Grease The Groove is a technique I learned many years ago when reading a book from Pavel, Power To The People.
Essentially, you perform an exercise of choice several times a day, several times a week (4 - 7 x week), each and every set performed when you are fresh without going to muscular fatigue. Usually, this works best when performing the practice exercise for anywhere from 2 - 4 weeks.
There are several ways to apply Grease The groove (GTG) for maximum effect.
The length of time you stick to Grease The Groove (GTG) depends on your level of physical fitness. A beginner and intermediate can work on increasing their pull ups by following GTG for 4 weeks straight without a problem. An advanced lifter might work best when using GTG for 2 weeks.
I'm gonna tell you a few experiences I had with Grease The Groove (GTG) and these experiences will show you how they've shaped my own training with GTG as well as give you the knowledge to choose how you want to implement GTG.
First of all, you can utilize GTG using bodyweight exercises, basic barbell lifts, olympic lifts, kettlebell training....
I first began using GTG to increase my pull ups after Jeff Martone and I did a seminar together with some friends. Jeff was doing a small portion on tactical pull ups. It was amazing how he broke down the pull up all the way from how you grip the bar, why you should grip the bar a certain way, how to activate the lats and save the shoulders along with tons more of kick ass info.
But, the part that REALLY hit me was when Jeff Martone spoke about his day at The Arnold Sport's Festival and he was demonstrating weighted pull ups all day with an 88 lb kettlebell (AKA The Bull Dog). Rep after rep, 1 rep at a time, fresh for each and every set.
To Listen To Jeff Martone's Underground Audio Interrogation, Click HERE
At the time, Jeff was pushing to do pull ups with the BEAST, the 106 lb Kettlebell. A few days after The Arnold Sport's Festival, Jeff attempted the 106 lb Kettlebell Pull Up and he hit a single rep with ease, he told me.
Why was it so easy? He trained his body with "perfect practice", 1 rep at a time, using Grease The Groove.
I began to take heed and started doing high rep pull ups 2 - 3 x day on my own, in an effort to get back to doing 20 + pull ups in a row. I would wake up and stroll down to my garage gym, bang out a submax set of pull ups, then showwer & have breakfast, then before heading to work I would get one more set of submax pull ups.
On my lunch break I would walk up to the playground and do another set or two of submax pull ups. In a very short time my pull ups climbed up to the 20 rep mark. Before GTG my pull ups were around 15 - 17 reps.
For bodyweight training, GTG is the perfect answer to increase your pull ups, increase your push ups and if you're advanced, you can do GTG for muscle ups on the rings or the bar.
I have taken the GTG approach towards some powerlifts and olympic lifts as well, following the "Be ready to GO at any time" motto.
In the tactical community, you can't only be ready for action after a thorough warm up, soft tissue work, etc. Sometimes you gotta hop out of your car and sprint. Other times you sprint and then engage in a physical scuffle.
If you have a job where you must be ready to go at all times, aka, "Ready To Go When the Shit Hits the Fan", then GTG is going to be a critical component in your training. You have NO choice but to learn to implement GTG so you can be strong, explosive AND as safe as possible when you are called upon for duty.
In the tactical community you need to utilize GTG for bodyweight training, powerlifting, odd object lifting, sprinting, fire arms training, self defense / personal readiness, etc. This CAN save your life. Once again, this is a critical reason why you should NOT follow every perfectly planned, scientifically perfect training regime. You are training for the REAL World, not for a game.
My practice began with the olympic lift, the snatch. I kept only a 10 lb bumper plate on each side of the bar, a measly 65 lbs to practice the snatch.
My skill quickly improved in the snatch - greater speed, greater strength and greater technique. I was quickly able to begin snatch 85, 95 and 115 lbs on the bar.
I then began testing GTG with the deadlift. It sounds crazy, and many experts would claim over training can set in with deadlifting every day. But, I felt GREAT doing so and kept a bar in my garage loaded at 275 lbs. I would bang out 1 or 2 reps, a few times a day, for 2 weeks in a row.
During my regular strength workouts, I did NOT deadlift very heavy. Most workouts were under 405 on the deadlift. When I tested my deadlift I crushed a 525 deadlift (photo below).
Final advice for using Grease The Groove techniques to increase your strength:
- Use GTG on bodyweight exercises that you are aiming to improve. Pull Ups, Push Ups, handstands, hand walking, Muscle Ups and Pistol Squats work great. 1 Arm Push Ups and other challenging bodyweight exercises are also a good fit.
- Use GTG on powerlifts and olympic lifts, but perform these only with moderate weights or moderately heavy weights, NOT maximal loads.
- Focus on ONE movement during your GTG training cycle. For example, if you want to increase your pull ups, ONLY GTG pull ups, do not GTG with pull ups and other exercises. Focusing one ONE target is much more powerful and effective
- Allow each GTG cycle to last for 2 - 4 weeks. If you're a rank beginner, you can work on pull ups, push ups and other bodyweight exercises for several months. Be honest with yourself. If you are weak as rag doll, then get busy with GTG and commit to kicking ass with bodyweight exercises.
Get after it and start experimenting with Grease The Groove (GTG) to build up your weak areas and turn them into strengths.
Live The Code & Live HARD!
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Dustin W. says
Interesting! I am going to hit the front squat.
I will let you know how it goes.
Nice!!! Start lighter to adjust the knees to squatting when cold!
Bill Calhoun says
Great article Zach. I’m following Pavel’s stretching programs and will begin this ASAP.
1. When you say GTG with only ONE exercise how does that apply to doing GTG with pull-ups (upper) and GTG with pistols (lower) on the same day?
2. Can we still get in our other gym or agility training, while doing GTG or is that too much?
Zach Even - Esh says
Yes I think you can def do GTG w BOTh Pistols and Pull Ups same day!
And YES, you can also do regular training on top if time and energy are there!
Bill Calhoun says
Great reminder of a great technique. I could really use this on my pull ups also as they are currently my weakest bodyweight movement. I love the comment about being able to perform when it hits the fan. I’ve practiced an taught martial arts for close to 20yrs and I believe it’s super important to be able to act in a split second if needed.
Thanks for great content and inspiration Zach
Damn Jesus, you never cease to amaze me
Jesus, you know it, brutha!
John Mulry says
Nice one Zachary, funny in your last article I see the GTG acronym but hadn’t a breeze what you were on about 🙂
Looking forward to trying it on a few of my body weight moves. Oh and thanks for recommending convict conditioning, looking forward to getting stuck into that.
John, ha ha, apologies on GTG and not fully explaining. I should never assume and YES, CC is an amazing book!
Awesome post. It reminded me of when I went through Marine Corps boot camp. After every meal (and through out other times of the day) we had to do a max set of pull ups to prepare for the final fitness test at about week 10. I went from about 12 pull ups to easily doing 25+ after a month.
Legit! I do this with ALL our new athletes – I tell them to eat push ups and pull ups for breakfast!
Love it! Huge Pavel fan. Just started his 5x5x5 easy strength routine, modified slightly, but using the same principles. Frequent training, sub max reps, never missing a lift, quitting while you still feel “strong”. Great stuff, and great post Coach!
Thnx, Simeon, Pavel keeps it simple yet highly effective!
Ricky V says
Another great post Z! I still have a lot of work to do especially on the pull ups. Ive tried this GTG’n before & its great. Thanks for the reminder & Keep doing what youre doing man. I soak it all up & try to implement at least 1 or more of these great training & biz ideas.
Bro, my pleasure!!! Thnx for supporting!
I did this a while ago with pull-ups, and in three weeks I went from 2 reps to 10 reps. too bad I lost them all to a lacy summer…
Yep, too bad…..
Hi Zach, great post as usual! the GTG concept looks really interesting and I want to implement it in my training regimen, but I don’t really know how. For instance, how many sets should I do every day? Moreover, I’m working on four main exercises at the moment. How can I progress on each one of them without losing it all on the other three, if I must focus on only one exercise for three weeks or a month? your insight would be really appreciated, thanks in advance!
BZ – not sure what exercises you’re focusing on
GTG works great on bodyweight exercises, 2 weeks minimum for a few sets a day, 5 – 6 x week is good
Great post Zach and a great reminder! I also read about GTG years ago via Pavel but veer away from it at times.
A quick couple of questions.
1) My aim is very much to increase my bodyweight chin up numbers. With this in mind and in your opinion, how close to failure should the GTG sets come? For example, if my best is 12 reps should I be working in sets of 8-10 or closer to half max at 6-8 reps?
2) When working GTG (in this example for chin ups) would you also recommend using that approach for the regular workouts during the week or could/should sets during actual workouts come closer to my max?
Thanks in advance for any response and keep up the great work.
try GTG w/weighted pull ups for 3 – 6 reps at a clip
U can also try doing 1 easy set and every other day test a high rep set
The key is frequent practice, submax efforts
Hi, Zach! been busy as hell this week, couldn’t come back to the blog sooner, sorry for the wait! to be more precise, I’m trying to improve on four main bodyweight exercises at the moment: chin-ups, handstand push-ups, pistols and one arm push-up progressions! truth is, I began working on them before hearing about the GTG method, and I became worried about progressing on all of them, especially since I’m still a university student and undergo kickboxing workouts thrice a week. I’m still hesitant: should I drop two of them and focus only on the others? or, let’s say, doing chin-ups and pistols day 1, then HSPU and OAP progression day 2, and repeat? by the way, I try to do at least 5-6 sets, I don’t know if it’s enough and I’m especially scared of going back to square one on the other exercises if I give up on them for sometime .
thanks again and keep up the good work (sorry, my comment was pretty long this time)!
I wonder if I can do this for the rest of my life.I’ve made a new goal for myself:By the end of this year I will do 100 pull-ups without stopping and with good form.And since I can do that by Greasing The Groove,it ain’t gonna be much hard,so there really ain’t no reason for motivation.But I have motivation anyways,and that is to prove to people that Grease The Groove works(and if I actually can do 100 pull-ups by Christmas,it works VERY well),and to beat any pull-up related challenge anyone gives me.Like,someone walks up to me,looks at my pathetic figure(I’m 5’11 and 140lbs) and says I won’t be able to do 10 pull-ups and bets me 20 bucks on it.I walk up to the pull-up bar,BAM!11 pull-ups with perfect form!I take the money and walk away CHAMPION!SO alright,let’s do this!
Santiago Sanchez says
In Pavels book The Naked Warrior he has you greasing the groove with the one arm push up and the pistol squat is it okay if you GTG with pull ups and pistol squats at the same time?
Mayukh Sen says
Hello Zach,awesome article,its always great to read your articles.I got some questions regarding this,that I have always wanted to ask,first,is the strength or endurance gain as long lasting or permanent as with the conventional strength training methods,where you injure the muscles and they have to grow back stronger than before,or does the strength that is largely derived from neural adaptation fades away after a few weeks of not training the groove?
second,does it add muscle mass or hypertrophy?Like myofibrillar hypertrophy in case of strength training and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy for endurance training or volume training?
and finally,this is a little complex question,Lets say I got to 15 pullups with gtg,or added 15 lbs to my weighted one arm pullup using gtg,now if I switch towards a more conventional approach to training after this accomplishment,to keep further increasing my strength or endurance,that will mean not using that high frequency easy gtg training anymore and training less often,so if this type of strength is gained from synaptic facilitation and cutting back from the frequent practice means losing the neural efficiency then does it mean that I am actually getting weaker if I switched to a conventional program,am I going to find myself in a state where I have lost all my strength gains alltogether,or how much would my strength degrade?,or is it possible to cycle gtg training with real strength training and how will I go about that?
I am no expert on exercise science or physiology so having found myself confused,here I am curiously asking for answers from pros like you,since you also have used gtg,I hope you will be able to answer my questions,so pls help me out,thnx in advance.
David Smit says
Yes, grease the groove with oap and pistols…………….but you must be aware to how the system responds. if you are decreasing performance at the end of 3 weeks doing both exercises, then you know stick to just one. I would definitely do only 1 and then low aerobic work for the remainder of the training.
Zach Even - Esh says
Depending on your level of preparation, GTG works either shorter or longer.
GTG is GREAT for beginners and intermediates who need low rep, skill strength work.
Also great for tactical / first responders who need training without being fully warmed up all the time.
i still remember that time at the Arnold when Pavel refused to sell me a kettlebell until he spoke to my RKC instructor in my home city…and have always liked the GTG idea although until then did’nt have a name for it. i did pushups at work and everytime i visited a restroom in eating places. When i drove a truck i performed bodyweight squats, pushups and carries with buckets of glue ( if any) loaded for delivery at every stop. Later in life while employed at a late night adult bookstore patrons witnessed pushups ,stepups and diy indian club stuff while i tended the front desk (cage)…. and twice a week finished my shift by carrying a sandbag down a dangerous avenue loaded with strip clubs and liquor stores. I guess folks did’nt want to mess with the “Insane guy’ at 4 am! i use my kettlebell at least 5 times a week and knock out sets of 10, 20 etc all thru the evening…. GTG stuff has a place in every ones training scheme and i have seen bodybuilders (?????????) returning back to pump out light weight sets all thru the day at gyms. ……’fitness’ types just don’t seem to get it!! thats ok Many are called ..few are chosen! fewer make it a lifestyle!!! comfort is way over rated..
Zach Even - Esh says
Rich, thanks for sharing these stories, my friend. Inspiring stuff, keep attacking!
Very early in my lifting career after reading the naked warrior I applied GTG to pistol squats. I would do sets of anywhere between 1-4 reps throughout the day. Some days I would do a set every 10 minutes (seriously!), some days only a few sets. After a month I tested my max and got 24 reps on my right leg. I was so toasted I couldn’t even think about doing the left leg. I experienced noticable muscle growth in that right leg, and 14 years later my right leg is still bigger, even after years of bilateral work. I plan on attempting to recreate this. Spend a month doing GTG on a few exercises, then go for a max rep-out. Perhaps repeat the cycle.
Zach Even - Esh says
As we get older, I believe it’s actually healthier to do a few short / mini sessions a day rather than 1 HARD, Intense training session a day. GTG is excellent. I spoke about it on this Video:
Hey Zach, thanks for the reply. I agree that frequent training while staying fresh is great. One tip for your readers for GTG technique is to focus on concentric portion of the exercise when doing a new movement, or a movement that’s gotten stale. For example, I’m restarting GTG on pistols, and if I do too many full range up and down reps in one day, I get some soreness and performance drops the next day. So, I might spend a day or two lowering myself with two legs, then at the bottom, kick out one leg and do the concentric portion on one leg. You can do the same with pull-ups by doing the eccentric with your feet on a chair, then take your feet off the chair and do the concentric with no leg assist.
Anyone ever experiment with GTG isometrics? I imagine you could build some impressive strength with that.