Grease the Groove (GtG) is a methodology for improving your strength with specific movements written by Pavel Tsatsouline.
GtG can be used both for gaining endurance in a movement you’re already strong in; or gaining strength in a movement that you’re struggling with.
In this article we’re going to focus on improving an exercise that you’re struggling with.
This means that we need to follow the strength training rules by
- Performing many sets
- Taking lots of rest
- Using specific movements
- Keeping reps low
- Avoiding muscle failure
Muscle fibres work in a binary fashion; they’re either contracting or they’re not.
A muscle has many muscle fibres (the bicep brachii has over 250,000).
How strong we are depends on how big these muscle fibres are, but also how many of them we can get to contract.
Focusing on specific movements means that we’re going to train our neurological pathways for that movement.
The more familiar your brain is with that movement, the better the neurological pathways, meaning we can get more muscle fibres to contract.
Traditional Grease the Groove
Pavel’s GtG follows a simple plan.
- Test your max reps for a particular movement.
- Perform 60-80% of your max every hour throughout the day.
- Avoid failure!
- Leave this movement pattern out of your regular training.
- Stay fresh, if you’re feeling tired and form starts to suffer, then stop GtG or take a rest day.
- Done correctly you can do this for weeks at a time.
- Retest your max every week, if it stops improving then it’s time to stop using GtG and switch back to regular training.
MP Calisthenics Grease the Groove
I’ve been doing a modified version of Pavel’s GtG for a number of years to help myself and my students get past plateaus.
It involves compressing the GtG into a single session.
- Choose 2-3 exercises to work on.
- For each pick a progression (or weight) that you can do 6-10 reps of.
- Perform 2-3 reps of each with a 30s gap before moving onto the next exercise; once you’ve done all exercises come back to the first one.
- If you start to feel like you’re going to fail then reduce the reps or increase your rest periods.
- Perform for 30-45 minutes.
This works well for people who can’t GtG throughout the day, for example if you want to work on pull-ups but don’t have access to a pull-up bar at the office.
It also has the advantage of being able to do a proper warm-up and cool down.
As with traditional GtG, only do this when you are feeling fresh.
This can take it’s toll on the joints if overdone, so make sure you include a high rep workout or two a week to get the blood flowing to the joints and warm-up well; never do this for a 1 rep max exercise.
Here’s a few examples of how you might use this:
Can Do One Dead-hanging Chin-up
For someone who can do one dead-hanging, but is struggling to add a second rep to this.
- Jump Assisted Chin-up / Eccentric Chin-up
- Jump as little as you can into the chin-up
- Then lower yourself at a pace of 2-3 seconds on the way down
- Do 2 reps of this.
- Take 30s rest.
- Add another exercise that isn’t a pulling movement, I’d suggest either a push-up variation or even a leg exercise. Avoid ab work as the chin-up uses your abs.
- Take 30s rest after this one and repeat.
- Increase the rest periods if required.
- Work up to 50 assisted chin-ups over time.
Follow this protocol when fresh and they’ll be repping out dead-hanging chin-ups in no time!
Trying to Reach 10 Strict Pull-ups
Assuming this individual can do at least 5 strict pull-ups, they should use this protocol:
- 2-3 strict pull-ups
- Start at 2, once this is becoming too easy with 30s rest then up it to 3.
- Take a 30s rest
- Again add another non-ab or pulling exercise.
- Take another 30s rest.
- Work up to 50 pull-ups.
To go beyond 10 pull-ups, keep adding more reps when it becomes too easy; work your way up to 100+ pull-ups!
30s L-Sit Goal
This can also be used for static holds:
- Do holds of about a 3rd of your max, so if you can hold an L-Sit for 15 secs, just do 5 sec.
- Take 30s rest.
- Add in a leg exercise such as a pistol squat.
- Take another 30s rest.
- Building this up to 5 minutes total L-Sit time, wouldn’t be an unreasonable goal.