A 12-Week GPP Programme for Kettlebell Sport Athletes
I often get asked what the best form of general physical preparedness (GPP) for kettlebell sport is. Most people would like a quick “silver bullet” solution and get frustrated by my answer: it depends.
The truth is, the variables of exercise selection, intensity, and duration are many. Each athlete is a unique and beautifully complex individual. There isn’t a golden programme that will sort everything out for everyone, and this holds true in kettlebell sport as much as any other discipline.
GPP training keeps a kettlebell sport athlete healthy, injury-free, and away from boredom.
The first thing I’d stress is no amount of GPP will make you a better lifter if you do not spend the lion’s share of your training on your kettlebell sport lifts. If you are short on time or low on energy, your focus will have to be on your specific work, and if GPP can’t be done that day - so be it.
The aim of this article is to enable you to make the correct choices when undertaking your own GPP programme for kettlebell sport. I have included a template to navigate this side of your training fairly independently here – but don’t forget it isn’t tailored specifically for you and as such, might not suit your personal training needs. I have, however, included some coaching points to help you personalise it for yourself as much as possible.
Why GPP Matters
GPP training doesn’t just improve your lifting: it will keep you healthy, injury-free, and away from boredom. We compete in a cyclic power endurance sport, and although the competitive lifts cover the basic pushing and pulling patterns of the human body in a relatively balanced way, millions of repetitions of the same three movements will be performed over your career. This can lead to overuse injuries and mental staleness. You need GPP to stave off these physical imbalances and keep the mind fresh.
"If you’re serious about competing, you will need much greater focus and precision when choosing how to approach your assistance work."
Personally, I like to keep my choice of exercises varied, with movement patterns that are missing from the competitive lifts like rotational and single legwork. I tend not to work on pure strength development in GPP workouts as they should be completed straight after kettlebell sport-specific training. If you want to develop your overall strength, set a period of time aside during the year to do so as pre-season training, far away from the competitive period.
Generally, I favour exercises that counteract the main lifts, like pull-ups to balance all the overhead work, and wheel rollouts to extend the spine. For extra cardio, I include running sessions for a strong aerobic base and to get people outdoors. You will see examples of all of these exercises in the programme given here.
Questions to Consider Before Starting
Before we dive in, there are a few questions I ask any athlete who approaches me for help with their GPP. Consider them carefully before starting.
- What is your current level in the sport? If you are a beginner, you would do best to use your allotted GPP time for practicing technique drills to improve the efficiency of your lifts. More advanced athletes, on the other hand, should look to incorporate some variety in their training to become more athletically well-rounded.
- What is your current aim in the sport? If you’re a recreational athlete, then GPP can be extremely varied, with no need for a particularly strict and specific schedule. Conversely, if you’re serious about competing and looking to take your game to a professional level, you will need much greater focus and precision when choosing how to approach your assistance work.
- How old are you and do you have any injury history? Age, with all due respect to veteran lifters, is not just a number. It will likely affect recovery and dictate how fast or slow you’ll be able to make progress. Likewise, injury history will affect exercise selection and intensity in your programming.
- What do you do for a living? How are your stress levels? Very few people in the West (if any) can afford to be full time kettlebell sport athletes. If you’re working a desk job for eight hours a day you will have postural issues to consider when selecting exercises. If you’re a builder hitting the gym after a 12-hour hard labour shift, you might not be able to tolerate a huge amount of volume in that session. Stress levels will also affect performance and recovery, so it’s crucial to monitor all of these things regularly.
By answering all of these questions, you can begin to navigate your training down a path uniquely suitable for you. As always, if you are interested in kettlebell sport, make sure you find a reputable coach to help you with technique, programming, equipment, and recovery strategies. And if you have any questions about this programme in particular, be it exercise definition, execution, or anything else, feel free to contact me. I am more than happy to help.
It’s time to get started. I hope you will find this useful in implementing your own GPP programme for kettlebell sport.