The former Soviet Spetsnaz (Special Forces) instructor Pavel Tsatsouline coined the term ‘Grease the Groove’ in his 1999 book Power to the People!: Russian Strength Training Secrets for Every American. Tsatsouline developed the grease the groove training technique during the Cold War to improve the Soviet soldier’s strength and endurance.
Most strength training programs include lifting heavy weights in the 1-20 rep range and training the same muscle group once or twice weekly. Moreover, these training regimes make you feel exhausted. The grease the groove (GTG) method is different.
In the GTG method, you perform the same exercise multiple times throughout the day using light weights and stop before your muscles are fatigued. This method helps drill your exercise technique and can improve your strength in the long term.
The GTG method is a hit among calisthenics athletes. Unlike bodybuilders who might need a sophisticated machine or Olympic lifters who need a barbell, weight plates, and elaborate warm-up routines, calisthenics practitioners can employ the GTG technique in the bodyweight exercise they want to improve.
Pull-ups are one of the most popular grease the groove exercises, as you can do them in any corner of your house. Anchor a pull-up bar in a doorway, and you are good to go for your grease the groove pull-ups.
In fact, Tsatsouline’s 60-year-old father-in-law used the GTG technique to improve his chin-ups. He performed five chin-ups every time he went into his basement. His daily chin-ups ranged between 25 to 100. He was able to perform 25 consecutive chin-ups after a few weeks of employing this method, which was even more than what he could do as a young Marine.
Rules For Grease the Groove Pull-Ups
Here are the rules you must adhere to while doing the grease the groove pull-ups:
Stick to a Single Movement
Most of us struggle with multiple exercises at any given point in time. It could be pull-ups, pistol squats, handstand push-ups, or L-sits. Upon learning about the GTG technique, many people try to simultaneously employ this method on multiple exercises. They do the pull-ups for the first three sets, L-sits for the next three, and so on.
However, this is not an optimal technique. Doing too many exercises throughout the day reduces your training volume for each exercise, limiting your opportunity to drill the movement. You must stick to one grease the groove exercise at a time.
Make the Experience as Frictionless as Possible
Make no mistake, grease the groove training is not easy. It requires you to train multiple times throughout the day for numerous weeks. You must make the process as convenient as possible for yourself to improve your odds of long-term success.
For grease the groove pull-ups, install a pull-up bar in your room’s doorway. Make it a point to do the recommended number of pull-ups every time you walk through the doorway. Installing the pull-up bar in a secluded corner of your home reduces your chances of sticking to the program.
Perform Low Reps
Most GTG experts recommend doing 40 to 50% of your max pull-up reps in a single GTG pull-up session. For example, if you can do 20 unbroken pull-ups in a single set, you should do between 8-10 pull-ups in your GTG set.
Remember, you must stop before the onset of muscle fatigue. Do five to six reps if eight reps feel too many. Training to muscle failure is out of the picture on the grease the groove pull-ups.
Perform the Exercise Multiple Times Throughout the Day
The grease the groove technique involves performing an exercise multiple times throughout the day. While there is no hard and fast rule of how many sessions you must do, most practitioners recommend performing between 5 to 20 GTG sets daily.
Focus on Exercise Mastery
Rep quality and exercise mechanics are the most important factors during GTG training. Follow a full range of motion while performing the pull-ups. Your chin should be above the bar at the isometric contraction point at the top, and your body should be in a straight line throughout the range of motion.
If you set out to do eight reps in your grease the groove pull-ups but could only manage six reps with a picture-perfect form, so be it. Let go of the bar when you notice your form slipping. Also, you should expect to struggle during the later part of your GTG sets during the day. The overall training volume will tax your working muscles.
Tsatsouline calls this “blasting the groove.” He promotes using slow and controlled eccentrics to ensure you’re not leaving any gains on the table. According to a British Journal of Sports Medicine meta-study, “Eccentric training was shown to be more effective in promoting increases in muscle mass and strength” than concentric training. 
Since you’ll do 40 to 50% fewer reps than what you are capable of, your reps should be explosive. Power through the reps as quickly and explosively as possible without compromising your training form.
You should feel more energized after doing a grease the groove pull-up set. Think of GTG pull-ups as energy booster shots during the day. If you feel fatigued after a few sets of pull-ups, you should pull back your training volume.
How To Program the Grease the Groove Pull-Ups
This is how to add the grease the groove pull-ups to your daily routine:
Determine Your Training Frequency & Volume
Most people fall off the grease the groove training method without achieving the desired results because they fail to adapt it to their lifestyle. You must choose a training frequency that fits your daily routine.
Start with programming 5-8 GTG pull-up sessions into your day. Add a couple more until you hit your upper limit. Also, choose a rep scheme that works best for you. Remember, GTG sets should feel effortless.
Don’t start with a GTG frequency that is too challenging to stick to, as it increases your odds of giving up on the program.
Install a Pull-Up Bar
Install a pull-up bar in your room’s or bathroom’s doorway. I recommend getting a sturdy pull-up bar that is bolted into the doorway. The adjustable pull-up bars often come off during a set, increasing your risk of injury. Also, bolting a pull-up bar into your doorway will make you more committed to your goal. After all, it is not something you can easily take off your door and pretend like it was never there.
Make a Plan
Beginning with a plan makes you more likely to succeed. Some people perform a desired number of pull-ups every hour. On the other hand, some individuals have more flexible rules, such as “perform eight pull-ups every time I get off my work chair.”
The Pomodoro Technique is what I have found to be the most effective in scheduling the grease the groove workouts.
The Pomodoro Technique involves 25-minute stretches of focused work followed by five-minute breaks. While doing the grease the groove pull-ups, you will get to the pull-up bar at the end of the 25 minutes, bang out the recommended reps, and use the remainder of the five minutes to rest before starting your next 25-minute work session.
I used the GTG and Pomodoro Technique for squats, and by the end of the day, I had 80 deep, high-quality air squats in my back pocket. This technique helped me improve my squatting form, overall lower body strength, mobility, and, most importantly, my knees felt amazing. I am 100 percent sure you can replicate these results for your upper body by doing the grease the groove pull-ups.
Test Your Pull-Up Performance
Use the final day of the week to do a single set of pull-ups to failure to assess your progress. Ideally, your max reps should increase every week. Folks stuck at a particular number of pull-ups for over two weeks should increase the GTG pull-up reps. For example, if you did eight reps until now, you should progress to 10 reps per set, given you can handle the volume.
Tips For Grease the Groove Pull-Ups
Here are a few tips to maximize your gains with GTG pull-ups:
You Shouldn’t Feel Fatgiued
Grease the groove workouts are meant to be low-effort sessions. You must not breathe heavily or feel exhausted after a GTG pull-up session. You are doing it all wrong if you have sweat tricking down your face by the end of your GTG session.
Reduce your rep count so you are not tired after your training session. You must also analyze your overall fatigue at the end of the day before arriving at your final rep per GTG set scheme.
Focus on Your Recovery
Doing a few reps throughout the day can add up to a lot. You must balance your grease the groove pull-ups with an adequate diet and recovery program. Eat a nutrient-rich diet and sleep for seven to eight hours each night to optimize your recovery.
Avoid Overdoing and Overlapping the Same Movement
Since you chose GTG pull-ups, chances are you are weak in this exercise. Many exercisers try to bring up their lagging muscle groups or build strength by increasing their training frequency and volume. However, this is not the most optimal technique if you are also using the grease the groove method.
Doing five to 10 sets of pull-ups in your training session while doing another five to 20 sets in your GTG regimen can lead to overtraining. Overtraining can stall your progress and negatively affect your central nervous system, leading to health issues.
Also, you should refrain from doing your GTG sets two hours before and after your resistance training workout to ensure you are not entering your training session with muscle fatigue.
Vary Your Training Volume
Changing your daily training volume can help boost your recovery. Plus, it keeps your workouts from going stale. For example, folks planning to use the GTG technique six days a week can do eight sets of pull-ups on the first two days, 15 sets for the next two days, and 20 on the last two days of the training week. You could also cycle between the three training days, depending on your training preferences.
Benefits of Grease the Groove Pull-Ups
Here are the advantages of doing GTG pull-ups:
Doing three to five sets of 10 reps of pull-ups within 10 minutes can be intimidating, especially for beginners who can barely manage 10 reps. Grease the groove training requires you to do one set of 40 to 50% of your max workload, which is manageable for most people.
Improves Your Form
Doing a low number of repetitions allows you to focus on your form. Performing 50-60 high-quality pull-up reps throughout the day will improve your training form and can also help fix your poor posture.
Performing grease the groove pull-ups daily for multiple weeks with explosive movement will improve your upper body strength, which will carry over to other compound and isolation exercises.
Promotes an Active Lifestyle
GTG training is excellent for sedentary people. Grease the groove pull-ups require you to perform a certain number of pull-ups after a specific period, ensuring you keep moving throughout the day.
Folks that sit at their desks for most of the day find performing a few pull-ups refreshing. For most people, it turns into something they look forward to every hour. Also, you are more likely to stick to the GTG pull-ups or any other training form if you enjoy what you are doing.
How long do I need to stick to the grease the groove pull-ups?
You must begin the grease the groove pull-ups with an end goal in mind. Let’s say you can currently do 20 unbroken pull-ups; your GTG goal could be to do 30 unbroken pull-ups after eight weeks.
Feel free to move the goalpost after you’ve achieved your goal. You could also employ the GTG training principle on a different exercise after achieving your pull-up goal.
Can I grease the groove on resistance training exercises like the bench press?
Absolutely! You can use GTG on any bodyweight or resistance training exercises. However, make sure that the training equipment is accessible. Don’t expect yourself to stick to the GTG program if it requires you to travel to your gym each hour to do a set of cable chest flyes.
How often should I train while doing the grease the groove program?
Most exercisers perform the GTG workouts six days a week and use the seventh day to do a single max rep set to test their progress. However, you could change your training frequency depending on your recovery.
What happens if I miss a round of grease the groove pull-ups during the day?
Since the GTG sets are small, many people think that missing one or two training sessions is inconsequential. This, however, is not the case. Grease the groove workouts are designed to achieve a particular amount of daily training volume. You must be consistent with your workout schedule for optimal results.
There are two ways to build muscle and strength. The first involves progressive overload, where you put your muscles under more stress with each workout. The second method comprises doing a few reps of strength exercises with lighter weights throughout the day. Not only does the second technique help build strength, but it also teaches your muscles to fire effectively during an intensive workout.
Remember, GTG workouts are not one-rep max attempts. Use this method to improve your training form. Drilling your technique can help you get stronger and lift heavier. Use the grease the groove pull-up basics listed in this article to get the best bang for your buck. Best of luck!
- Roig M, O’Brien K, Kirk G, Murray R, McKinnon P, Shadgan B, Reid WD. The effects of eccentric versus concentric resistance training on muscle strength and mass in healthy adults: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med. 2009 Aug;43(8):556-68. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2008.051417. Epub 2008 Nov 3. PMID: 18981046.