Greasing the Groove - Ultimate Calisthenics Special Forces Training
Greasing the groove (or GTG) is the best kept secret of the calisthenics community!
It is the easiest way to build primal strength and power.
What’s more, if done correctly, you won’t even break a sweat.
Greasing the groove allows you to build strength without getting too tired or beat up. This is what makes it one of the chosen training protocols for special forces out in the field.
In fact, GTG works best with exercises that barely require any equipment.Which also learning calisthenics skills a lot easier.
You’ll also find out that it is shocking that GTG is only used by a handful of calisthenics experts throughout the world.
Once you see the true genius of training this this way, you can use it to get bigger, faster and stronger, while maintaining your energy levels throughout the day!
In fact, the only problem I have with GTG is that it actually requires you to lift less! This is probably the hardest part of any Greasing the Groove program.
What is greasing the groove?
Greasing the Groove is a strength training protocol that relies on high frequency training.
It requires performing:
- Several sets of an exercise, throughout the day
- Everyday working day (although strategic rest days are of paramount importance)
- While using sub maximal loads (50- 80% of 1 RM)
- Low repetitions (1-5 reps)
- Long rest periods ( a 15 minutes, but optimally far more) between sets
GTG was introduced by Pavel Tatsouline.
Pavel is a Russian strength coach. He served as the Physical Training Instructor for the Spetsnaz (Elite Soviet Special Forces).
Since becoming a US Citizen, Pavel has also trained the United States marine Corps. He is also a subject matter expert to US Secret Service and the US Navy Seals.
Pavel is also the author of The Naked Warrior, one of the books I highly recommend reading. You can find the book Here On Amazon.
It thus, makes sense that this style of training comes from someone like Pavel.
Special forces and first responders always need to be ready for action.
They cannot afford to work themselves to failure during any workout. As they need to be ready to perform in the line of duty at the drop of a hat!
GTG allows these special forces personnel to maintain/build strength in the field, while still being ready to perform at the drop of a hat.
GTG also works if you’re someone who feels lethargic and beat up after their workout!
This is because greasing the groove encourages you to never reach muscular or nervous system fatigue. Which is what will keep you feeling fresh throughout the day!
But, don’t assume that this is an easy way to workout. GTG requires an immense amount of discipline and dedication to work. You will be required to workout several times throughout the day!
How Does Greasing The Groove Work?
Greasing the groove relies frequency to work, i.e. performing several sets of the same exercise throughout the day using nothing but immaculate form.
This allows you to master any skill based exercise through high frequency repetition. Remember that strength is also a skill.
The key factors of this strength training protocol are as follows:
- Perform as many sets as possible without reaching neuro-muscular fatigue or failure. This point is absolutely critical for GTG to work. This is what keeps you fresh throughout the day. DO NOT ACCUMULATE FATIGUE ON YOUR WORK SETS.
- Use low repetitions with every set (only 1-5 repetitions) , with low intensities (50-80% of 1 RM). This ensures lowered fatigue during each set. Again, extremely important.
- Take long rest periods between every set (between 15 minutes or more between sets).
- Use only 1 exercise per movement pattern (example one arm push up for pushing pattern)
EXAMPLE: Let’s say you want to build strength on your pistol squat.
You must find out at what weight you can perform the pistol squat for 10 repetitions (or which regression of the pistol squat you can perform for 10 repetitions).
You will then perform several sets of 1 – 5 repetitions using the same weight, several times a day, with long rest periods between each set.
Make sure your muscles receive ample time to recover before starting the next set.
Your repetitions must be clean and crisp (with immaculate form) on every set. This will strengthen the neuro-muscular junction, thus allowing for more muscle fiber recruitment, thus making you stronger over time.
1 – 5 reps primes the nervous system to become efficient at recruiting maximum muscle fibers while still being able to maintain near perfect form. Performing clean reps in this fashion helps improve the movement pattern by making it more efficient over time, thus making you stronger through practice.
GTG also allows for an increase in overall volume over time. This means you’ll be performing more repetitions of a particular movement than you would otherwise. This further engraves the “practice” aspect of the movement pattern being performed, while allowing for progressive overload with volume over time.
This is the mechanism by which GTG works.
Training with decreased intensity but increased frequency.
Greasing the Groove FAQ's
How long should the rest intervals be for GTG?
To “grease the groove”, rest periods should be between fifteen to twenty minutes or longer between each set. This allows for the muscle and the nervous system to fully recover. It also ensures that you start every set fully recovered in order to execute repetitions with proper form.
Long rest periods is the best way to train for strength. Being well rested before every set trains the nervous system to fire efficiently.
Of course rest periods vary from individual to individual and also from exercise to exercise.
Thus, sets can sometimes be performed with shorter rest periods.
But typically, longer rest periods are perfect for this training method.
How many many reps per day?
The better question to ask would be how many reps per set. Because the number of sets will determine the number of reps you do in a day.
But if you perform too many reps in a set, you could reach muscular fatigue, which is something you do not want.
The idea is to perform very few reps per set with lower intensity, so that perfect form is maintained while keeping fatigue levels low.
You will perform anywhere between 1 – 5 repetitions per set.
For example if you can do 5 single arm push ups, then perform between 1-2 rep sets while greasing the groove.
Low rep sets coupled with long rest periods are great for building strength.
The key is to never push yourself too hard.
How many sets on GTG?
This is an excellent question and the answer is really simple.
GTG is all about frequency. You want to get as many sets as possible, as often as possible, while being as fresh as possible, throughout the day.
You can take a day or two off every now and then, but these rest days should be few and far between.
Your performance should either remain the same or even improve throughout the day. But the moment your performance starts to dip, you have gone too far.
Regulate your sets by making sure you don’t see a decrease in strength during your exercises.
A decrease in strength is identified by:
- A decrease in speed.
- A breakdown in form (remember form needs to be immaculate during GTG).
- A reduction in the duration of holding a skill
The moment you identify any of these happening during your set, you’re done for the day.
Tips For Greasing the Groove
Recovery is Key
Recovery is the key to improved neurological adaptation. This is what we are trying to achieve when using the GTG method.
The moment you eat into the recovery of your nervous system, GTG will stop producing results.
This is the most important point to take home when using the GTG system and also one of the hardest to follow.
Considering we’re so used to pushing ourselves to hit personal bests at the gym. The key to greasing the groove is to NEVER push yourself too hard!
This makes all the difference. In a world where we’re told to always keep pushing, no pain no gain, this method can play mind games with the athlete.
For the nerves to stay efficient at recruiting muscle fibers, they must not fatigue. If you are not recovering, you are eating into your strength gains.
It is absolutely necessary to perform only half the amount of reps that you are capable of doing with a particular weight!
Figure out your 10 RM and perform 5 rep sets with that weight. This is the safety mechanism that will ensure you do not fatigue the system.
You will need to adopt the mindset of “less is more”.
To paraphrase to Pavel:
“The word workout means to work hard during a session of vigorous physical activity.
Greasing the groove is not a workout.
It is a practice.
So build your strength through practice.”
Do Not Use GTG With Overlapping Muscle Groups
Greasing the groove with overlapping muscle groups can be a recipe for disaster.
This is because you want your muscles to remain fresh during training.
For example, trying to improve pull ups and front levers with the GTG method is not the best idea. The lats will get overworked and fatigued as they are a common muscle used between these 2 movements.
Using movements that use the same muscle groups fatigue the muscles and impact recovery.
That is why it is best to choose exercises that do not use overlapping muscle groups when using GTG.
Pick appropriate regressions when using bodyweight exercises
When using bodyweight exercises you want to use appropriate regressions when required.
The goal is to perform half the reps you can currently perform in an exercise.
But what if you can only perform 1 repetition of the exercise you want to get strong with?
If you can only perform 1 repetition of any particular exercise, find a regression that allows you to get 2-10 repetitions with instead.
Then, perform between 1 – 5 reps (half of what you can do) with that regression to grease the groove.
For example front lever can be regressed by bringing the knees toward the chest (tuck front lever).
This could make the exercise easy enough to perform 2-10 repetitions. You would then perform 1 -5 rep sets of the tuck front lever to build strength and skill in the movement.
The same applies with the one arm push up or the planche push up or any other exercise that you can perform for only one repetition. If you can perform only one repetition, find a regression that you can perform for multiple repetitions and then only perform half of those repetitions per set (ideally between 1 and 5) in order to grease the groove with that exercise.
Knowing how much to regress an exercise comes with experience.
How To Measure Progress With Greasing The Groove
To measure your progress, you must know where you started.
Thus, take measurements at the start and end of the program.
This will reveal whether your greasing the groove program it is working for you or not.
Take the following measurements at the start of the program to gauge if your GTG program works for you :
Check your 10 RM max at the start of the program.
To do this, pick an exercise you want to get stronger at. Then, figure out a weight with which you can perform the exercise for 10 repetitions.
Then, re-test your Rep Max at the end of the program. Do this by using the same weight that you used to gauge your 10 RM at the start of the program.
If you can perform more reps with that same weight, then your strength has increased. If not, then you have lost strength.
You can then calculate your new 10RM using and start the program all over again.
Make sure to test and re-test every month for best results.
Advantages of greasing the groove
Drastically Improves Form And Technique
Keeping the nervous system fresh and recovered improves motor patterns. This improves your from and technique in the long run.
Lower repetitions allow the muscle to derive it’s energy anaerobically. Thus reducing lactic acid build up, which can weaken the muscle and lead to form breakdown.
To build power and explosiveness in your movements, perform the repetitions as fast and as explosively as possible.
This will also transfer into better strength gains.
Extremely Enjoyable Way To Train
Do the movements you love the most, all day, everyday. It really doesn’t get any better than that!
Alternatively, you can challenge yourself by learning movements that you are weak at.
Maintains Your Strength Throughout The Day
This is absolute gold for those who need to be ready to perform at the drop of a hat.
Fire fighters, policemen, special forces can all benefit greatly from the GTG method.
For those on the front-line, going all out in the gym can break down the body and can be detrimental to to field performance that day.
Especially when you need all of your strength to stay on the job!
GTG can increase strength while allowing you to stay fresh and ready for action at all times!
Works Well For Gaining strength And Skills With Bodyweight Movements
GTG is the bodyweight community’s biggest secret for “skill training”.
GTG doesn’t need a lot of equipment and works well with bodyweight only movements. It also allows the athlete to train bodyweight “skills” while staying fresh throughout the day.
You can build phenomenal strength and power with greasing the groove protocol. This is especially true when training bodyweight skills.
Practising the skill with GTG, before your actual workout will make you better at it over time. Because having the ability to practice a skill multiple times throughout the day will make you better at it, than if you could only train it once a day.
And this can be done anywhere and at anytime.
It also won’t eat into your recovery as long as you are not working on overlapping muscle groups.
Therefore, GTG allows you to continue your regular training routine, while adding in skill work throughout the day.
Minimalist form of training
GTG forces you to pick exercises with the most bang for your buck.
This is because you should not grease the groove with exercises that involve overalapping muscle groups.
You typically want to use GTG to build strength in one skill or exercise at a time. But, adding one push movement, one pull movement and one squat movement will work just as well with GTG.
Performing these movements back to back for 5 reps each might take less than 5 minutes!
This can be done during your break, every 25 mins to an hour and will work just fine.
This is a minimalist form of training.
Although, to get the most out of GTG you want to choose movements without any overlap at all.
This allow you to get your workout in anywhere, anytime without any excuses!
Disadvantages of Greasing the Groove
Not The Best For Hypertrophy
Using sub maximal weights, with long rest periods, is why GTG is inferior at building muscle.
Although, there will be some amount of muscle gain over time.
There are better strength protocols out there that will allow you to build more size.
With GTG, we are training the nervous system to become more efficient at performing a particular exercise.
Thus, greasing the groove is an excellent way to train for any sport where strength to weight ratios matter.
But, it is not the best at putting on maximum size.
Cannot Be Performed Easily With Movements That Require Heavy Equipment
This is another area where GTG falls short.
Big and heavy equipment roots you in one single place. So unless you live in a gym, you will find it extremely hard to use GTG with heavy equipment.
This is why I encourage learning movements that allow you to train anywhere and at anytime.
They provide you with the freedom to move, travel and be fit without being rooted to one single place at a time.
Best exercises to perform with greasing the groove?
The following is a list of some of the exercises that work extremely well with with the GTG method:
- Pistol squats
- Handstand Training
- Handstand Push ups
- Grip Training
- One arm push ups
- Planche Hold
- Planche Push Ups
- One arm pull ups
- Front Lever
Of course there are countless other exercises that can be mastered using the GTG method. These are some of the few that require little to no equipment to perform!
GTG is an excellent method to build explosive strength and power while staying fully recovered throughout the day.
It is a versatile tool that can be used to work on your weaknesses as well your strengths. The end product will always remain mastery.
It can be used for both advanced as well as new athletes, so long as recovery is well managed.
It can be a lot of fun and can even supplement your regular training. Thus allowing you to add different forms of movement to your daily practice.