GPP vs. SPP, what are they, and why do we care? GPP stands for general physical preparedness, and it’s what CrossFit is all about. Well, CrossFit for general population, at least. GPP is all about building physical attributes that would benefit someone on an athletic field – things like metabolic conditioning, aerobic endurance, strength, power, flexibility, speed, and your physical structure. In other words, it’s akin to off season training. As a sports season approaches, athletes begin focusing more on the skills they need to be successful on the field. This is known as SPP – specific physical preparedness.
While most of us don’t compete in sports anymore, we do partake in the CrossFit Open every March. And, in competitive CrossFit, we expect to see some high skill movements. For example, muscle-ups have appeared in EVERY Open. So, we can think of the Open as our sports season.
The Open started in 2011, and it was around that time that CrossFit started gaining mainstream media attention. Muscle-ups, heavy snatches, handstand walking, and other high skill movements became the focus of many people’s training in CrossFit gyms across the nation. They neglected the straight up conditioning work, technique work, and strength work in favor of the flashier movements. As expected, injury rates went through the roof. This is when CrossFit developed its reputation of being dangerous.
While it’s important to practice the high skill movements, it’s even more important to maintain the strength and fundamentals necessary to perform them in the first place. We must always maintain our base of fitness. In our recent training at Viking Athletics, we’ve been working on ring push-ups. Ring push-ups allow us to practice pressing on an unstable surface, through a big range of motion, while still in contact with the ground. From there, we can remove our points of contact and progress to ring dips. Once we accumulate some volume there, we’ll add in muscle-up transition drills, and then try muscle-ups. In other words, we’re building our base and progressing towards the higher skill movement.`
Additionally, we’ve been keeping our conditioning WODs simple. Keep in mind, simple doesn’t mean easy. It means we use low skill movements – box jumps, KB swings, Olympic lift variations with short ranges of motion, etc. These allow us to create workouts that don’t limit people based on skill level. Consider the workout “Fran.” The highest-level athletes can push through it unbroken, or close to. For them, it’s a test of how hard they can push. For many of us, we’re limited by our ability to perform 45 kipping pull-ups. So, we’re limited by our muscular endurance rather than our conditioning. So “Fran” affects different people differently, depending on their skill levels. Our recent WODs have avoided this by removing much of the high skill movements and separating straight up conditioning pieces from muscular endurance pieces.
We do this in the summertime because it’s a time when many of our members are less than consistent with attendance. Kids are out of school, people take vacations, and there are plenty of distractions. So, it’s not the best time to crank up the high skill stuff. Trying to do 30 muscle-ups for time after a 2 week vacation isn’t the best idea. But, as summer winds down, we’ll start adding higher skill movements back in, and develop a little more SPP. For now, we’re building the base of our pyramid. The wider the base, the higher we can build. And the more likely it is that we’ll stay injury free while doing so. See you in the gym.
by Erik Castiglione