General physical preparation should form the foundation of your athletic development program.
There is a common trend taking place in training for all sports. Players and coaches often design the training they do in the weight room to closely mimic specific sport movements. Often it may feel necessary to make an exercise excessively sport specific to achieve carryover to the sport itself. However, a stronger focus on a concept known as ‘General Physical Preparation’ (GPP), will help prevent premature overspecialization, followed by quick increases in performance followed by stagnation. GPP involves increasing all of your fitness qualities which may be applied to wide variety of sports. This includes strength, speed, power, endurance, flexibility/mobility, and overall motor coordination. It also involves ensuring each individual athletes’ movement dysfunctions and weaknesses are narrowed in on. This article will discuss the importance of developing a well-rounded athlete.
Develop General Physical Preparation by Playing a Variety of Sports
The first step in developing a well-rounded athlete begins with learning a variety of skills and abilities that are best developed in an actual sport environment. A common point of debate amongst parents and coaches revolves around whether or not players should specialize in one sport from an early age if they want to play beyond high school.
In their youth, athletes should be learning and playing many sports, and working to develop all fitness qualities while training. As an example, if a young basketball player develops a larger base of athletic abilities from other sports, they will master basketball specific skills to a higher degree. You could ask Steve Nash if soccer helped him in the long run with his footwork, endurance, and creativity, or Chase Budinger if his strong background in volleyball helped develop his power and vertical leap while on the basketball court.
“I’m comfortable (with basketball) footwork because I played soccer,” said Bryant. “From changing up rhythms to foot speed, to being comfortable with having my right foot as my pivot foot and my left foot as my pivot foot.” – Kobe Bryant
I understand that once a player falls in love with a particular sport, all they want to do is play that sport. As such, they believe that any time not spent practicing will put them far behind their peers. I firmly believe that all athletes should dabble in traditional Olympic sports such as gymnastics, martial arts/wrestling, or various track & field events during childhood and adolescence. Participation in these sports will provide them with a well-rounded foundation of athletic abilities such as strength, speed, power, endurance, and movement patterns on which to build a high level of athleticism.
Be Smart with Your Time in the Weight Room
In the weight room specifically, youth athletes should be performing full body movements, without worrying about ‘sport specificity’. For example, all athletes should squat, but don’t squat only a quarter of the way down just because that is about as much as you’ll load your hips in most game situations. Not only will a partial range of motion neglect many large muscle groups that are responsible for jumping higher, and accelerating faster, it will also hinder the maintenance or development of the fundamental human movement patterns that will keep you healthy over your entire playing career, and in life. Furthermore, you must give your body a buffer zone of mobility, stability, and strength for the moments that you DO find yourself squatting deep in a game (i.e on defense in basketball, or digging volleyball).
As another example, don’t perform countless overhead tricep extensions in order to mimic a basketball jump shot. This is an isolation movement that works one joint, and may, over time, lead to elbow injuries. It is not a great use of your time if you only have a few hours a week to lift weights. A better option in a general physical preparation program would be a bigger ‘bang for your buck’ exercise such as a dumbbell chest press. The dumbbell chest press will strengthen many muscle groups (including the triceps) at once. It will also allow you to spend less time in the weight room.
Don’t be too sport specific
The vast majority of your ‘out of sport’ training should not be too sport specific. If you think about it – all the actions you are performing on the court in games, practices, and scrimmages are already very sport specific, therefore it is necessary to use the majority of the performance work you do off the court to balance your body. This balance will keep you healthy and allow you to reach your full genetic potential. However, if you have maintained a very solid base of general physical preparation, and as you get closer to the playing season, or are entering a high level of collegiate or professional competition, then you can start gearing your conditioning, strength exercises, and speed/power development a little closer to the demands that you would see in the actual sport.
All athletes should learn how to properly squat, hip hinge, lunge, push, pull, rotate, jump, and land. All of these movements appear in most sports in one form or another. Become proficient and strong with these movements, and they will become less energy consuming in a live game scenario.
-Play different sports in childhood and adolescence!
-Athletes of all sports should learn how to properly squat, hip hinge, lunge, push, pull, rotate, jump, and land. Learn these skills through a variety of sports and full body movements in the weight room.
-Games, Practices, and Scrimmages are already sport specific. Use your time off the court to balance your body to stay healthy, and reach your genetic potential.
-Please e-mail me at email@example.com if you have any questions about how you may integrate these ideas into your program. If you are in the Vancouver, BC area and are looking for assistance, we are happy to help!
Baker, J., Cobley, S., Fraser-Thomas, J. (2009) How much do we know about early sport specialization? Not Much!. High Ability Studies 20(1)
Hartmann, H., Wirth, K., Klusemann, M., Dalic, J., Matuschek, C., Schmidtbleicher, D. Influence of Squatting Depth on Jumping Performance. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: December 2012 – Volume 26 – Issue 12 – p 3243–3261
John, D., Tsatsouline, P. (2011). Easy Strength. Dragon Door Publications
Siff, M. (2004). Super Training. Super Training Institute
Arroyave, Luis (2006). “NBA’s Kobe Bryant almost became a soccer player”.Chicago Tribune.