Grease the Groove: How to Increase Pushups and Increase Pull Ups | Not Your Average Fitness Tips

Grease the Groove: How to Increase Pushups and Increase Pull Ups

Every once in a while, I like to physically challenge myself by trying to do as many pushups and pull ups as possible.  These are two functional exercises that incorporate the most basic of movements: pushing and pulling.  However, many people are challenged by how to increase pushups and increase pull ups.  I’d like to discuss the grease the groove technique that I learned from Pavel Tsatsouline’s The Naked Warrior.

Before I get into the background and specifics, I’ll get right to the bottom line.  Grease the groove is an amazing technique that can help you improve exercises like pushups, pull ups, or even bench press and squats.  And the secret ingredient is…


Let me say that again three times in case you missed it…practice, practice, practice.  Big secret, right?  Well, in reality, practice does make perfect.

Check out this video of Pavel; yea, it’s a bit of a cheesy infomercial but you can see some of the cool workouts he does.

You can see more of Pavel’s products at Dragon Door.

Grease the Groove

Pavel Tsatsouline is a former trainer for the Soviet Special Forces.  Pavel came up with a simple equation for getting better at particular exercises:

Specificity + Frequent Practice = Success

What does this mean?  It means you have to perform a specific exercise over and over again to get better at it.  As Pavel says, “if you want to get good at pull ups, why not try to do…a lot of pull ups?”  The key is not training to failure.  I think this is best explained with an example.  If you can perform a maximum of 10 pull ups, then you’ll want to train by performing 5-8 reps, 3-4 times per day, 4-6 days per week.  Heck, you could even hang a pull up bar in your doorway and just do 5 pull ups every time you walk through that door.  Now that’s practice!

Why does this work?  When you perform strength training, your muscles gradually get more efficient at the movement.  During this neurological process of getting more efficient, it becomes easier for your muscles to repeat that movement.  Hence, by doing more pull ups or more pushups, you get better at doing them.  This technique does not only work with bodyweight exercises either.  You can easily increase your bench press or squats by incorporating the same methodology.

This video isn’t quite as cheesy; it showcases Pavel doing some cool bodyweight moves that he teaches in the Naked Warrior:

Workout Routine

You can grease the groove with 1-2 exercises at a time.  In the past, I’ve done it with pull ups and pushups at the same time, although I’d generally advise sticking to one exercise for simplicity.  Essentially, you’ll want to perform 50-80% of your maximum number of reps so that your muscles avoid failure.  You should do this 3-4 times per day: morning, noon, night, before bed, any time really.  The more often you do it, the better you’ll get at pushups or pull ups.  The next day, you’ll repeat the process.  Always stop at least 1 rep shy of failure.  You don’t want to teach your muscles to fail during this process.

Do as much quality work as possible while being as fresh as possible – Pavel

Start Practicing

For whatever reason, if you’re looking to learn how to increase pushups or increase pullups or even increase bench press or squats, just remember the old adage: practice makes perfect.  By using the grease the groove technique, you’ll find your numbers continue to improve as you get more efficient at your target exercise.

57 Responses to “Grease the Groove: How to Increase Pushups and Increase Pull Ups”

  • This is a great technique.
    I took a month off chest exercises and did nothing for it besides 100 pushups every day. It didnt matter when i did them, how i split them up, aslong as I DID THEM.
    Certainly increases the number i was able to do at the end. It didn’t increase my chest size however, as overloading with higher reps doesn’t ignite new muscle growth.

  • Clint,
    It’s funny you mention muscle size because I started writing a section on how greasing the groove with higher reps doesn’t lead to muscle growth, just increases in reps. However, you could grease the groove with a more challenging version of pushups (one arm, etc.) that could lead to some new muscle growth. I think there are better techniques if muscle growth is the only goal though. Thanks for bringing it up.

  • Dave,

    I’m going to try this technique with pull ups. This is one exercise where I really want to build up the number of reps I can do, not to get bigger, but more so for bragging rights. Great post!


  • Alykhan,
    You’ll definitely get bragging rights using this method. I was able to work up to 20 pull ups before moving on to another routine. I let myself slip but can still do around 15, but it’s amazing how much difference a little practice makes. Just be a little careful in implementing grease the groove with Visual Impact or another program because you may exhaust your muscles.

  • Greasing the groove for me is also stimulating the central nervous system to trigger on when it comes time for work I seem to work more efficiently land lift heavy when after the right lead up work.
    Personally I find doing a lot of reps creates conditioning but not definition on the muscle with pushups, pullups or even dips and chinups because fatigue sets in before the muscle gets time to develop so I go for weighted versions of these exercises a dips belt for me is essential.
    Using my calories to control my muscle size .. since I keep calories intake low my muscle never grow in size but they get really defined.
    Cool topic ! thanks

  • Dave,
    Love this topic! I am in the middle of Visual Impact so I will hold off on trying it. Being a PE teacher, the students always want to see what I can do. When we do fitness test, they want to see what the teacher can do naturally. When I finish Visual Impact, I am definitely going to try this! I would be really pleased to get up on that bar and rip off 20 pull-ups. Instant street credit with the kids! Thanks for the tips.

  • Raymond,
    Good point about keeping reps low to ensure better strength gains.

    You seem to have the perfect setting to put grease the groove to use. I hope it works for you so you can show off to your students.


  • I have been doing more body weight training now that I am done with Visual Impact for a few months. I have been greasing the groove with an exercise that I learned from the ROPE Tacfit training program. You get in to a push up position and put your feet in to a loop of a rope, so your feet are suspended. You do a push up and then bring your knees to your chest contracting your abs. It’s a pretty killer exercise because your chest, shoulders, and tri’s are always under stress because they are holding you up the entire time. Your abs get a great workout also if you keep your core tight the entire time.

    I have been doing these everyday for the last few weeks. I think that my core has actually made more progress than anything. I think that the key is to not train to failure or overtraining may result, especially with your shoulders being under a constant load.


  • Dave,

    Pull ups have always been the one exercise that I have been unhappy about the number of reps I can achieve. Recently, I altered my workouts so that I do pull ups during every one. It may not technically be “greasing the groove,” in that I am not doing it every day, but the increased practice has definitely helped me build more strength and complete more reps.

  • Very cool post. Pavel is the man and a true innovator when it comes to strength training.

    For me, I actually found the biggest thing in helping with achieving maximum pull ups is working out on a really thick bar. It makes it much harder and the grip strength you get will completely push you over the edge.



  • Kelly,
    That’s a challenging exercise. I’m sure you’ll get really strong as your body adapts.

    You’re somewhat greasing the groove by doing pullups more often, just not going to the extreme that Pavel recommends. As he says, it’s hard to get really good at an exercise if you only practice 1-2 times per week.

    Good tip on the thick bar. Grip strength is certainly necessary when completing pullups. Doing pullups hanging from towels can aid in this area as well. For me, I stick with the simple pullups or weighted pullups for the most part.


  • Excellent topic Dave.

    I have been doing this with pull ups too. Have you used any of Pavel’s dvds? Worth getting? They look pretty interesting but the cheese factor might get to me after a while.

  • Mark:

    Pavel’s work is about one thing, strength. It may seem strange, that a person who is about strength wrote a book about body weight exercise, – the Naked Warrior. Traditionally, body weight exercises has been viewed as endurance exercise. Check out the comments on blogs and boards: “I have to get a score of 75 on AFPFT.” Or, “I will start out with pushups then go onto weights.” The Naked Warrior forces you to do an about-face to traditional ideas about body weight exercise. Despite the common belief, you can use body weight exercises for both strength purposes and to get “cut.” Want proof, take a look at Chris Sommer’s Olympic gymnasts. They don’t touch iron until high school PE, yet they are “cut” and benching 400 lbs.

    Pavel’s basic formula is strenght=tension=muscle-tone. Look simple? As the say in OCS, “the important stuff is simple. The simple stuff is hard.” GTG has 5 components; it is more than a basic ladder drill. They are the five Fs. GTG is Focused: “The grooves for different moves lie and die by the law of the jungle: they compete with each other. The fewer drills you practice the better you are going to get,” wrote Pavel. GTG is Flawless: To achieve the tension necessary to generate strength; it is all technique, technique, technique. Doubts? See Bruce Lee. GTG is Frequent: “In a German study, training every other day yielded 80% on the gains of training everyday- and working out once a week yielded only 40%.,” wrote Pavel. GTG is Fresh: If you train to failure, then you will succeed and fail. GTG trains the nervous connections. Failure restricts your ability to train frequently. GTG is Fluctuating: Train the “same but different” with waviness of load.

    If the GTG program sounds like work; it is. Not that many people are committed to the work it takes to achieve the “shrink wrap” over the “puffy” muscle look. Pistols and one-arm pushups are simple hard. In a building near Columbus Ga a sign is posted that says,” Cowards never start. The faint-hearted and pliable will turn around at the first big obstacle. The weak fall along the way.” The simple stuff is hard.


  • David,
    I haven’t gone the DVD route. I’m a reader since I like to go back to resources over and over. The marginal cheese factor might be an offset if you remember more of Pavel’s tips by watching him though.

    You saved me a lot of typing! When I was drafting this post, I originally considered adding in the five F’s. Lots of good insights into Pavel’s work, thanks!


  • The bar on the doorway is a big helper, I went from barely doing 8 pull ups to about 15 per set within the first month. Huge difference maker and I keep on gaining strength because of it.

  • Great post Dave. I just ordered this book myself. Can’t wait to get started with some of these techniques. Grease the Groove will be one of the things I implement right away. I love body weight exercises because they allow you to work out more often and use a concept like GTG.

    Love the blog. Keep up the good work.

  • Alejandro,
    That’s an impressive gain in pull ups. Congrats!

    Pavel’s books are great. Naked Warrior, Power to the People, and Relax Into Stretch are the ones I’ve read. I always find myself re-reading and finding some small but important tidbit that I missed before. They’re packed full of value.


  • Great post!

    I am wondering how I can make does GTG work for muscle ups. Right now I can do 12 and want to get to 20, but I can only do them when I’m at the gym (around 5 days a week). Should I do a few sets to failure one day a week or do like 1 set of 10 everyday I make it into the gym? What do you think?


  • Jeff,
    5 days a week is enough to Grease the Groove. You don’t want to train to failure though. Doing that will just teach your muscles to fail and you won’t advance. If you can do 12 muscle ups (props to you btw!), then maybe do multiple sets of 7-9 reps. GTG is all about practice so the more often you practice, the better. If there’s any way you can practice at home or outside, that would help get you to 20 that much faster. Just avoid failure at all costs!

  • Thanks for the advice Dave. I’m gonna start doing a couple sets of them each day then. I’ll let you know when I hit 20!

  • James:

    Hey, I was wondering, if I have a massive caloric surplus, and I do greasing the grove, and whenever I get to 10 reps on chin ups, I raise the weight by 5 pounds and do 5 reps, would that work to add muscle size? I mean, if I eventually get to the point where I’m doing 50+ pounds added on for 5 reps, wouldn’t I definitely get bigger?


  • James,
    It sounds like you’re asking about losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time. I do think it’s possible. The caveat here is that you’re not training to failure. Generally, to increase the size of muscles it’s best to fatigue them. However, you would certainly be stronger and you would probably have tighter, more compact muscles. At the end of the day, I’d say you’d probably look bigger (not necessarily measure bigger) even if you were really 5-10lbs lighter. The other thing to consider is incorporating pushups or an exercise that focuses on pushing muscles like the chest. Does that make any sense to you?

  • James:

    Well, I was actually asking if I could add ONLY muscle, I’m not really worried about fat gain right now, I’m on a 3700-4000 calorie diet, and I’m gaining weight at a decent pace, but what I was wondering is, will doing this method give me thicker lats and biceps? Will it add inches on me if I am gaining weight with lots of calories, just as well as any other method?
    I remember doing greasing the groove a few months back, and my chin ups went up from 3 reps to 8 reps pretty quickly, but I wasn’t having a lot of calories, and barely added any muscle size. So what I’m asking is, if I eat a LOT, will this add a lot of muscle size to me as well, provided I eat a ton?

    Also, I am doing bench presses, and have gone up from 160 pounds 5 reps, to 195 pounds 5 reps within the past couple of months, so it’s good progress on that sort.


  • James,
    Sorry for the confusion. Long night and I thought you said you were eating at a massive calorie DEFICIT. This question is actually a little easier (sort of!). I don’t find that greasing the groove is the best way to add muscle mass. I actually think it’s better to perform high rep training to failure using weights if possible. Rather than greasing the groove, you’d probably be better off doing a more traditional workout routine that includes 1-2 days rest in between your workouts. That’s when the real growth happens. Excellent progress on the bench press by the way.

    Here’s a couple posts I’ve done that may help you:

    I haven’t had success eating a ton of calories like you so I’m more focused on slowly gaining muscle mass. Consider yourself lucky if you can eat that much and not gain much fat!

    Hope this info is more helpful than my other reply!

  • James:

    But, the issue with me is, when I try to go to failure on lat exercises, I never can make strength gains… I mean.. they just never come for me, or in tiny amounts if any, the real strength gains I noticed were on Greasing the Groove. I’ve always heard that strength follows size, so I’m not sure which way to go. If on one hand, I go to failure, but make minimal strength gains… I doubt I would add mass. When NOT going to failure, and adding strength gains(aka Greasing the Groove), I would expect to add mass provided I eat enough…

    Also, I have been keeping the bodyfat gains pretty low, believe it or not. Back in mid November, I weighed about 186 pounds

  • James:

    Oops, I clicked the submit comment button too early… but anyway, I weighed about 186 pounds in november last year, and now I weigh 210, with what looks like pretty much the same bodyfat amount, although I have gained a tad bit of fat on my lower stomach, I still see good definition in my upper abs(I never could see my lower abs anyway).


  • James,
    The sad reality in my opinion is that the best way to gain muscle mass doesn’t necessarily include getting stronger. Put an Olympic power lifter next to a bodybuilder. The power lifter is a lot stronger but they maintain thick, dense bodies. Some bodybuilders can’t even do a single pull up yet they display some amazing muscle mass. The other thing to remember about strength is that some gains are due to your nervous system getting used to a motion. Someone may be able to do a ton of pull ups simply by practicing them but not have significant size or strength in any other movement. Make any sense?

    Just an aside, I’m sure you can decide what your ideal body is, but gaining 24lbs is a lot and usually with those types of gains, it’s not all muscle, unless you’re in your teens or early 20s. Just keep an eye on things. At the end of the day, build the body you’re happiest with.


  • James:

    Though, I’ve noticed the best gains when I have gained strength, my chest for example. Since I’ve gained those 24 pounds and added much strength to my bench press, my chest has really thickened up, my arms have gotten a BIT bigger. Though my biceps lagged. I barely made any gains at all though when I went to failure in my bicep size too. I think my lats got a tad bit bigger. Not sure though.
    Also, I have been trying to squeeze in grease the groove on chin ups for starting strength… which I think might be a bad idea now, as my bench press is lagging behind, and I can’t make gains on it. It stalled at 197.5 pounds, for one workout, I tried it again the next workout, and I still can’t get the final rep in the last set.

    Another question that it brings up is… Is it considered overtraining if I do grease the groove and Rippetoes Starting Strength at the same time? My workout looks like this

    Workout A
    Squats 3 sets 5 reps
    Deadlifts 1 set 5 reps
    Bench press 3 sets 5 reps

    Workout B
    Squats 3 sets 5 reps
    Overhead Press 3 sets 5 reps

    I do alternate this ever workout, 3 days a week.
    Would having Greasing the Grove in here too be overtraining?

    By the way, I am 17 :D
    I’ll be honest though, within the 24 pounds, I gained half an inch on my waist, some must be muscle though I think, and some water bloat and some of course… fat.


  • James:

    Also, I think It’s debatable whether whether not going to failure yields as much muscle size as going to failure. I found a good article on it that makes a good point. Tell me what you think though, they make a pretty good argument on why failure wouldn’t be needed.

  • James,
    As I get to know you through these posts, things are becoming a little clearer! At 17, I can definitely say congrats on all the muscle gain. At your age, training is easier in some ways: lift, eat, rest, repeat. I believe the vast majority of your gains have been muscle if you’ve only added 1/2 inch to your waist. Great job!

    Let’s talk about training to failure for a second. Thanks for passing along the article (FYI, now that you’re approved for comments, you can post whatever you like, including links). First up, a little test for you…just what you always wanted, right?

    Which of these guys has bigger muscles in your opinion?

    Number 1:×300.jpg

    Number 2:

    In my opinion, number 1 has more mass but number 2 has more density. Can you see the distinction? Number 1’s muscles are bigger but they look softer overall. This is achieved through high rep training to failure. It’s a result of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy where fluid gathers in the muscle cells. This fluid can’t contract so it doesn’t make your muscles any stronger, just bigger.

    Number 2 probably preforms low rep, heavy weight training. He looks really strong and his muscle density reflects myofibrillar hypertrophy which is gains in actual muscle fibers. These gains in muscle fibers is what the article you posted seems to refer to.

    Here’s the trick, muscles can capture more fluid and look bigger with sarcoplasmic hypertrophy than they can with myofibrillar hypertrophy. Personally, I think Number 2’s muscles look better though because of the definition.

    I guess my question is: what do you want your muscles to look like? When you describe your chest thickening, that’s exactly what myofibrillar hypertrophy is all about…denser, thicker muscles (the gains in your bench reflect stronger muscle fibers as well). However, if you were a bodybuilder, you’d be more concerned about the overall size of the muscles, including the muscle cell fluid, rather than how hard/tight the muscles were.

    Starting Strength is a great program and exactly the type of routine that creates a nice balance between sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and myofibrillar hypertrophy. In other words you gain both size and strength; 5 reps is slightly tilted toward strength gains but you’ll still gain some mass. However, if your absolute focus is on increasing muscle size (with softer looking muscles in my opinion), it’s better to perform 12-15 reps and create cumulative fatigue. If your absolute focus is on increasing strength and muscle tone, then you may only need to do 1-3 reps completing avoiding failure.

    On to your routine. Greasing the groove is really effective if you want to increase the number of reps you perform for a certain exercise. In my opinion it’s the best way to get really good at a specific exercise but not necessarily the best way to gain overall strength/size. Frankly, I would just perform sets of pull ups at the end of both workout A and workout B.

    If for some reason you’re shooting for a record number of pull ups, then you could probably get away with greasing the groove. You’d have to ensure that you avoided failure with all the Starting Strength exercises. Otherwise your muscles would be too exhausted to perform pull ups every day, multiple times per day. As I said earlier, at your age, I’d rather perform intense exercise one day and give your body a rest the next (or switch off between arms and legs).

    Some other general comments, don’t be afraid to add in bicep curls if you think they are lagging. Yes, the compound exercises you perform will work your biceps but feel free to isolate them as well if you want. You could also consider giving incline press or close grip bench press a try down the road if you want focus on your upper chest or triceps more. Workout A and B are a little light on back exercises so I’d definitely include pull ups or lat pulldowns if you want to increase your focus on lats.

    Sorry, lots of info for you to process here. Hope I didn’t get too technical! One last thing, now is the time to get in the best shape of your life. Once you do that, maintenance workouts can keep you in great shape for the rest of your life. Much easier to do that now than try to get in great shape later…take it from an “old guy” who wishes he had his high school and college years back. I had to try to learn about fitness by reading bodybuilding magazines in Barnes and Noble and going on AOL (ever hear of that?)! The resources available to you online now are fantastic, so take advantage of them. I’ll try to guide you where I can.

    One other question, are you taking any supplements like creatine or protein shakes?

  • smokinZOMBi:

    i finally got it!!
    very good explanation about “Grease the Groove” sir,
    thank you very much.

  • Smokin,
    Glad it finally came together for you. Good luck with it!

  • Nic:

    What if you can’t do an exercise morning,noon and night but only once a day. Does the principle still apply if you did say 50% of your max reps for 4 sets in a row? Also, you recommend working on one exercise at a time. What about incorporating this idea within a calisthenic circuit you repeat 3-4 times, keeping all exercises (6-12) within that 50% – 80% range of max reps?

  • Nic,
    Grease the groove is best if done through the day but Pavel recommends ladders for someone who cannot do that. The key as always is to avoid fatigue. Here’s how Pavel describes it. When training with a partner, you do 1 pull up, then watch your partner do 1. Then you do 2 pull ups and watch your partner do 2. You continue up the ladder until one of you cannot complete the specified number of reps. You should not try so hard to complete a rep that your muscles fail. Once you cannot complete a step of the ladder, you start over at 1 and work up the ladder again. As you can tell, this results in a significant volume of pull ups. Without a partner, you could simply rest as long as it would take to complete the required number of pull ups. This theory can similarly be applied to other exercises as well. Let me know if that makes sense.

  • Nic:

    Thank you for the reply. Yes that makes sense, I’m assuming ‘fail’ means you start a rep but can not finish it? For this purpose Is there a difference between failure and fatigue?

  • Jess:

    “For this purpose Is there a difference between failure and fatigue?”

    Hi Nic, from my understanding (I could be wrong) fatigue is where your getting tired but failure is when you cannot possibly do another repetition. It is basically total muscular failure. Hope that helps :-)

  • Nic,
    Sorry I missed your comment. Jess is correct about the difference between failure and fatigue. For raw strength training, I avoid both. A little fatigue is fine, but failure is not an option!

    Thanks for the follow-up.


  • Allen:

    I will definitely be using Grease the Groove to increase my maximum pushup output.

    DO you have any suggestions as to how to do maximum amount of pushups in a given time interval? What I means is say I had 1 minute to do as many pushups as I could, would you recommend pushing for my max amount and continuing from there? Or would you suggest doing small sets of a certain amount, say 20, and taking a very brief break before continuing?

  • Allen,
    Speed training is a little different than strength training. The goal then would be to perform as many pushups as quickly as possible. Because of that, you want to gather momentum and generate a little bounce. It’s kind of cheating since it makes pushups easier. As a test, try doing 5 regular good form pushups, resting 5 seconds, and repeating as many times as possible. Then on another day just do as many pushups as you can. I’ll bet you find you do a lot more doing as many as possible because of momentum.

    That aside, if you are training for time, I’d recommend doing a max number to fully take advantage of the momentum building. However, if you’re looking to increase strength, then make sure to focus on good form. All depends on the goals. Let me know if any of this is overly confusing…


  • Toni:

    I don’t know about pullups because I haven’t attempted them yet but I’d tend to agree with you on the pushups – just practice. That’s what I did. When I first started the weight training, I could barely do one full pushup, that’s how unbelievably weak I was. I refused to do the “girl version” and the author advised against it as well. I just did the pushups at an incline, starting off at counter height and eventually working my way down to the ground. Now I can properly execute around 15 full ones which I hear is pretty decent for a female. But I will admit, that they are really hard and require good shoulders to propel you back up.

  • Toni,
    15 full pushups is very good. Sounds like you started off the right way. Maybe you’ll work toward doing some one-arm pushups in the future!

  • Joe:

    I have done the traditional power lifting methods for years, I am 45 yrs. old, have done the Starr 5 x 5, Westside conjugate methods, speed work, ME,DE days, heavy singles, Dinosaur training … would GTG possibly be beneficial to increase my bench press- this is my worst lift, and I am thinking if this would be a good change for say a 12 week cycle- your thoughts?
    Thanks so much !

  • Joe,
    Sounds like you have a great deal of experience. Grease the groove is good if you are simply trying to increase your bench press. It really comes down to what your motivation is…do you want to bench more just to bench more, are you trying to increase raw power, or are you trying to build a tighter chest? Here’s an article I wrote on increasing bench press:

    Hopefully that helps you decide if GTG is right for you. Happy to help more if I can.


  • Kenneth Yu:

    I do agree when you said that practice does make perfect – that is, if you are doing it the right way the first time. If you are practicing the wrong way, then, doing it perfectly is really pretty far from happening. Just like pull ups and push-ups, it’s not only the quantity but both the quantity and the quality of the execution that produce the best results.

    Kenneth Yu
    Spur Press

  • “This technique does not only work with bodyweight exercises either.”

    You’re right — this principle is nothing short of universal. I remember hearing exactly the same word (“practice”, of course) being said over and again in a UBMS (business-related) training video.

    I agree with Kenneth as well — [good quality] practice makes perfect.

    There is less to say on working out for me, however. Signed up for a monthly subscription once (the gym had a really good promo then), went the Monday that came after, and never came back. All the pain, too much to bear than what I was accustomed to practising for. So if you work out regularly, you definitely have my respect.


  • liam:

    hello i was thinking about trying this but i have a quick questions, i am currently training for the royal marines, so my training in quite intense so could i just add this to my current workout or would that be to much.

    thanks for any reply

  • Liam,
    Assuming you’re working similar muscles, I think it would be tough to grease the groove while training for the royal marines. Remember that your muscles need to recover. The beauty of greasing the groove is that you avoid failure and train your nervous system but I think your muscles would be more likely to be overworked if you’re already doing intense training.

  • Mark the Dane:

    Hi there

    A coupke of questions for you, that I hope you will answer.

    I am right doing a lot of work out as I prepare for an exam to get into the police academy.

    One of the exercises is chinups/pullups (what is the difference? btw).

    Right now I can do a max of seven in a row when i push my self, but I would like to be able to make 12-14. Therefor I am going to try your GTG-programme.

    My question is: Do I only ever do the 70 percent of my maximum or do you have to go to your maximum once a week or something?

    If not, how do you know how much you have improved?

    I have a couple of months from today before I am going to the exam.

    Greetings from Denmark

  • Mark,
    Here are a couple ways to do things. First, the difference between chinups and pullups. With chinups, your palms face you; with pullups, your palms face away from you. Chinups work your biceps more while pullups focus more on your back. Chinups are generally considered easier.

    A couple ways to train. Greasing the groove is all about avoiding failure so don’t regularly work your muscles to exhaustion. If your max is 7, then start by doing 5 pullups several times per day with a lot of rest in between. This can be repeated numerous times. As they get really easy, you can try adding a 6th and then a 7th, and so on. You can certainly test your max once a week but try to take a day off before and after since your muscles would be fatigued from maxing out.

    Another alternative is to perform ladders. Again, avoid failure. Start by doing 1 pullup. Rest 5 seconds and do 2 pullups, rest 10 seconds and do 3 pullups, rest 15 seconds and do 4 pullups, etc. Go until you can’t complete the required number of pullups (i.e. you can only do 5 pullups without going to failure when you were supposed to do 6). At that point, take a brief rest and start the ladders over at 1.

    Hopefully this works well for you. Remember that greasing the groove is all about training your central nervous system…don’t train for the “pump” in this instance.

    Let me know if you have any more questions. Good luck with the police exam!


  • Daniel:

    I’ve read Naked warrior and I am really interested in applying this training and theory to increase my military fitness

  • Mark:

    When I was in my younger twentys I stumbled upon a workout that consisted of doin 3 or 4 sets of pullups to failure with about 2 minutes in between each set for 5 days and then take 2 or three days off and start it over again. I foung that it took my pullups from 10 to 23 in a matter of a couple of months. Every time I took a few days off I found when I returned I could do 1 or 2 more pullups. I stayed away from pullups for a while do to certain injuries in my late 30’s and now I fing that this routine is to much for my arms, probably because Im about 40 pounds heavier. But this method may benefit someone in their younger years.

  • Marc:

    So you say to do 3-4 sets a day when greasing the groove. So does that mean you should not do any more sets than 3-4? for example if you did 10-20 sets a day would it not work better? Or would it be worse than just 3-4 sets a day? please reply somebody!

  • Marc,
    More sets can grease the groove as long as you’re avoiding failure. Pavel actually discusses ladders in one of his books where you do 1 pullup, let another person do 1, then do 2, let another person do 2, and keep repeating until you cannot complete the number of reps. Then start over again. Always make sure you can complete the reps with good form though.

  • Jackie:

    What to do if you can’t DO a pull-up or push-up??

  • Jackie,
    You can always start with an easier but similar movement. For example, you can do wall pushups, incline pushups, kneeling pushups, or half pushups. For pullups, try inverted rows. Some gyms also have machines that help you do assisted pullups.

  • Jackie:

    Thx Dave, and I do that stuff…but if I can’t do a whole one, how do I “grease the groove” by doing two? I see how I could do that w/the half push-up I do, but my pull-up is a joke…I do CrossFit, not typical gym, and I just jump and pull as far as I can…abt a millimeter!! Do ring rows…guess I could do more of those, but not at home…

  • Jackie,
    I see your point. Before worrying about greasing the groove, focus on getting a little stronger so you can complete the movements with good form. If you’re really into pushups and pullups, there’s a pretty good program that goes through progressions called Convict Conditioning:

    Otherwise, do some of the movements I mentioned and gradually work up to good form pushups and pullups. Do the movements as often as daily avoiding failure if possible.


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