Recently I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about the disillusionment I was feeling towards the way in which members of the fitness industry use social media. As he rightly pointed out, there is the perfect storm between fitness trainers, who are typically loud-spoken extroverted people, and social media, which gives them the platform to publicise their views, oftentimes as a self-proclaimed expert. Since the Covid-19 global pandemic this perfect storm seems to be only worsening.

HOME WORKOUTS

Initially, at the start of lockdown, we had the onset of daily HIIT classes you could do at home. On the face of it, daily at-home classes taught online was a great way to keep people accountable to their fitness goals. I’m proud to say at Rigs Fitness we delivered broadcast quality classes via our online streaming of Rigs Remote, offering our full class timetable, cleverly adapted to be completed at home with minimal equipment. Unfortunately, fitness ‘experts’ such as Joe Wicks were championing daily ‘HIIT’ classes.

There’s two issues with that: 1) HIIT should not be completed daily and 2) these classes weren’t even true HIIT.

BACK IN THE GYM

Subsequently, since gyms have re-opened we are being constantly subjected to, via fitness trainers on social media, a phenomenon I have termed ‘chasing stupidity’. By that I mean the chasing and championing of:

  1. A tough workout – any coach can programme a tough, puke-inducing workout. It really doesn’t require much skill at all. 500 burpees for time would leave even the fittest athlete in a mess.
  2. Getting sweaty – let’s just confirm once and for all that getting sweaty is in no way an indicator of how good a workout was.
  3. DOMS – crippling DOMS to the point where muscles are sore to touch for 72 hours following the workout, meaning even day-to-day tasks are a struggle let alone completing another workout.
  4. Fitness testing – ostensibly a useful tool in the trainers toolkit; however, at this particular moment in time it is largely redundant. Did you get less fit because you didn’t train properly for 4 months? Yes. Do you need to complete a test to confirm this? No.

So, what should your workouts instead look like?

GENERAL PHYSICAL PREPAREDNESS

Instead of spending your time ‘chasing stupidity’, the first few weeks back in the gym and, hopefully, under a barbell, should be focused on General Physical Preparedness (GPP) or what is sometimes referred to in the literature as General Physical Training (GPT), depending upon your source.

GPP is the ‘time to build a solid physiological foundation in order to enable the athlete to tolerate training loads seen later in the season’ [1].

It is ‘intended to provide balanced physical conditioning in endurance, strength, speed, flexibility and other basic factors of fitness, whereas the SPP concentrates on exercises which are more specific to the particular sport’ [2].

The key point here is that GPP is, as the name suggests, general in nature. This means that, in practice, GPP training can look very similar from sport to sport.

  • This means that all GPP programmes, regardless of sport, should include the fundamental movement patterns:
  • Squat
  • Hinge
  • Push (vertical & horizontal)
  • Pull (vertical & horizontal)
  • Loaded carry (if, like me, you are a proponent of Dan John’s work)

I would add to this, where appropriate:

  • Some form of direct core work (anti-extension, anti-rotation & anti-flexion)
  • Single leg variations
  • Throw
  • Jump

For coaches, there is the opportunity to be creative in programming these movements (please don’t read that as 21-15-9 or variations thereof), being mindful of the need to keep volume and intensity low, gradually increasing it as you progress through the weeks. The break from the barbell necessitated for many during lockdown has provided coaches with interesting programming challenges as gyms re-open. Put simply, there’s a right way, and a wrong way, to return to training. Instead of ‘chasing stupidity’, likely resulting in injury at some point down the line, the focus should be on GPP training, regardless of sport.

References

[1] Bompa, Periodization Training for Sports

[2] Siff & Verkoshansky, Supertraining