I remember having a really good chat with my barber a while back. You see, Jamie, one of the owners at Man About Town, has mastered the art of client chat. I suppose that comes with constantly having to make small talk with whoever plops themselves down on the chair in front of you each day. Anyway, I ended up training Jamie for a while to help him build strength, and we would talk for ages about different training techniques.
One of those ideas, which we’d both independently come across, was the concept of ‘greasing the groove’.
Greasing the groove as a training term is largely credited to strength guru, Pavel Tsatsouline. It’s a mouthful, but if you’re serious about strength, Pavel is one of the best there is, and is an expert at taking difficult concepts, such as the neurological explanation behind ‘greasing the groove’ and making it a catchy, easy to understand phrase like, um, ’greasing the groove’.
Starting the pull-up
When I first started training differently, I had never done a pull-up. Imagine this: A two-stone heavier me in our local park, wearing t-shirt and shorts. I reach up over my head and grab a bar above me that’s connected to some children’s play equipment. I brace myself, and try to initiate a pull-up. What happened?
Nothing at all. That’s right, I didn’t move. Not an inch.
Fast forward six months and I could do ten pull-ups comfortably. Now, quite a lot of that development was down to me losing weight at the same time – I had less mass to pull up – but my main approach to developing my pull-up was to grease the groove. I installed a pull-up bar upstairs in our house, and every single time I went upstairs I had to do a pull-up. That started out as half a pull-up. Then a complete one. Then two. And before I knew it, my body had learned the pattern and I could do three-to-five every single time.
This is massively different from the approach that people normally take in the gym. To try to get to 10 pull-ups, you work on them once a week, going until you can’t do any more. Perhaps you do some lat pull-downs once a week to build strength in your back (which isn’t a bad idea, really) in addition. Compare that to doing one pull-up every single time there is an opportunity to perform one – such as every time you go upstairs. Each time, you are gradually progressing until your body and mind get used to the motion required to perform it perfectly.
Think of it as like learning a language. If you go to a French class at a college once a week, you’re going to struggle your way through and be exhausted and frustrated by the end of it. If you immerse yourself in the language and take multiple opportunities each day to practice, you’ll be fluent in no time.
What move could you apply this idea to in your own workouts?
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