Starting from the Bottom (Now We Here): When General Physical Preparation Matters

Professional Nihilism?

After wiping the tears and coming to the stark realization of our (ir)relevance in performance, we must ask where do we fit in? Do we matter?

I’ve asked myself this question many times. It is hard to answer when tactical over-utilization begets repetitive stress injuries; a poor night’s sleep, Slurpees, and donuts make someone ill; or a contact play ends a career. What could I have done differently? What was my role?

Though these questions have required skill development in special physical preparedness, sports science, and stress management; improving general qualities is pertinent in certain scenarios. It is these times in which rehab and training are of utmost importance, and we regain our relevance.

When GPP Matters

Our skills shine in the following instances:


Injuries that affect special methods and beyond are our bread-n-butter. Inability to task modify is a call to increase one’s resiliency via general methods.


Boo Schexnayder once said that in-season training provides contrast from the sport. This axiom is fundamental to general methods and defines the off-season’s intent. The off-season is where general methods compose training intensity while skill acquisition acquiesces a lower-intensity approach.

Low Days

Don’t expect to learn how to front squat on game day.

Cognitive resources are limited. Therefore, when special tasks take precedence, learning general methods must cease.

Low days are perfect for employing general methods because 1) cognitive resources are freed, and 2) general methods provide contrast and variety from special methods. These reasons are why rehabilitation methods are better served on low days.

High Days

Want to make your high days higher? Move some weight. Adding general intensity may bolster workload to a small degree, and there are possible benefits of post-activation potentiation.


Indiana broke his right 5th metatarsal, was in a walking boot, and couldn’t hoop. Our goal was to get him back to playing basketball at a high level.

“Starting at the End” is still our framework in the sense that we ought to select the highest level task he can perform along the following continuum:

Basic Constituents → Gross Movements → Capacity → Power → Terminal Progressions. 

Let’s apply this continuum to Indiana.

If you watched him play prior to his injury, one commonality was lacking explosiveness when shuffling or jumping off of his right side. Defensively, he’d get beat taken to his left, and his offensive skillset was masterfully designed around pushing off his left leg.

Developing right-sided skills was his rehabilitation goal.

Viewing his entire program would make for too long a post, so let’s only apply “Starting from the Bottom” to the lateral shuffle.

We can look no further to Patrick Beverley (#2 for the Rockets) to see the shuffle at perfection.

Basic Constituents

Since Indy was non-weight-bearing, we started with basic constituents. This portion utilizes manual, nonmanual, and rehabilitative techniques to restore fundamental mobility and motor control.

When non-weight-bearing, what lateral shuffle components can be performed?

  • Foot pronation
  • Hip abduction
  • Trunk positioning

Since Indy had full foot and ankle mobility, we employed frontal plane tasks to create a basic shuffle framework. The move below incorporates the aforementioned components:

Gross Movements

Indy’s next doctor visit cleared him for weight-bearing activities sans running. We next progressed to more complex movements.

It is important to keep “basic constituent” elements alive during this phase to have some technical carryover to gross movements. We employed these on low days because of cognitive demand and their low-intensity nature.

We progressed first to a standing variation of our prior task (as shown by my son, Trevor Rappa):

Eventually progressing to a dynamic version:

On our high days, we load the frontal plane to improve tissues needed for shuffling (courtesy of Eric Cressey):

Capacity and Power

Now that Indiana has an idea of what we want him to do, we build frontal plane work capacity. Here I like slideboard tempo intervals (huge thanks to Mike Boyle):

By this time we’ve eliminated basic constituents and intensity is progressed toward strength and power-driven frontal plane activities. This includes skater bounds, lateral med ball throws, and progressively challenging jumps.


Terminal Progressions

Forget about typical terminal progression fare. Here is where we transition towards special methods and apply “Start at the End.”

We put Indy in game-like scenarios that used hesitation crossover dribbles, lateral shuffles, stunts, and euro steps. Basically anything both frontal plane and sport-specific.

My absolute favorite? Playing him one-on-one. To make it fair, he could only score using right leg step-back jumpers and euro steps. I took him to his left as much as possible to force lateral shuffles.

Final score: 11-5. Bastard.

Results and Review

As Indy returned to play, he sizably improved his defense. In fact, his D-league defensive rating was higher than his college average. Impressive considering the jump in difficulty.

All is not lost. Our skillset does matter. It is knowing when to apply general methods that make best practice, and ultimately best performance, for our clients.

To summarize:

  • General methods are most relevant during injury, offseason, and carefully forged in a high/low model.
  • Select the highest level task one is capable of performing without risk of harm.
  • Break desired tasks down to lower components and rebuild until special methods can be used.



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