Meet the Soviet special forces training method that could transform your strength and fitness in 2022.
What is “greasing the groove”?
Greasing the groove is more than a phrase, it’s an entire training principle with its roots in Soviet special forces physical training. GtC is a high-frequency approach to strength training that promises to help you overcome physical or mental weakness in your training with a daily practice. Here’s how it can work on muscle, mental fortitude, and the neurological pathways involved in building strength.
Who coined the term and what does it mean?
Greasing the groove was developed by Soviet Special Forces instructor and famous strength coach Pavel Tsatsouline. He’s the guy best known for introducing kettlebell training to a wider audience, so it’s fair to say he understands a bit about how humans should train.
Greasing the groove turns ordinary training methods on their head, because it asks you to ramp up frequency without ever going to failure. By training several times a day, always stopping short of fatigue, you’ll strengthen connective tissue and neurological pathways to develop muscular endurance and power output.
The key principles of greasing the groove
1 Choose a movement you want to work on (this could be pull ups, muscle ups, planche holds or a weighted movement)
2 Keep the weight so you can complete a high volume of training without getting fatigued or sore
3 Focus on low reps and high sets (some GtC fans will do 20 sets across several training bursts per day)
4 Split training bursts throughout the day, with at least 30 minutes rest between each
5 Always stop well before fatigue sets in, aim to complete 40-50% of the number of reps you feel you could do.
Why does greasing the groove work?
Greasing the groove has several benefits, from strengthening the neural pathways between your brain and muscles, to physically strengthening the connective tissues and skeletal muscles needed for the exercise.
Muscle fibres need to contract to build strength, so greasing the groove’s frequency model makes sense. Every time you repeat a movement, the nervous system asks your muscle fibres to contract, building a greater cumulative pull.
But more than that, sticking to a GtC protocol will build resilience, consistency, and self-belief that could spill over into other areas of life.
How to use greasing the groove in your training
Greasing the groove is a fantastic way to get better at functional training movements and calisthenics exercises, because you can do these throughout the day and from home.
Let’s say you want to work on your pull ups. If you can already do some, start doing 50% of that number several times throughout the day. If you currently can’t do a pull up, use the frequency daily training bursts to work on banded versions and progressions.
With GtC you’ll be fitting in very short bursts of training several times a day. Use the habit stacking technique to help you stick to your schedule. This means identifying daily tasks that you do without thinking about it (brushing your teeth, walking the dog, making coffee, going to the bathroom) and using these as a trigger reminder.
Fans of greasing the groove are the type of people who will knock out a few press ups in the kitchen whilst the kettle is boiling, or bang out a couple of pull ups during a walk in the park. It’s the ultimate display of physical and mental skill.
Best equipment for greasing the groove
The great thing about greasing the groove is that you need very little equipment. Depending on the movement you want to practice, you might want to stock up on a wall-mounted pull up bar or portable pull up rack, set of parallettes, gymnastics rings, or a weighted vest to add load as you get better at the movement.