An argument against General Preparation

I had thought to post this in the “Long term training strategies for Youth” thread to play a little bit of the devil’s advocate in that discussion, but maybe it’s worth to strart a new one from scratch,for the food for thought possibly offered.

The following is an exctract from the book ]"Naim Suleymanoglu The Pocket Hercules" by Y.E. Turkileri ,Sportivny Press Livonia, Michigan[/i].
From pages 122-123:
This data reveals something that has not been seen in the preparation period of any lifter.We see very clearly that specific preparation is 60% and general preparation is only 40% for both years (1978-79)***.

This type of training was employed for the first time in the world with Naim.Once the effectiveness of this system was proven by 1984-85 the same system was used in the basic weighlifting education of Halil Mutlu.
His success and results speak for themselves.

In reality this preparation system was based on the hypotheses of Felix Meerson ( Plastiçeskoe Obezpeçenie Organizma,1967) and Hiden (1960-64).The basic idea was that:
“the human body is a living system in which the genes carried the biological memory but also changed in response to the environment”.
While the organism forms its memory based on its own experiences,the only way to record information into the specific memory is under the influence of external factors.In 1967 Meerson explained his theory in the following way:
“The physiological changes,brought about by responses to external factors,bring about short term adaptation. However repeated external stimuli bring about new changes and play a role in the future adaptive responses of the organism and leave macro and micro traces in the memory of the organism.”
Prolonged repetitive training sessions leave an imprint on the athlete’s body memory.These macro and micro memory imprints are the same the athlete receives from training or when competing.Hiden also submitted a hypothesis (1960-64) that had aroused interest.
According to Hiden:
“The information input from the external sources are conducted by the neurons and are either encoded in the RNA molecules that are synthesized,or form the instructions in the DNA genes to make the RNA.”
The code is used to synthesize new protein and the proteins get localized either in the cytoplasm or in the neural synapses.These proteins react when similar neural input is detected.

The neural signals transmitted to activate the muscles when an athlete does the snatch and the clean and jerk with maximum effort will have a certain frequency. This frequency will cause the formation of certain genes.The new RNA syntesized will be encoded for the proteins that will respond to the same frequency of neural impulses. As a result the proteins generated during training will respond to stimuli during competition in the same manner.

If the athlete does a variety of different exercises,the effort put into it by the athlete will be different and the frequency with which the neurons stimulate the muscles will be different. The proteins synthesized will not have the ability to respond to the stimuli generated during the classical lifts. In addition,the muscles that partecipate actively in the competition exercises will only partecipate passively in all the other exercises.

It was due to these scientific findings that Naim’s training during his first preparation period was such that the ratio of the special exercises to the general assistance exercises was larger than one.This contributed to his reaching a high level of performance at an early age.

***Naim Suleymanoglu was born in 1967 and “began his basic weighlifting education” in 1977.


Nice excerpt. I was thinking of purchasing that book and now it’s a definite.

I’m not sure I interpret that excerpt as an arguement against GPP, but rather a warning to never stray too far from the specificity of the event. For Naim, his event being the Olympic Lifts, he would always want to have some work at near full intensity year round. For a runner, they would also want to have some work near full race running intensity year round. Since lifting isn’t the runner’s event, though, I don’t think it means full intensity lifting has to be done by a runner year round.

So this excerpt could be more a confirmation of the value of Charlie’s Vertical Integration. We wouldn’t want a GPP or yearly plan to be so linear in nature that we aren’t using race-specific intensities until the latter portions of the season (a la Lydiard). I think Charlie’s recommendations in the GPP DVD pretty much avoid that pitfall with the inclusion of Acceleration work and progressively higher intensities of medball throws and weightroom lifts.

What was your overall impression of the Naim book, Pakewi?

The book contains interesting insights on WL competition world, Naim’s lifting technique,and some tables and numbers worth to look at.

This is an excellent thread and this is an excellent post!! I’d love to put my thoughts in but I’d merely offer more of the same. Summarizing my thoughts is that charlies GPP work is much more specific than a huge percentage of normal coaches who emphasize aerobic endurance and mileage in the preparation stages. One coach down here in Texas had a top 300-meter hurdler (state champ from previous year in 5A) run cross country to help with his “endurance”.

you’ve got your sourses then! :wink:

good luck with the programme!

Pakewi, I feel that it is necessary to consider the motor task parameters of the event before we determine when and how much specialization a trainee may undertake.

After speaking with Val in Chicago, in regards to early specialization, he confirmed that we must first look at the motor task parameters of the sport before we place generalizations as to when (what biological and training age) an athlete can increase percentage of SPP and so on.

Val indicated (in general terms) that a biological age of 14 years was sufficient to begin specialization in most sports. However, he was very clear in illustrating the specialization and SPP methods are not to be confused with one another. For example: a fourteen year old swimmer may spend the year training only for the sport of swimming, yet he/she may not be prepared to handle specialized training methods which place a high demand on the body.

Additionally, the nature of the sporting activity has a tremendous impact on how far GPP deviates from the sport skill. For example: for weightlifters, GPP exists primarily as any lifts other than snatches and clean and jerks. Thus, the predominance of GPP for weight lifters is very close to the sport skill itself. Alternatively, lifting weights for American Football players or swimmers is also GPP yet much more far removed from the sport skill. Accordingly, when considering various sports we must first become intimately familiar with the physiological requirements of the sport skill in order to determine what percentage of training volume can amount to SPP and at what stage of development.

Lastly, surely different athletes mature at variable rates. For this reason, certain athletes may more appropriately handle higher percentages of specialized training at earlier biological ages.

I feel that it is safe to say that the earlier a young athlete commences participation in sports, the earlier they will be prepared to begin specialization and SPP.

Does this make sense? It sounded good in my head.

Sometimes I feel like I’m reading zatsiorsky when I read your posts James.

Don’t tease me.

James (Vladimir … :smiley: ),
it sounds good!

I posted this for discussion purposes, not necessarily because I do advocate any “early specialization” in any sport career.
I still wonder though how we can benefit the most from any “cross over” effect in training for given event.That is: how does highly specialized training progressively impact a wider range of possible performance outputs.
Learning to manage properly all the variables produced just by the consideration of proximity vs. distance to and from the sport event requirements of the training means might surely be of great help in itself, heading one way or the other…

In this light I think the following paragraph from the above still deserves some attention:

If the athlete does a variety of different exercises,the effort put into it by the athlete will be different and the frequency with which the neurons stimulate the muscles will be different. The proteins synthesized will not have the ability to respond to the stimuli generated during the classical lifts. In addition,the muscles that partecipate actively in the competition exercises will only partecipate passively in all the other exercises.”

Pakewi, the material quoted above is fantastic material for consideration.

I will think on this for a while and offer my thoughts.

Alright, my first thoughts are typically visual approximations. Accordingly, in view of the breadth of special preparation methods of training funneling down towards a singularity of the ultimate expression of sport skill the motor task parameters become highly directed.

As you point out, this accute singularity of specialized skill now has the potential to increase in magnitude and the motor potential of the athlete is heightened towards other unrelated tasks then the original sport trained for.

So a rudimentary illustration is as follows:

SPP Methods>Sport Skill<Increased Motor Potential towards different tasks

More to come, as I find this to be highly thought provoking.

Beyond the cross-over effect, we must address coordination issues, as each skill learned makes each additional skill easier to learn. As relaxation and perfection are so critical to sprinting success, should sprinting skills really be learned before other skills?
Also, with the fear of “paralysis by analysis”, how do we characterize “specific”? Note in the GPP DVD how much effort I spend trying to create an environment where learning is incidental and often not apparent to the athlete.

learning without thinking…I like that concept…

Why is so much time spent on this? Why is it important for the athlete to learn without being cognitively aware of it?

Learning (skill acquisition) is a 3-stage process. Initially there will be cognitive involvement which will slow down the actions and disrupt relaxation. However, if we are talking about technique adjustments then these are presumably done in such a way that only minor adjustments are made so as not to disrupt the skill to a great extent. In this case learning can move through the three stages relatively quickly so that by the competition period the athlete is in the autonomous stage which will facilitate speed and relaxation.

What is the reasoning for the emphasis on having learning occur in such a way that the athlete is unaware?

We’ve had quite a few threads on this topic along the way. the danger is “paralysis by analysis” and the movement of action from the fast-processing hind brain to the forebrain.
If you have the GPP DVD, have a look at how naturally it all falls together.

I understand the concept, but I don’t understand the rationale for it.
Your comment about “the movement of action from the fast-processing hind brain to the forebrain,” it seems as though you are saying that once an athlete consciously thinks about a movement it is forever left in the slower-processing forebrain.

What I was alluding to previously about the 3 stages of learning is that when an athlete first learns how to perform a task he must consciously think about it as he is doing it (cognitive stage). This is what you refer to as the movement being in the forebrain.
However, the movement does not stay in this stage if proper practice is employed. The movement then goes through the associative and autonomous stages. Once in the autonomous stage the movement is pretty much automatic. Or as you say, in the hindbrain.

If you can avoid going through these stages of learning and progress directly to the autonomous stage, then that’s great. However, I would argue that this can’t be done for many skills. For example, just because a sprinter has the strength, speed, and other related qualities to come out of the blocks correctly does not mean he will do so. The athlete must understand what his goal is in order to take the appropriate action. The physiological qualities must be there as well, but without knowing what to do those qualities will go to waste.

Interested to hear your thoughts.

Every move to the forebrain presents a danger of paralysis by analysis. Where it IS necessary, it must be undertaken ( in simple steps, one item at a time) BUT where it is NOT necessary, why look for trouble later? Based on what you can see in the GPP DVD, the vast majority of learning via forebrain involves drills- which aren’t a conscious part of the competition anyway. Further, how do you duplicate the sprint form in the slow-mo required for the 3 stage learning process?

Agreed. Your point about simple steps if very important. Technique corrections should always be small, except in extreme cases.

Slow-mo is not required for the 3 stages of learning. Instead you correct the technique in a part-whole fashion. Aspects of the sprint form can be isolated and worked on using special exercises. Once this part is perfected it is incorporated into the whole skill. However, this incorporation does not always happen automatically. Often times there must be cognitive effort on the athlete’s part. This should of course be done well before the competitive season, so that by the competitive season there is no need for cognitive effort and the resulting technique is automatic.

What I understood before about your forebrain/hindbrain argument was that ALL skills must be taught this way. My understanding now is that you believe that skills should be taught this way when possible, but that sometimes cognitive (forebrain) involvement on the part of the athlete is necessary. Is this a correct summary of your theory? If so, then I agree.

Yes. That’s a good summary of my thinking.

I believe you can apply the forebrain/hindbrain to OL as well. Look at the different approaches by the different OL factions. I.e. the Russians approach versus the Bulgarians approach versus the U.S. approach. In all three various aspects of the clean are taught, albeit in different training progressions. One country likes to teach the clean from the high hang, then from below the knees, then from the ground, and finally they take all parts and put them together so that the athlete can do the entire clean. While the athlete is learning the clean from the various hang (above/below knee) positions he is also doing the front squat. Another country teaches this progression by doing the front squats at the same time the athlete is doing pulls which he later progresses to cleans. Yet another country teaches the entire pull and then the entire clean while doing front squats and they don’t worry about training the movement in parts but rather training it as a whole. Other countries teach the deadlift first then the front squat then the OL pulls and finally OL cleans.

I am always thinking when trying to learn these complex movements bc if I don’t then I will screw them up one way or another. So for complex movements I believe you have to think about them while doing them as you learn them. Later on they will become automatic and you don’t have to worry about this. I believe the sprinting movement is very simplistic in nature that requires minor adjustments as an athlete progresses to higher stages. This is why hill work in the GPP DVD is so ingenious bc it teaches the athlete to get into a triple extenstion at a lower angle so that when the athlete uses blocks on the track the movement becomes automatic. When coming out of the blocks I know so many athletes that are afraid to wait until the last possible moment before putting their foot/leg down to avoid falling over in their first step out of the blocks (with the rear block leg). When an athlete gradually uses steaper and steaper hills he doesn’t have to worry about falling on is face bc the movement becomes automatic (The steaper and steaper hills isn’t in the GPP DVD but it makes sense to me to do this the more advance an athlete comes out of the blocks). Just look at BJ’s 35 degree angle coming out of the blocks, I believe Marion Jones uses this same angle as well (she said so in a science of speed documentary). It is vary easy for a sprinter to fall into the paralysis by analysis but the hill work helps to eliminate this.

P.S. I believe at the 2004 Vancouver Seminar that CF mentioned something about Perdita Felician changing her blocks just before her hurdle race final at the olympics and this lead her to be in a state of Paralysis by Analysis that ended up costing her the race. The block change led her to start slower than the winner of that race, you can see in the race to the first hurdle that she knows she is behind and tries to catch up to her competition. By doing so she accelerates faster than she normally does and misjudges the takeoff for the first hurdle. I believe CF also mentioned that the cell phones being given to the athletes also led some potential paralysis by analysis by having family, friends, and especially the CBC host/broadcasters phoning in to the athlete and saying that they looked a little off in their heat and that maybe their technique could be better had they done this or that. Thereby leading to Paralysis by Analysis.