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 right, you won’t even have to 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.
Also, GTG works best with exercises that barely require any equipment.
So learning calisthenics skills that require minimal equipment becomes far easier.
It’s shocking is that the GTG is only by a handful of calisthenics athletes throughout the world.
Once you see the true genius of training this this way, you can use it to get bigger faster and stronger too!
In fact, the only problem I have with GTG is that it actually requires you to lift less!
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
- While using sub maximal loads (50- 80% of 1 RM)
- Low repetitions (1-5 reps)
- Long rest periods (15 minutes or 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!
And GTG allows these special individuals to build strength in the field, while always being ready to perform.
GTG also works if you’re someone who feels lethargic and beat up after their workout!
Greasing the groove encourages you to never reach muscular or nervous system fatigue.
This is what will keep you feeling fresh throughout the day!
How Does Greasing The Groove Work?
Greasing the groove relies on performing several sets of the same exercise throughout the day. These sets are performed using immaculate form.
This allows you to master any skill based exercise through high frequency repetition.
The key factors of this strength training protocol are as follows:
- Use low repetitions with every set (1-5 repetitions)
- Take long rest periods between every set (between 5 – 15 minutes or more between sets)
- Perform as many sets as possible without reaching neuromuscular fatigue or failure. This point is absolutely critical for GTG to work. This is what keeps you fresh throughout the day.
- Use only 1 exercise per movement pattern (example one arm push up for pushing pattern)
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.
Then, you will then perform several sets of 1 – 5 repetitions using the same weight.
Perform each set throughout the day, while giving your muscles ample time to recover.
Your repetitions must be clean and crisp (with immaculate form). This will strengthen the neuromuscular junction, thus allowing for more muscle fiber recruitment. Making you stronger over time.
1 – 5 reps primes the nervous system to become efficient at recruiting maximum muscle fibers.
This improves muscular contraction. Thus, engraving efficient motor patterns the more you perform the moment.
Your nerves essentially become super conductors. This allows for improved neurological adaptation. Never reaching nerromuscular filure, keeps you fresh throughout the day.
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 invervals be for GTG?
To “grease the groove”, rest periods should be between five to fifteen 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.
Long rest periods is the best way to train for strength. Being well rested before every set trains the nervous system to fire effeciently.
Of course rest periods vary from individual to individual. 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?
You will perform anywhere between 1 – 5 repetitions per set. Do this with a weight you can perform with 2 – 10 reps.
For example if you can do 5 single arm push ups, then perform between 2 – 3 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 hit as many sets as possible, as often as possible, while being as fresh as possible, every single 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).
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.
Thus, it is why it is best to choose exercises that do not use overlapping muscle groups when GTG.
Pick appropriate regressions when using bodyweight exercises
When using bodyweight exercises you might want to use appropriate regressions when required.
If you can perform 1 repetition of the pull up, find a regression that allows you to get 2-10 repetitions instead.
Then, perform between 1 – 5 reps of that regression to grease the groove.
The same applies with the one arm push up or front levers or any other exercise for that matter.
For example front lever can be regressed by bringing the knees toward the chest. This could make the exercise easy enough to perform 2-10 repetitions. You would then perform 1 -5 rep sets of this regression throughout the day!
Of course there is no way of measuring this. 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 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. If you fall short or get more than 10 reps, plug in the weight and reps into a rep max calculator and figure out your 10 rep max.
Re-test your 10 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. Based on your new rep max, you can then calculate your new 10RM using the rep max calculator. Then make sure to physically test your 10RM using your new calculated 10RM as a guideline. 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 the 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 responders all can benefit greatly from the GTG method. Going all out in the gym and breaking the body down can be detrimental to further 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 secrets. GTG doesn’t need a lot of equipment. You can build phenomenal strength and power with greasing the groove protocol. This is especially true when training bodyweight skills. Practicing the skill with GTG, before your actual workout will make you better at it over time. 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.
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 jut as well with GTG. Perfroming these movements back to back for 5 reps each might take less than 5 minutes! This can be done during your break, every 20 mins to an hour and will work just fine. But, 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 Good 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 with movements that require heavy equipment.
This is another area where GTG falls short, but bodyweight training shines. 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.