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Simple GPP Workout With An Exercise Rowing Machine

Often times strength and power athletes such as bodybuilders, powerlifters, and weight lifters focus the majority of their efforts on exercises that specifically develop size and strength and often neglect other areas of their fitness such as endurance and flexibility. I know I’ve been guilty of this in the past, especially during a heavy bulk up training phase when my main training emphasis is on getting as big and strong as possible.

While this type of focused training may work for a while, you’ll eventually reach a point of diminishing returns. You can be as strong as an ox, but if your endurance is poor you’ll never have the work capacity to be able to apply that strength to real world situations.

 Enter GPP

GPP stands for “General Physical Preparedness” which means your overall level of fitness. Basically it is a combination of all aspects of fitness; endurance, strength, flexibility, power, speed, and balance. By incorporating a solid GPP program into your workout routine will help expose your personal weaknesses and allow you to strengthen them and improve your overall fitness level and training performance.

All exercise will help to some degree to improve your GPP. But chances are that if you are reading this then the majority of your workouts are based around weight training. So incorporating some forms of muscular endurance and flexibility training into your workouts may be the best way to go.

The reality is that most people are just out of shape so basic cardio type workouts done on a treadmill, exercise bike, or elliptical are ok at first. But within the matter of weeks you’ll max out the benefits of these exercises and at that point they will not do much to improve your training performance, other then helping to burn off excess bodyfat.

Exercise like running does improve GPP, but for a lot of folks it is just too intense and hard on the joints. For me running causes bad shin splints and a lot of heavy impact on the knees and ankles. I’m 230 lbs. and 5’6 ½ tall so I’m not exactly the poster boy for “Runners World” and I prefer to do lower impact forms of cardiovascular exercise. 

If you’ve read other articles about GPP you’ve most likely heard of sled dragging while this is a fantastic way to improve work capacity it is not always practical for those of us who train at a typical commercial gym.     sled dragging

One of my favorite cardio machines that is available at most gyms is the rowing machine (ergo-meter). This is great low for improving your GPP. It also helps to strengthen all the muscles along the posterior chain (i.e. back, glutes, and hamstrings) and is a very challanging cardiovascular workout with zero impact on the joints.

One of the ways that I like to incorporate the rowing machine into my workouts is to do a 10 minutes before my weight training workouts and another 10 minutes after. 

For the first 10 minutes before my workout I just go at a moderate pace and use this as a general warm up for my weight training workout. The second 10 minute rowing session after my weight training workout I’ll go at a higher intensity level and really push myself.

I also like to vary the way I row to hit different muscle groups.

    I’ll start with 1 minute doing regular rowing pulling the handle to the mid-section, this works the entire back.

    Then I’ll go for 1 minute pulling the handle to my chest, works the middle back.

    1 minute pulling the handle to my chin with the elbows held high, sort of like a face pull, this targets the traps and upper back.

    1 minute of rowing to the mid-section with a reverse grip, this targets the lower lats more so.

    1 minute with a reverse grip and bicep curling the handle to my chin. This provides a great pump in the arms.

I’ll repeat this sequence twice for a total of 10 minutes of rowing session each time.

If you find that the resistance of the rowing machine is not hard enough, you can attach a rubber fitness band to the machine and wrap it around the rowing handle to provide additional resistance.


To improve flexibility I will perform a couple stretches for each bodypart that I worked during my weight training workout. This is something that is so simple to do, but most people just ignore it. One of the benefits of stretching directly after a bodypart is trained is better recuperation, recovery, and improved muscle growth through fascial stretching.