At some point in time a person has started an exercise program to get in better shape, to be healthier, to stay fit. Starting is the first step on your fitness journey, but many times people do not know where to start or how to start. There are thousands of workout programs out there floating around the internet, how does the average person know what's the best for them and which one to pick.
Building and exercise program is just like building a pyramid or a house, the foundation needs to be strong enough, wide enough and sturdy enough to hold the structure that is going to be build on top of it. A house would not be sturdy if the foundation was small and incomplete and the above structure was bigger, eventually the building would collapse, the pyramid would tumble. The same principle goes for exercise if the foundation is not optimal then eventually the program will drive a collapse or fall back, this can be in the form of injury,plateaus, staleness, and even detraining. I have seen this occur more often than not, especially in young athletes who want to jump into certain aspects of training right off the bat. The most efficient way to start an exercise program is to build a big and strong base before any other training.
General preparation programs are just that, they build the base up, they prepare the body for more demands further down in the program. The biggest component is the aerobic energy system, the ability to produce ATP (energy) constantly. If this aspect is not properly trained then the metabolic function will be at a deficit leading to poor energy production and further not being able for the muscles and the body to meet the demands of the intensity as the program advances. The aerobic system provides constant energy for the anaerobic system and if we predominantly use the anaerobic over and over with minimal rest the aerobic system is always contributing energy if it, if not the quality and quantity of the anaerobic system will suffer. Take a 16oz glass, you can fill it with 16 oz of water, now you start your program with a general preparation phase that focuses on work capacity the glass will increase now you have a 24oz glass, it still holds 16oz of water but there is room to hold more water. More water equals more work. On the other side if you do not build a base aerobic capacity you will try to fit 24 oz of water in a 16oz glass and that will overflow and some of the water will be lost. To put emphasis on the foundation is key for every program, make sure to build a solid base.
Besides the demand for energy and the training of the aerobic system a preparation phase also gives the ability of muscles, tendons and ligaments to adapt to load. Muscles are highly metabolic contracting tissue and with high volume and reps placed on them they adapt appropriately to handle the stress placed on the body, with higher volume comes more overall stress placed on the system. For example a 150 pound person performs 15 reps of pushups and body weight squats, roughly 4,500lbs of total volume moved in just two exercises. Now it might be a little less due to not all 150lbs being moved in a pushup, but you get the point, it's about the total training volume the body is put under and teaches it to grow to the demands. The importance of strengthening tendons, bone and ligaments is so that injuries are reduced and the body can handle loads of stress that is put on it. For example sprinters can generate up to 5 times their body weight when driving the foot through the ground, runners can generate about 3 times body weight. That means that if you go for a run, your foot, ankle, knee, hip have to absorb all that force, and if it cannot properly absorb the force then injuries occur, or eventually the body will start to break down and you won't be able to run. In a general preparation program it is essential to build up capacity of the body to absorb force. This can also be done using isometrics and eccentrics, training the body to handle forces over a duration of time. Just like marathoners preparing for a race they build up in distance and volume, this is so they can give the body adaptation time between loads and can adapt appropriately. If a runner decided to do a long run right at the start of training, they would not have the ability to produce that much energy, because the body has never seen that distance in a while, and the tissues of the body can be overloaded and need a longer time to recover and adapt, right there you are losing training time and adaptations.
If starting a new workout program, or starting as a beginner it is recommended that you build capacity before you start training other qualities, throughout a training year I like to hit a GPP cycle 2-3 times to maintain aerobic performance and keep building a bigger base.
Recommendations: General Preparedness Program
3-4 Days a week
Full Body Training
Aerobic Energy System focus
30+ secs of work
Use isometrics to build tendon and ligament tension
Rep range is 12-30 reps (duration is over 30s)
Circuit Style training
Pick 5-10 exercise and go through them continuously
Total Volume is key
Main Focus is to build energy systems to produce ATP constantly