General Physical Preparation (GPP) is a balanced, functional, practical approach to fitness. It has been accepted by athletes who need a strong, integrated foundation of all-around fitness in addition to the skills necessary for their sports. It has been especially embraced by police officers, firefighters, and military troops - to prepare them for "the unknown and unknowable." This GPP method gives the participant a "constant state of readiness," when the challenge or the time are both a mystery.
Sport Specific Training (SST) is more narrow in its approach. A classic example of this the training methods preferred by traditionalist triathletes -- swimming, biking, and running -- and unfortunately, not much else. Other SST methods might be: jump training for a volleyball player, sled pushes for a football lineman, or lateral lunges for a hockey player. This might be used for a specific season, if one exists for the sport.
This differs from Skill Development/Practice (SDP) in that SST is more gym-based strength-building and conditioning. Skill practice focuses on neurological changes in the body - aspects such as balance, accuracy, agility, coordination. SDP might include: throwing drills for a quarterback, punching bag routines for a boxer, or scrum practice for a rugby forward. This too might be used for a specific season.
Event preparation (EP) is a mixture of GPP, SST, and SDP. The formula for EP can be debated in as many ways as there are trainers in the world. Here is my take:
An "event" is a known (or highly predictable) contest or challenge, at a known time, under known (or highly predictable) conditions. There is a huge advantage to knowing what the challenge is ahead of time, and when exactly it is. A proper course can be plotted to bring one's abilities and skills up to meet the challenge, and time it so the climax of training volume or intensity runs right up to the event day. And training should replicate the contest.
For you marathoners out there, the Hal Higdon training program is one of the more famous EP marathon plans. I followed it myself when I ran the 2002 Chicago Marathon. There are similar programs for triathlons and all sorts of other events. I bastardize Hal Higdon's theories with triathlon "bricking" while training for adventure races.
With the growing popularity of CrossFit, other non-endurance events are beginning to emerge. The CrossFit community has used their functional fitness workouts as charity fundraisers. Some examples of the named workouts include: Fight Gone Bad, MURPH, Grace, RANDY, and MALTZ. These challenges aren't the typical 5k run/walk you might see in your neighborhood. These are intimidating if you aren't used to some of the movements such as pullups, clean-and-jerks, Sumo Deadlift High-Pulls, or Wall Balls. Everyone knows what a 5k run is. Only a small sliver of the population (probably way less than 1%) knows anything about Fight Gone Bad!!
Here's one of the problems when a newbie asks a CrossFit coach how to prepare for one of these CrossFit-esque events: The coach usually tries to sell the CrossFit package of broad-general-inclusive to the inquirer. Too many CF coaches try to sell GPP to these folks instead of suggesting an EP program!! Why is this a problem?
An event is KNOWN. For example, take the workout called MURPH (Run 1 mile, do 100 pullups, do 200 pushups, do 300 airsquats, run 1 mile) is very known. The participant knows exactly what the challenge consists of and when it is (however Spring 2011 date not announced yet). Doesn't it make sense to include some very specific programming into this person's plan? Hell yes. To most efficiently prepare for MURPH, it makes absolute sense to do pullups, pushups, and air squats -- and even to go as far as keeping the 1-2-3 proportions of repetitions. (click here for a prep plan I posted a few years ago.) Does this develop GPP? No way. Does it more effectively and efficiently prepare the person for MURPH? Yes. It is reasonable to do MURPH-specific training twice per week, and build this training up until the actual event date. Will following the randomized CrossFit.com workouts prepare for MURPH? Sort of. It will obviously get the person more fit, but just not as effectively for a known event. Why the heck would you take a shotgun approach (GPP) when a scoped rifle (SST and EP) is available?
I'm NOT saying to ignore GPP. I believe all people should have some GPP methods in their training. But it should be balanced when sport and event is on the horizon. I grind my heels in with this stance when the person is a beginner. Many veteran functional fitness enthusiasts can do substantially well on events with no SST/EP....but with SST/EP, that same veteran can begin to reach optimal!!
I will be posting some preparation ideas for MALTZ Challenge - Chicago 2011 shortly. But realize why I post the prep plan ahead of time. Some of you die-hard CFters will argue against this specialization. I hope the above argument satisfactorily makes my point as to why SST/EP work is needed, especially by those who aren't functional fitness participants...yet.
Here is a quick summary of the categories of performance-related training:
- GPP: constant or perpetual state of readiness for everything and anything.
- SST: strength and conditioning for a sport's specific movement patterns.
- SDP: learning and near-perfect repetition for neurological adaptations.
- EP: building up to a state of readiness for a specific contest, held at a certain time.
Simply put, study the material that will be on the test!!