General and Specific Conditioning for Kettlebells

Man lifting globe barbell. Getty images

While constructing your kettlebell workouts, it’s beneficial to have a working knowledge of some of the guiding principles of training. Since applied knowledge is power, this information can empower you to receive more benefit from your goal-setting and achievement of your fitness goals.


GPP stand for General Physical Preparation, which is the foundation of any fitness program and aims to build the individual qualities that makes movements effective.

These are physical qualities such as speed, strength, power, flexibility, balance, coordination, accuracy, postural alignment/core strength, and skill. It is called general because these are things that every person and every athlete requires in order to build specific skills upon. Without adequate development of GPP, you won’t get very far into the specific skills of the sport or activity, which is SPP

SPP means Specific Physical Preparation and includes the unique movement skills that relate to a specific activity and can only be developed to a high degree by doing the specific activity you want to be good in. For example. a great athlete who can run, jump, throw, catch (GPP skills) still needs to play the game of baseball if he wants to be a Baseball player. Playing baseball is the SPP. A kettlebell lifter and a rock climber both need grip and finger strength but have very different Specific techniques for developing and using that hand strength.


Although Kettlebell lifting is beneficial for general fitness conditioning (GPP), there are also specific movement skills which are unique to kettlebell lifting. The Hand Insertion during Clean and Snatch is an example of an SPP, a sports-specific skill/technique for kettlebells. 

For a serious or professional-level kettlebell lifter, such as a competitive Kettlebell Sport athlete, kettlebell training becomes almost entirely SPP and therefore he must incorporate additional movements outside of kettlebell training to develop well-rounded fitness via GPP methods.


Like any good athlete, a kettlebell specialist will need to do other activities, be it playing sports, juggling, lifting barbells, bodyweight exercise, grip training, stretching, running, skipping rope, climbing, swimming and so on. These activities strengthen particular weaknesses and develops an all-over more well-rounded athlete. In turn, enhanced GPP conditioning will allow the Kettlebell specialist to improve her performance in kettlebell lifting.

Depending upon the stage of training, you may do mostly GPP exercise or mostly SPP exercise or an equal amount of the two. 

In the short term, motion is lotion, movement is fitness. As long as you have a method and movements that you enjoy and will do consistently, it is less important what movements you actually do. All roads lead to Rome and there are many paths towards achieving fitness.  

Unless you are a specialist, getting paid to perform specific skills or have specific sport goals, it is usually a good idea to be more than a 1-trick pony.

Doing more than just kettlebells, or just running or just swimming or just bodybuilding is a good idea for long-term sustainable health, fitness, and well-being. No matter how good something may be as a stand-alone, too much “work” and not enough “play” makes Jack and Jane a very dull boy and girl!

Mix it up a little and pay attention to including some of your favorite GPP exercises along with your kettlebell lifts. Even better, choose a few of your least favorite GPP exercises (the ones that really make you “suck wind”). Hate burpees? Good reason to do them. Don’t like to run? Go out for a jog once per month or per week and see how much carryover your kettlebell training has upon less practiced activities.

Build with the General, refine with the Specific and continue to include both kinds of training to keep your skills sharp and your fitness high.

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