Training for any sport can be broken down into 2 distinct phases; GPP and SPP. 

These 2 phases play an important role in our training, our ability to perform, and our ability to make long term progress over our entire “career” as amateur or professional athletes. 

Without correct structure in the phases, our *fitness will suffer and so will our performance.

* The term ‘fitness’ has 2 definitions;

  1. The state of being physically fit and healthy
    In sports science this is GPP
  2. Our ability to fulfill a particular task or role
    In sports science this is SPP

It’s important that as athletes we do not neglect our GPP or our SPP, as we need both to perform. The important part is the timing with which we approach these two types of fitness.


General Physical Preparation

The general fitness (definition 1) part of training serves a few different purposes.

  1. It increases our feeling of wellbeing. 
  2. It increases our work capacity: How much training stress we can put ourselves under.
  3. It corrects any part of our general fitness that may have been neglected during our last SPP phase.

The better our GPP, the more easily we will be able to train and recover from our SPP and with lower risk of overtraining and/or overuse injury.

During this phase you should be looking to do as many forms of exercise as possible, even if they reach far outside of your sport to become as well-rounded of an athlete as possible. 

Specific Physical Preparation

The specific fitness (definition 2) part of our training serves 1 very specific purposes

  1. It increases our sport-specific fitness. 

The principle driving the SPP phase is: S.A.I.D (specific adaptation to imposed demand). In simple words, this means that our body will adapt to exactly what we ask it to adapt to. The more specifically we ask it to adapt to our sport during the SPP phase, the better we will perform in our sport

What you’ll notice is that during the SPP phase, there is a significant decrease in overall training volume, as the intensity and specificity has been increased to match more closely the demands of what we’re training for. Your going to put a lot of ‘1-rep max freediving demands’ on the body & mind, so everything else needs to be reduced to allow recovery and adaptation to that specific demand.

Balancing the two phases

It’s very important that we do not neglect either of these phases in our training. You need to build both areas to be successful, and it’s important to understand when and how to do this. What are the guidelines for building a training plan that meets our GPP and SPP requirements. 

We need to start every training cycle with a GPP phase. We need to build our bodies back up to an acceptable level and this means lots of variety in our training. We need to do;

  • General Apnea training to maintain our breath-hold
  • Cardio training to stay healthy and build our ability to recover from exercise
  • Strength training to build any muscles that need building
  • Flexibility training to rebalance and loosen the body 
  • Other sports to improve our athletic aptitudes.

The thing that we must remain aware of is that all this variety is good for our GPP, but it’s bad for our SPP. 

You see, the variety in adaptive stimulus found in a well planned GPP is what keeps us healthy and balanced. However, when it comes to performing in a specific sport, we don’t want to be balanced. We want to be finely tuned to the task at hand. 

During SPP, we want to drop this variety to the bare minimum. We should look to expose ourselves only to “S.A.I.D” stimulus. Basically, if it’s not part of the sport, it doesn’t belong, in any significant amount, in the SPP phase. 

This is because, the ‘more demands’ we put on our body, the more confused it gets about what to adapt to. Your body will literally ask itself; should I get good at running, yoga, rock-climbing or freediving?

If you’re training for freediving (like setting a PB, or a competition), you want you body to understand very clearly that; It should get good at freediving, and this means “cutting the fluff”


Healthy variety or fluff

A common word used for ‘accessory training done at the wrong time is fluff’. During GPP, what we’d call healthy variation, becomes ‘fluff’ during SPP. 

Your job during SPP phases is to get rid of as much fluff as possible. Some fluff is good, as it keeps us healthy and motivated, but this fluff should be at the minimum required to achieve those 2 things.

This is where some common mistakes come into a lot of freedive training that I’ve observed during my time freediving in Canada, the U.K, and particularly during my time in Dahab


Common mistakes

Many freedivers come to places like Dahab and want to do as much as possible to get fit for their upcoming deep-dive, or competition. They actually end up doing extra fluff.

They begin doing double the yoga, start doing new forms of strength training, go on mountain hikes, go for swims, and snorkeling, add in a morning meditation routine, etc… They train as many things as they can. 

I’ve also spoken to countless people doing a ‘popular online coaching program’ which is actually built on fluff: 5-days a week of finswimming training with a snorkel during the last month of training before competition. 

These ‘other’ non-freediving forms of training compete directly with your “S.A.I.D” fitness for freediving.  

This GPP focus is a potential-limiting mistake that conflicts directly with the fitness a freediver should be trying to cultivate: which is to do a 1-rep maximum performance in their desired discipline(s): Generally speaking for freedivers interested in progressing their apnea performance in either depth, distance, or time.


What to do about it

Well, far from competition or PBs, you need to train GPP. You want to get as globally fit and healthy as possible, and become as well-rounded of an athlete as you can be. Training with high variability and across multiple modalities is great for you, and very underrated in sports performances. 

However, as time goes on and you get nearer the time of your competition, PB attempts, or ‘peak season’, you want to reduce variability as much as possible. Cut anything that’s ‘fluff’ to a bare-minimum, and focus on training as ‘specifically’ as possible for your desired outcome. 

Of course, these are just guidelines, and the process should be thought of like a smooth transition into a freefall. You shouldn’t just suddenly stop finning at freefall depth. A smooth freefall is a transition between hard finning off the surface to gradually softer and more spaced out fining until you can sink at the correct speed.

There’s not really an abrupt line between GPP and SPP where a sudden switch is made. Depending on your individual circumstance, you might need to make different adjustments over time, but the concept remains the same.

At the end of your GPP phase, you need to gradually reduce training volume, gradually increase specificity (if it’s not your sport, it’s not specific), and gradually increase intensity nearer to your goal.

The point is to let your body ‘adapt to the imposed demand of freediving’, by limiting the amount of imposed non-freediving demands.

Don’t force it to choose between “freediving, hiking, strength-training, Cardio, yoga, pranayama, or anything else. Give your body 1 option: Getting good at freediving, by training as specifically as possible.