Aerobic GPP Block: A Review
Having attended an extremely interesting seminar from William Wayland a couple of weeks ago, plus being in a bit of a rut with my own training, I decided to employ the Aerobic General Physical Preparedness (GPP) block, the first block of Cal Dietz’s Triphasic Training, for the past two weeks . This was unlike any training I had ever previously done and, in all honesty, was a welcome break from intense lifting. But what did it involve? And did it work?
The main goal of the Aerobic GPP block is to increase an athlete’s functional reserve range, that is, the difference between their resting heart rate and their lactate threshold. For example, an athlete with a resting heart rate of 60 beats per minute (bpm) and lactate threshold of 160bpm has a functional reserve range of 100. By simultaneously decreasing the athlete’s resting heart rate and increasing their lactate threshold, their functional reserve range is increased. An athlete with a bigger functional reserve range can handle more stress and so can train more .
This is achieved through cellular adaptations – muscle cells will build more mitochondria and there is an enlargement of the heart and vascular system. These cellular adaptations are extremely important because all energy systems rely on the aerobic energy system – a more developed aerobic energy system allows the phosphocreatine stores to be replenished faster allowing for more maximum efforts . This training block therefore sets up the athlete nicely for more intense training to come.
The element of this training block that everybody likes to focus on (and who can blame them!) is the mouth taping during training. Through forcing your body to only nasal breathe, you are manipulating your nervous system into parasympathetic dominance (rest and recover) which is important for oxygen uptake and deeper breathing. Additionally, nasal breathing has been shown to increase vaso-dilation and improved blood pressure values . Within an athlete population, this method is particularly useful for those that participate in sports where they have to wear gumshields meaning that mouth breathing may be restricted.
Please note – mouth taping is different to wearing an ‘altitude mask’. Mouth taping restricts the athlete to nasal only breathing. An ‘altitude mask’ aims to promote a hypoxic environment though only succeeds in making breathing harder through increased resistance; it is both a waste of time and money.
There is also some literature which supports the notion that nasal only breathing may improve exercise induced asthma as ‘nasal breathing increases the respiratory system’s ability to warm and humidify the inspired air compared to oral breathing and reduces the drying and cooling effects of the increased ventilation during exercise’ .
The way in which I implemented the Aerobic GPP block was to perform 3 Escalating Density Training (EDT) sessions per week for the 2 week block (6 sessions in total). Each session consisted of three exercise pairings performed for an 8 minute set, with mouth taped, alternating between 1 rep of each exercise with a load of approximately 50% of my 1RM for the entire 8 minutes, aiming to keep my heart rate (HR) at 160bpm.
An example session looked like:
- Trap Bar Deadlift + Strict Press (8 minutes of 1 rep each alternating)
- Dumbbell RDLs + Ring Row (8 minutes of 1 rep each alternating)
- Goblet Squat + Push Up (8 minutes of 1 rep each alternating)
The pairings aimed to hit as many muscle groups as possible, with a lower/upper body split in each pairing. Having two lower body exercises paired together would likely be too fatiguing and defeat the aerobic intent of this type of training.
The proof is in the pudding right?
As can be seen from the images above, I managed to decrease my resting heart rate from 57bpm at the start of the aerobic block to 48bpm at the end of the aerobic block – a percentage decrease of 15.7%.
I am very pleased with these results – this is a significant decrease in a period of only two weeks, yet is in line with the results other coaches have experienced (in some cases coaches have reported athletes achieving percentage decreases of over 20%).
Nevertheless, despite these improvements, I am still some way off the 39bpm RHR Cal Dietz requires of his repeat sprint ability athletes. It will be interesting to the results of the athletes I intend to programme this for, and my own results the next time I run this block.
In conclusion, the aerobic GPP block as outlined by Cal Dietz provides a welcome break from intense training blocks, though still keeps you in the gym, and so compliance may be higher amongst athletes who hate running. Although novel, there is significant extant literature supporting the use of mouth taping throughout this block – just don’t be surprised when people give you funny looks whilst you are training. My results would suggest that this method of training is effective in decreasing resting heart rate. I’d be interested to know your results if you do undertake this training block. Next up is the Lactate GPP block – time to feel the burn!
References C. Dietz & B. Peterson, Triphasic Training (2012).  C. Dietz, ‘Triphasic Training GPP Aerobic Training Concepts Part 1 + Part 2’, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjJaGxTLns4 (accessed 25/09/2018).  W. Wayland, ‘Aerobic, Mouth Taping and Lactate GPP Circuits, http://www.powering-through.com/aerobic-mouth-taping-lactate-gpp-circuits/ (accessed 25/09/2018).  A. R. Morton et al., ‘Comparison of Maximal Oxygen Consumption with Oral and Nasal Breathing’, in Australian Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 27 (3), pp. 51-5.