Grease the Groove

“Grease the Groove” is a concept popularized by Pavel Tsatsouline as a way to repeatedly train a movement in a way that increases a variety of physiological functions without overburdening the nervous system. “Greasing the groove” involves performing one movement sub-maximally multiple times throughout the day, which accumulates volume within the movement but doesn’t generate too much muscular or neurological fatigue. Doing 50 repetitions using the “GtG” concept is usually much less fatiguing than doing the same volume of work in a 30 minute time period. 

To perform the concept “GtG”, you first need to select the exercise that is going to be performed. Generally, you should stick with the same exercise for at least one month, to provide enough time for your body to adapt to the training stimulus and get positive results. Changing too frequently will yield less than ideal results. Large, compound exercises are usually the best choice for “greasing the groove.” Squats, kettlebell swings, push-ups, pull-ups, dips, or similar exercises are typically best. 

Once you have selected the exercise, you then need to pick a training load, if applicable. For bodyweight exercises, this is rarely a necessary step. For squats, you should usually choose a weight that is 60-80% of your one rep max. After selecting the load, if necessary, you then perform one set of the exercise to failure. Ideally the failure should occur in the 4 to 10 repetition range. If you fail before 4 repetitions, the exercise is either too challenging or the load is too heavy. If you are able to perform more than 10 repetitions the exercise is too easy or the load is too light. For this example, let’s say that you chose to do pull-ups and failed after six, quality repetitions. 

After determining the number of repetitions to failure, all you need to do is divide those number of repetitions in half to determine the number of repetitions to be performed in your working sets. In our pull-up example, you failed at six repetitions. So, you would perform three repetitions for each set. Then, all you need to do to “grease the groove” is perform a set of three repetitions of pull-ups periodically throughout the day. You can use time to initiate the sets of your exercise, for example doing a set every hour or every two hours. Or you can use some triggering event to do a set. One of Pavel’s original examples was him doing a set of pull-ups every time he left the kitchen. 

By performing an exercise this way, accumulating sets throughout the day, you will build strength, improve work capacity, improve technique, along with a variety of other physiological components. 

Then, at the end of the month, you can retest your repetitions to failure to see how much progress has been made. You can then use the new failure point to determine your repetitions for the next month, or do the same procedure using a different exercise. 

Over time, as you get better at applying the “grease the groove” concept, you can get better at selecting exercises, loads, and repetitions ranges to more effectively target your specific goals and needs.