dread in having a program that looked like it was developed by a computer which set up every workout, percentage and exercise down to the last set and rep for the next 6 months. Daily goals can be fun, let’s not deny that, so walking into a gym not knowing what is on the menu and then simply surviving the torture might be your brand of a good time, but randomness rarely lends itself successfully to long term goals.

    Strange combinations: We’re the first to preach ‘no rules’ around this place, but there’s a caveat. Know enough to make educated choices. Here’s some examples of where a small dose of reasoning might make sense:

    Is adding more reps a good idea? Why? Seriously… why? Is 100 repetitions the BEST way to increase the quality of that workout? High repetitions within combos seem to be really trendy right now. But I guarantee that 30 damn good pushups will ultimately make for a stronger, more capable human than 100 porn pushups (where they look like they’re humping the floor with their hips rather than using their arms while keeping a supported spine). William of Ockham had a famous shaving utensil that spoke to him one day and said “It is in vain to do with more what can be done with fewer.” Now 100 of something might have a place, and it could be something to train up to, but the trend currently seems derived from lazy, uncreative training, not from a place of productivity or empowerment.


    We’ll chat a bit more about that further down (the pushups, not Ockham’s Razor).

    Is speed always the best option? If you are falling into the trap of making GPP your only modality, then you are probably under the belief that fitness = ‘work,’ and therefore involves moving as much as possible in the shortest amount of time (ya know, Work = Force x displacement, or the other popular physics formula which is Power = Work/time). This is a limited view (and potentially dangerous one) of what fitness is. Not all exercises are best performed at maximum speed, and even those that are meant to be fast can fall apart when speed trumps technique. A quick speed demon reality check is to take a yoga class and quickly discover what your body is no longer able to do thanks to all that haste you’ve been developing.


    Competitive GPP: Competition gives a certain chunk of the population something to shoot for, and goals are a darn good thing. Thanks to ideas like the CrossFit Games and Tactical Strength Challenges, GPP has actually lost the ‘G’ and has become sport specific, but it is a sport with direct challenges to multiple aspects of force development. Like other strength sport challenges (powerlifting or weightlifting for example), you can compete against yourself first, or focus on whoever else is next to you, so your motivation might come from considerably different place than, say, team sports.

    Although there is an irony that GPP has evolved into sport-specific contests, it does make folks who previously relied on complete randomness understand that adding at least a modicum of structure to their GPP creates beneficial, and measurable, results.

    How We GPP

    There are 6 movement groups that we work with:


    There are a bunch of malleable factors that we can apply:

    exercise selection
    (and that probably ain’t all)

    So how can we combine these effectively? Again, no rules, but some time-tested guidelines might help…

    Be cautious of the more-is-better volume route. Any monkey can make someone work so hard they feel like lunch needs to make a reappearance, and the current trend of having that as a trainer badge of honor needs to stop. Giving someone a million reps of something to make it seem like a challenge is a skill any idiot can quickly discover. Are you any idiot?

    (an example of a lower rep combo, instead using distance and intensity as major factors. Nothing was done for more than 10 reps at a time, and several things only for 5 reps)

    Instead, check your malleable factors and see what challenges might be the most beneficial, or even interesting. High reps over and over is NOT interesting, but playing with varying levels of force development by manipulating the factors above might be, and the challenge would be ultimately more rewarding.

    For instance: Back to the pushup thing again. Is 30 pushups getting easy for your client or group? Would adding 20 or more truly be a benefit or simply sort of a trainer cop out. We could still stick with the pushup theme but make it far more challenging and beneficial, and some folks might even end up doing a smaller total sum of pushups (gasp!! What about WORKLOAD!! Calm down, please).


    We’ve got room here at the Tribe to cover some distance. So how about 30 feet of inchworm pushups, which, at the end of the 30 feet would culminate into 6 hip stretch or mobility pushups (3 per side). Repeat for 3, 4 or 5 minutes and see what happens. Did we do less work because we might not have gotten as many pushups in (not that you were counting during those inchworms anyway)? Not really, but WHO GIVES A SHIT!! The challenge will not only be considerably harder, but the body will have gone through more ranges of motion, more movement patterns and more possibilities for force development than simply a bunch of pushups. And you still no need for equipment, just the ability as a trainer to teach slightly advanced exercises (ya game?)

    Oh, and since we might have been working on maximum force development earlier in the workout, and probably some repetition work as well (which is often how we roll), we’ve now covered a big chunk of that Spectrum of Strength within one workout.

    (here’s a combo, after the mobility work, with no reps higher than 7 at a time. Why not make them HEAVY?)

    Our GPP combos tend to fall into two categories. Multiple tools, or single tool. For groups, single tool combos are the easiest to set up, and the very quick lesson is that ya don’t need much to turn up the intensity knob. Here’s an example:

    Other staple single tool combos around these parts are (with important observations):

    Fichte: A major hip and spine combo with a dose of pulling and overhead work and a beautiful amount of rotation, which is sorely lacking from so much modern GPP work.

    Kill Me Now: A push combo with elements of pulling, spice and overhead. This is a beautiful finisher to a heavy press day, if ya wanna stick with a similar theme throughout your workout. In other words, letting certain movement groups dominate a workout, from the main lift through the GPP combo, can have a great impact for addressing certain weaknesses. Or if your program might call for some major play with another movement group tomorrow (maybe it’s squat day…), ya might not want to fatigue the hips much today. The general recommended guideline for balance is to simply make sure that all movements groups get equal attention by the end of the week. So having a day dedicated mostly to a movement group or two might be of benefit within certain cycles of your programming.

    Bertrand Russell: A well rounded hip combo, letting so many parts of the hips and legs have equal play. Be very present with form on this one though, since the quest to get through the darn thing can quickly lead to shoddy movements. This might seem like a no-brainer with any combo, but it only takes one messed up bent over row or swing for someone to never recover their proper technique.


    Brick Don’t Hit Back: Only one tool… the body! A good finisher for a heavy hips day. But get a room full of people attempting this one and you’ll soon have a plethora of interesting interpretations of what a bodyweight squat should look like, even if everyone started on the same page.

    (c’mon… tell me you’ve seen Bloodsport?)

    Sure, we’ve given guidelines to sets, reps and rounds, but ain’t nowhere is that written in stone (that I know of). For instance, I don’t need one of my powerlifters doing a 5-10 minute combo a few weeks before their meet, although a heavy version with planned rest periods would work perfectly into a heavy cycle leading up to a meet.


    Multiple Tool Combos

    Here’s one example:

    Sometimes one rep is enough of a certain movement, as seen in the combo above, which has rotation, distance and some seriously near-max force development all in one little strength party.

    Some more guidelines to consider: The Brutal Recess Concept.

    So simple, yet so effective. Within the workout (and the GPP combo is a great time for this), there should be two key components on top of the varying levels of force development:

  • rotation
  • mobility
  • Take a crowbar to that closed mind and see beyond the concept of ‘work.’ GPP, General Physical Preparedness, is not limited to WP, or work preparedness, as the current trends seems to want it to be. GPP has many levels; levels of force development, intensity and fun. It does take a bit o’ lurnin’ to apply the ‘no rules’ GPP concept to the program design canvas, so get busy trying some things out.



    What’s New? I’ve updated our events list, some of which you can see on the upper right on this page. We might be bringing our party to your town. Check our events page to see if any of our workshops might be in your area. If not, let’s make it happen!

    This Saturday’s Tune Up will find us playing with dumbbells is odd, unique ways. Join us!


    Recent Posts
    Showing 11 comments
    • Zac

      Chong Li!

    • Tyler

      1. GO FRED!

      2. Eve has sick triceps.

      3. Can I lift a car please?

    • Jay

      awesome post, once again, chip.

      really clears and distinguishes your GPP vs. CrossFit GPP or Joe Schmo’s GPP; which is an approach that i subscribe to – the Bodytribe philosophy. it reminded me of an article i came across contrasting the Gym Jones approach to training vs. the CrossFit approach and not being a slave to the stopwatch, too. most work/ least time doesn’t necessarily mean you did it properly.

      although you promote “being the artist” when designing our own movement rituals through lifting and especially in GPP work, you stress that there must be guidelines to work within and you even explain its logic in this post.

      random routines yield random results.
      well stated.
      Have a Strong Day.

    • mace

      Yay, GPP!

      I have to say, I’m not afraid to ignore a lot of GPP work and hang out on the ME side of the spectrum. However, I find that whenever I jump in on someone’s workout that’s more oriented toward lower force development and lotsa repetitions, I can hang just fine.

      Once a thrower, always a thrower, I guess.

    • Aj Sanchez

      Fitness= a commitment to move. Gpp has always been one of my favorite modalities of fitness. For myself a giant body pushing, pulling or moving mountains of iron has never rung out “hey I am a functional body.” How can improving your work rate not transition into better performance in all areas of life and fitness. Gpp can also provide those with a limited fitness background the opportunity to implement some of our favorite movements into our workout diet while providing a smile or puking rally can save a tired mind but able body. Overkill at anything can be toxic. Remember life’s tenants, balance and moderation. Now go out and have some babies.

    • Chris in Arcata

      I was tired of the bump and grind of cardio machines. So GPP was what really attracted me to this community. It gave me a fresh look at things. For me GPP is my favorite as well. It is nice to be creative, but also have variety in those drills. Also GPP really aides in my outdoor activities which are so dear to me even more then indoor time with weights.

      I enjoy ME and DE work. However I can’t really claim that to be able to deadlift 300 lbs for example aides in my day to day life. The only time I lift that much weight is in the gym environment. Though the mental aspect of dealing with heavy weights can benefit at times in day to day life. It may make other things look easy.

      I do like to include different things across the spectrum. The main reason being I feel if you train with different levels across the board. You really reduce your risk of injury, but I also like this philosophy cause it creates more variety.

      I do love the GPP. OK enough of a brake for me. Back to shop to continue kinetic vehicle work…….

    • mace

      AJ said it- balance and moderation.

      Any form of movement (an exercise, intensity, rep scheme, etc.) can cease to be effective if over emphasized.

      Hence the importance of the SPECTRUM of strength. Of course, individual preference should be honored as well.

    • Dan

      I love that mobility clip. Beanie. Art. Rug. Brian Eno-ish music. Brilliant.


    • Claudio

      Nice AJ, Nice!

      Is there a making babies combo that Bodytribe teaches?

    • Dan Holt

      The material you share is brilliant. I should probably say more from time to time. In the instance, Dan said it for me. I’m going to add that band as one of my favorites on my facebook page.

    • Dan Holt

      What are the song names and the band’s names of the music I like. You know what I am talking about.

    Leave a Comment

    Contact Us

    We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

    Not readable? Change text. captcha txt