The gap between General and Specific Physical Preparedness remains a cavernous ambiguity. Why? It remains unknown largely due to the hazardous tendency to compartmentalize training.
Although the Training Hierarchy Pyramid and more so the 3D Performance Pyramid appear to show a sharp distinction between GPP and SPP, it is only a visual reference point. As a matter of fact, due to the Principle of Incremental Progression, the transition from GPP to SPP should be predominantly indistinguishable.
This could mean that GPP gradually phases down in percentage while SPP phases up; or that GPP and SPP occur concurrently within a period, session or even within a drill. Furthermore, it also happens frequently that you need to import SPP into your GPP phase: such as to rehab an injury, resolve a structural imbalance, remove a muscular impediment or correct a functional deficiency. In other words, within every static GPP program, you need the assessment skills to help "get out of your own way of your optimal performance." (Siff, SUPERTRAINING p.320)
It is this specific vein that Z-Health Performance Solutions found such an explosive appeal over the past years to teams and agencies that needed a reliable and accurate performance enhancement system. As a general rule, the primary goal of SPP is not muscular adaptation (GPP) but neurological adaptation. In other words, GPP makes you Effective while SPP makes you Efficient. Ultimately, the goal is to become Efficiently Effective. A good way to understand how to transfer from GPP to SPP is to make the performance goal practicing the movement rather than merely training the muscles. It is this nebulous point, that eludes most people today; even the "leaders" of the "industry."
To End GPP
If you neglect this, if you continue to push forward for more reps, faster times, heavier weights, longer distance? you will burn out or burn up. It is an inarguable fact around which the entire "industry" built a castle of smoke and mirrors to rationalize chronic injury and pain. It appalls me that this so-called 'profession' not only accepts this, but actively promotes it. I'll give certain industry 'leaders' the benefit of the doubt that only their ignorance prevents them from acknowledging this? And that they are seeking to rectify it.
As we grow older, we grow better unless we train otherwise. Think about this in terms of the distinction between muscular (GPP) and neural (SPP) adaptation. I'm not merely speaking here in terms of one's longevity, but rather in terms of your personal athletic odyssey. It's often necessary and prudent to totally remove GPP from your training if you've consistently trained over a protracted period at increasing levels of proficiency.
So this doesn't speak to those people who are rookies to fitness, but rather to those of you who have wandered from one program, equipment, trainer to another over the years. The reason that you're bored and dissatisfied is because you're simply beyond that point in your training. You CRAVE sophistication.
Does that mean that now your training becomes complicated? No, not at all. Sophistication does not mean complication. It basically means that your neurology hungers for something meatier than performing more reps or pushing heavier weight. It means that you crave a deeper understanding of the exercise, or an exercise selection with greater motor challenge.
Does this mean that you never touch GPP again? No, not at all. Sometimes you need to facilitate your recovery from an injury unrelated to training. Sometimes you need to stir the waters to prevent stagnation. Sometimes you need to gain a new GPP standard for a new activity, or new tier of proficiency within a familiar activity. So how do you know when to end your GPP? There are several ways you can assess the end of GPP.
You Complete Your GPP Phase When You ...
- When working harder competes with working better (For example, when you hit a plateau; strength coaches refer to SPP as "assistance lifts")
- When you no longer find the range, scope and depth of the work challenging (boredom)
- When you approach the day of your intended event (in other words, view the Training Hierarchy Pyramid as a method to periodize your training schedule)
- When you test "Ready to Work". The former Soviet Union's GTO, or "Readiness to Work and Defend", was a rigorous examination/elimination to determine your fulfillment of GPP. The base level GTO for instance was simply to ensure the health of the Soviet citizen. But you don't need the USSR to tell you if you're ready to work (thankfully). You can look at your intended venue of activity and craft a basic physical preparation exam yourself. Make that work capacity the goal of your next cycle, or spread it across several cycles of active/restorative periods.
Increasing Differential Grip Stamina
An example of plateau-ing on GPP in Clubbell training and importing SPP to bring up your numbers follows. Many people are trying to put up big numbers in the sport's most popular competitive drill, the Basic Arm Swing to Armpit Cast (BASAC).
Elite competition involves several hundred repetitions (record holders over a thousand reps). However, most people never make it this far because of conventional strength training methods.
People have significantly poor grip stamina because they've only been taught one way to grab iron - and that is, as if the enemy were trying to rip it from your cold, dead fingers. Yes, there are some people who can crush hand grippers like pulverizing stone. However, sustained crush-gripping ("General Tension" technique) of Clubbells means low numbers and poor form in performance and cumulative injury. You just can't survive a strength-endurance sport like Clubbell Swinging, if you ALWAYS death-grip the Clubbell's neck.
Putting Dynamic Grip Work In Action
In the BASAC, your grip undergoes several dynamic changes in critical necessity. Let's look at the exercise from components to see the changing grip dynamic.
Exercise From Components To See The Changing Grip Dynamic:
- In the Loaded/Ready Position (after Forearm Pre-Swing - crouched with Clubbells swung behind frontal plane), the primary grip focus is upon the pinky and ring fingers clutching around the phenolic knob (to keep the Clubbells from propelling out of your grip.)
- As you begin into the first upswing leading with your leg press and hip extension, your grip focus changes to your ring and middle fingers.
- Hitting shoulder level, your grip focus shifts to your middle and pointer fingers as you retract the Clubbells into the Arm-pit Cast (and to a lesser extent, to your lower palm heel as you counter-push to your finger pull.)
- As the Clubbells move past your head and down into Back Position, the grip focus alters to pointer finger and thumb.
- Exploding out of Back Position, the grip focus shifts once again to the pinky and ring fingers.
- Clearing the shoulders, focus flips back to middle and pointer fingers aided by the thumb.
- And then once in the down swing of the BAS, the grip focus remains upon the pinky and ring fingers.
Now, for basic competency, you learn the elementary Selective Tension protocol of tight-loose-tight, but if you want to truly excel, you need to have an "Alive" grip which changes to meet the needs of the exercise. In other words, if you clutch the Clubbell neck in a death-maul the entire exercise, your "general tension" COMPETES with your ability to train appropriately. This is the entire goal of Selective Tension: to work well that which needs to accomplish the skill, and to rest that which will be called upon later (or in old strongman speak, this was called "Muscle Control.")
Done with perfection, it's like storing elastic energy in one part of your grip through effort on another and then releasing it at a later component of the exercise? to be stored in the former part of the grip. It's an exercise in conservation of energy. And THAT is the definition of skill, to be Efficiently Effective, or as is said by Z-Health's Dr. Cobb, "to do the right thing in the right way."
Stirring Up Strength With The Butter Churn
A helpful assistance exercise to work on your Differential Grip Stamina is to hold one Clubbell in Order Position. Begin with a lighter weight than you use for competition numbers. Now move your forearm parallel to the ground in small, tight circles while keeping the Clubbell perpendicular to the ground. The second variation is to begin lifting the Clubbell from parked position as if beginning a (Forward) Parry Cast. Hold your forearm parallel to the ground, and swing the Clubbell head in a circle, just like the first "butter churn" exercise.
Do this for 5-10 repetitions on your off days, at the end of any training for the day. Watch what happens to your numbers, and report back with your progress.
Yours in strength,
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