The AGT (or Adaptable Generalized Training) program is a general template for developing a broad base of physical fitness. In its basic form, it consists of concurrent strength training, Olympic weightlifting, sprinting, short- and long-duration conditioning, assorted skill practice, and flexibility. It emphasizes strength and power.
The adaptational goal of this program is what is commonly known as GPP, or General Physical Preparedness. This is defined for our purposes as a broad basis of fitness that allows an athlete to have competence in nearly any physical domain, and meet any physical challenge, as well as being healthy, injury-resistant, and able to pursue whatever other goals he chooses.
The AGT program consists of a generalized template, with a suggested training schedule built up of basic “modules,” as well as recommended components for filling each category. It can be used in one of two ways.
- Athletes with no specific goals or sport-specific focuses can use the default form of the program to develop and maintain GPP.
- Athletes with specific goals, competitive sports, or other personal requirements can modify the program to emphasize certain aspects, deemphasize others, reduce overall workload to allow for sports training, or make whatever changes desired.
In principle, the program can be performed as-written. In practice, most athletes find the unmodified schedule to be extremely taxing and “cookie-cutter” — in other words, although mathematically elegant on paper, it is challenging to implement in real life (at least for those who are not full-time, professional athletes). Realistically, most who have experimented with the program have found its value to be in the concepts presented, the utility of the template-based schedule, and the suggestions for GPP “best practices” to use for filling each module.
In short, the aim of this program is to provide a starting place for athletes looking to build a customized GPP program, allowing easy personalization for idiosyncrasies or for specialization. It is not intended for those seeking a pre-built program that can be adhered to rigidly; it fundamentally demands a well-developed sense of one’s goals and capabilities.
Athletes may find the Cavazos-Oto GPP Assessment valuable as a means of periodically gauging incremental improvements in broad fitness.
This program is appropriate for advanced beginners, intermediates, and possibly (with modifications) early advanced athletes. It is inappropriate for highly advanced or elite athletes who have very specific training requirements. It is also in most cases inappropriate for rank beginners. This program requires competence with the lifts and exercises it prescribes, the ability to self-coach and self-motivate, and the skill to choose and scale suitable workouts within a flexible template; without any experience whatsoever, beginners generally have none of this. Their best option within the spirit of these recommendations would be to run through Starting Strength or a similar novice program, learn the basic lifts and build strength and muscle, practice the Olympic lifts and some basic bodyweight and miscellaneous movements, perhaps spend some time with a varied program like CrossFit, and come back in a year or two.
The basic template is a seven-day schedule, designed around a Monday–Friday week, although it can be arranged differently. The suggested scheduling is 3/1/2/1: 3 days of work, 1 day of rest, 2 days of work, 1 day of rest, repeat. In a standard week, this would put the rest days on Thursday and Sunday. The schedule can be modified, with no effect, to 2/1/3/1; this would put the rest days on Wednesday and Sunday. 5/2 is the final possibility, which allows Saturday and Sunday for rest days; however, this can be difficult to get through, since it requires five days in a row of work. Other schedules can be experimented with as well.
If you miss a day’s workout, you can do it on the following day, pushing the entire cycle back, but since this will permanently rearrange the schedule, this is only advised if you are flexible and don’t care which days of the week you train. Otherwise, simply drop the missed workout and continue on to the next day.
Each day’s menu is designed as a single workout session. However, if it better fits your situation or schedule, you can also break it up across the day into two or more parts, doing different elements at different times. This generally often work best for the skill practice, since its equipment requirements can be unusual, and it often requires no significant warmup.
On rest days, there is no required work except stretching. You may do skill practice if you wish, although you should avoid anything significantly fatiguing (like extensive gymnastics holds); and you may perform “active rest” such as playing a recreational sport or undertaking an outdoor activity. It is also recommended to do some mobility work, and any rehabilitation or prehabilitation movements you like.
Each day’s workout should take under 90 minutes, except the long-duration cardio day. Strength days will generally take longer than weightlifting days.
Here is the template. Click on each module for details.
In general, the core theory of the AGT program is that each module has two functions: it is both useful in its own right (sprinting is an intrinsically valuable skill), and it also enhances your other training (sprinting improves your conditioning). Olympic lifters have excellent hip flexibility; gymnasts have impressive core strength; sprinters are strong even without lifting; and so on. This interdependent, synergistic effect is critical; without it, the program is little more than a hodgepodge of concurrent training, no element of which has enough emphasis to actually garner significant improvement.
This does not mean that each element is created equal. While they all interact, they exist in a basic hierarchy resembling the following:
Strength => Olympic lifting => Sprinting => Conditioning
(“Conditioning” includes both short and long metcon. Skill work is too varied to place on this spectrum, since its role will depend on what you are doing. Flexibility is all-encompassing and does not fill a specific niche either.)
This is a hierarchy of capacity, not importance: in other words, components on the right tend to be based on foundations developed in the components on the left. For instance, power for the clean and jerk first demands basic strength developed via the slow lifts; you cannot lift fast what you cannot lift slow. This does not mean that the squat is intrinsically “more important” than the clean; relative importances are subjective and each sport or athletic demand emphasizes different areas. However, the squat can be said to set the limits of the clean, and so on down the line. This hierarchy of reliance means that modules on the right have lower priority than those on the left, because their loss has less impact; conditioning is valuable, for instance, but less conditioning has a minimal effect on your strength, whereas less strength makes conditioning largely pointless. Your programming should reflect this basic hierarchy.
The template is open to as much customization as you are interested in performing. Trial and error is expected, but experienced athletes should call upon their previous training to make their best guesses as to which methods will work best for them.
Additional training for another sport can be simply added on top of the program if it is minimal. However, since the default template is already a very full program, any significant additions will generally lead to more training than is manageable, so the base program will usually need to be scaled back equivalently to make room.
The basic concepts for programming each module are given on its individual page. While specific recommendations are also given, as long as you stay within the programming guidelines, you can use virtually any variation on specific exercises, rep schemes, and the like.
Here are some basic suggestions for modifying the program:
Strength bias (powerlifting)
Replace Olympic weightlifting with slow lifts. Remember to include some DE work. Use whatever strength programming suits your level. Conditioning sessions should use heavier weights, or tailored modalities like sled drags.
Olympic weightlifting bias
Keep skill practice and stretching, but drop all other work. Substitute in the Catalyst Athletics program and follow it as prescribed.
Hypertrophy bias (bodybuilding)
Replace Olympic weightlifting with more slow lifts in the higher-rep (5–20) range. Add in more dumbbell and isolation work. Scale back the long-duration cardio day. Eat more.
Drop the long-duration cardio day. Add the CrossFit Endurance workouts to the normal schedule, after lifting but before stretching.
Maintenance or reduced workload
Remove or scale back as much work as necessary. If entire modules need to be dropped, do so in the following order: one conditioning session, one sprint session, one weightlifting session, the long-duration cardio, one strength session, repeat. If entire days need to be dropped, do so in the following order: cardio day, a weightlifting/conditioning day, a strength/sprinting day, repeat.
Conditioning bias (MMA, military)
Expand conditioning workouts in time and weight. If more is needed, remove one sprint session and add another conditioning session (after, not before the heavy lifting). You may experiment with using more CrossFit WoDs for conditioning.
Skill-dominant sport (table tennis, darts)
Use the skill practice to focus on your sport.
Hybrid skill/athletic sport (tennis)
Use the skill practice to focus on your sport. Lighten or remove some lifting or sprints if necessary. Lighten endurance day if necessary. Work your sports sessions around the reduced schedule.
Athletic-dominant sport (football)
Substitute or modify everything necessary. If dropping entire days, start with the cardio day, then one lifting day (such as weightlifting), then the opposite lifting day (such as strength), then repeat. Work your sports sessions around the reduced schedule. You may focus Olympic lifting on the power rather than squat variants.
Speed-critical advanced sport (sprinting)
Drop long-duration cardio. Follow “Hybrid skill/athletic” above for further subs.
Endurance-critical advanced sport (marathon, triathlons)
Drop sprinting and Olympic lifting. Consider appropriate modifications to strength training. Work your endurance sessions around the reduced schedule.
Do your own program. Donate some money once you’re on ESPN.
Diet and recovery
There is no specific nutritional recommendation for this program, except that you should be eating enough. A minimum of 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight is virtually mandatory. If on a limited-calorie diet, expect to increase consumption.
It is critical, however, that you recover properly; this program uses a large volume of work and if your recovery falls behind, you will never progress correctly. As an intermediate athlete, you should have some idea by now of the methods that work for you. Soft-tissue work such as foam rolling, massages, pressure-point manipulation, and ART are recommended. Ice and NSAIDs should be used when necessary. Try cold showers or ice baths. Above all, ensure adequate sleep; 8 hours a night is the practical minimum for most, and more is preferred.
While it has been made clear that this program allows and encourages the training of your own, specialized competitive sport, it should also be noted that even for athletes who do not have such a sport, there are significant and broad benefits to learning new sports anyway.
It is therefore highly recommended that athletes using this program as their primary training for GPP should regularly learn and play new sports outside of the program. While this can be done in the manner of messing around with racquetball at the gym or joining a pickup game of basketball, it can also be done by truly “entering the world” of a sport, such as joining a competitive local team. While the latter will likely have a greater impact on your training schedule, it has unique benefits that you will not receive as a pure dilettante; you will be able to utilize the methods, facilities, and instruction of the sport, as well as taking part in its competitive events and drawing from the camaraderie of its participants. In short, you will develop far better and more quickly, and even if you do not choose to continue with that sport, you will acquire a few weeks or months of “beginner’s gains” that you would never have acquired otherwise.
Perhaps the best sport for this, all things being equal, is gymnastics. If you can find a local gymnastics club that offers adult instruction, it is highly recommended that you partake of this, even if it requires cutting back your core training; the skills of bodily control developed in a comprehensive gymnastics program (all events) are unmatched, and cannot be duplicated without the proper facilities and coaching. If you can pull this off, it’s well worth it.
If nothing else, a good goal would be to learn—and play around with, at least minimally—one new sport every month. Anything from Australian rules football to the ball-in-a-cup game are fine; just keep learning. This is not quite a requirement of the program, since it is too vague to mandate, but it is very close to it.
This program was developed by drawing from many sources, some of it private input and some of it public material.
Steven Low and Brian Degennaro provided significant input and invaluable feedback.
The work of Mark Rippetoe, Catalyst Athletics, Mike Burgener, and other sources was drawn upon as well.
Other influences and sources of input were: members of the CrossFit and Performance Menu forums; members of the Power and Bulk forum; Blair Lowe and Roger Harrell; David Aguasca; Brandon Bergin; Jonas Bailey; Dan John; and everyone who volunteered to help test the protocol.
The AGT program as presented here was initially released to the public in August of 2008. Its recommendations are under continual revision due to the ongoing influence of user feedback and other data.
Any questions, suggestions, or experiences can be sent to Brandon Oto at [email protected].