Can you pronounce Tsatsouline?
No? Well it’s “sat-soo-lean”, and if you aren’t familiar with this name, you should be.
Pavel Tsatsouline is a world renowned strength and conditioning coach. Molded by the Soviet Special Forces, he brought kettlebells into the spotlight in the West.
One of Pavel’s most important contributions to strength training is his “Grease the Groove” method.
Greasing the groove basically means practicing.
To get better at golf, you need to practice. To get better at being strong, you likewise need to practice.
If you can only do 3 chin-ups, or 5 push-ups, then sure you can perform a few sets to failure every other day. And sure you’ll make gains, and it can be a great way to train. But it is not the only way to train.
By doing exercises little and often (lightweight, fewer reps, multiple times per day) with lots of rest, your muscles learn to fire more efficiently. That is to say – you grease the groove.
Just like when children learn to use a pen or pencil, the more you do it, the more a pathway forms between your muscles and your nervous system. And the more you do this, the more efficient you become at using that pathway…and the more efficient you are, the more reps you can do and the stronger you become. Get it?
Let’s take pull-ups or chin-ups. Exercises that many people struggle with, but everyone should be able to do. They are a basic benchmark for strength.
The idea is to perform multiple low-rep sets throughout the day. Say you can do 6 solid chin-ups. Do 10 sets of 2 reps evenly spaced through the day, 5 or 6 days per week.
Two weeks later you test yourself and you manage to do 8 solid reps. Great work! So now do 10 sets of 3 reps through the day. At some point it may get to a place where you are doing 10 sets of 10 through the day. For some people that’s fine, for others it’s getting a bit silly. That’s where you’d want to add some weight (with a vest or with a dumbbell) and drop the reps right back down.
Ladders are a great option for most people. Most people don’t have access to a pull-up bar, or the equipment for their exercise of choice across the day. Instead, perform ladders during one session. A ladder of three reps will look like this:
You would then repeat this depending on your ability. The number of sets (rungs) in the ladder will depend on how strong you are.
It is vital that you do not train to failure. The last rep on the ladder should be a challenge, but not extremely difficult. You need to be fresh enough to do several ladders – you are greasing the groove, not smashing your muscles. You are trying to do a whole day of sets in a short session, so you need to hold back.
A good target would be 5 ladders of 5 reps (75 total!). Just like training sets across the day, you need to work your way up slowly. Start with 3 ladders of 3 reps, and build from there. Rest between reps should be about equal to how long it took you to do the reps. If that’s not enough rest, lower the reps – it’s a sign that you aren’t ready to progress yet.
“If I do lots of grease the groove work, will I be too tired for my normal workout?”
Nope. Not if you don’t do too much and stick to a rep range that you can complete without training to failure.
“If greasing the groove is so great, should I do all my exercises this way?”
Nope. Grease the Groove is about practicing skills to get better and stronger, but that isn't enough.
To get stronger you still need to lift heavier weights or do more challenging exercises. GtG should be a supplement to your training programme. A little ‘extra’ to help boost things you may be struggling with. Typical options are pull-ups, chin-ups, push-ups and dips.
One option I love is GtG core training. It makes perfect sense to get the core firing more efficiently, without training to failure or burning the muscles out. This way the core is fresh, primed and ready to go to support your big lifts, running, or whatever it may be. Check out our Core Sliders for a great core training option.
Pavel Tsatsouline brought Grease the Groove into the mainstream – and it’s a good job he did. This technique offers gains in technique, muscle, strength and efficiency, without burning yourself out. It’ easy to add GtG to your training, either across the day or in a dedicated session.
Pick something you struggle with, and use GtG for 4-6 weeks. Then switch it up to another exercise. Keep practicing, be patient and the gains will come.
REACH YOUR GOALS. BEAST YOUR GOALS.
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