A quick disclaimer before I begin:
The method I’m going to reveal to you is both powerful and effective, and truly requires very little of your time and not much effort but you need to understand its purpose and that is to increase either maximum strength or muscle endurance. Though you will likely experience some cosmetic muscle changes, this is not a program designed for weight loss or muscle gain. Its intent is to increase functional strength and work capacity. Losing fat and gaining muscle along the way is a nice side benefit but the goal is to get strong. If you are already in decent shape, you will get stronger without having to spend an hour or more at the gym. If you’re completely out of shape – don’t worry – this will get you going on the road to success.
I also want to add that I did not come up with this on my own but it’s based on principles I learned from some of the great strength coaches of our time. I want to give credit where credit is due and also be as transparent as possible. The strategy I’m about to share with you is based on the “Grease the Groove” method as first described to me by Pavel Tsatsouline. In case you don’t know who Pavel is, he’s the guy that’s generally credited with introducing kettlebells to Americans.
His method is really geared toward elite powerlifters and strength athletes, but I’m going to show you how the same exact concept can be applied to the average guy/gal who works out or even the couch potato who’s struggling to get that motivation to start an exercise routine. With that out of the way, let’s get down to business.
First, let me describe to you Pavel’s “Grease the Groove” method – I know, I know, it sounds ridiculous so we’ll refer to it as GtG from now on. GtG can be summed up as:
Specificity + Frequent Practice (Volume) = Success
The technical name Pavel gives this is “Synaptic Facilitation”. It means you pick an exercise (or two) and you do it often. Yes it’s that simple. Before you get angry that you read this far only for me to tell you that, let me explain it a little bit more.
I’ll use myself as an example because I am proof that GtG works. I’ve personally used my own variation of GtG to get my push up, pull up and sit up numbers high enough to gain admittance to the Navy Special Warfare recruiting group in my local area and I can tell you it’s very effective. I achieved maximum results with minimum effort and you can too – even if you’re a couch potato.
So for those of you who don’t know, candidates who wish to try out for Navy Special Warfare have to successfully pass a series of physical fitness tests. I won’t get into all of them here but for the sake of our example, I will tell you that push ups is one of them. I was required to perform as many push ups as I could in 2 minutes. A competitive score is considered 80 or higher and if you really want to stand out you need to get a 100.
Now the traditional advice to reach this goal would be something along the lines of doing some push ups, bench pressing, tricep exercises and maybe some shoulder stuff. I didn’t do any of that and instead I employed my own version of the GtG method. It was much simpler and in my opinion, much MORE effective. Not only that, but it didn’t require me to spend hours in the gym. Heck, I didn’t even break a sweat doing it and I didn’t get sore either.
In fact, soreness is actually a sign that you’re doing it wrong. The exception to that statement is if you’re someone who has either never exercised or hasn’t exercised in a long time. In either case, don’t worry because you still won’t be as sore as you would from putting in hours at the gym, and eventually the “getting sore” will go away.
Anyways, this is exactly what I did…
Step 1 – I knew I needed to perform 100 reps so I divided them up into small sets that I performed throughout the day. I determined the number of sets and reps per set using a VERY important rule.
That rule is that you NEVER want to go to failure or even close to failure. Working the muscle to failure will not only leave you sore and unable to continue “greasing the groove” so to speak, but it will also exhaust your nervous system.
Step 2 – To prevent going to failure I needed to see what my failing point was, so I tested my max set of push ups without stopping. At the time it was 40. I then took half of that number – 20 – and divided it into my total reps goal – 100. In case you’re bad at math, 100 divided by 20 is 5.
Step 3 – I then began by doing 5 sets of 20 reps (again, that 20 was half of my max set) throughout the day. I made sure that I took at least an hour between sets and sometimes more. By the end of the day I had done a total of 100 but I was neither tired, nor sore and I didn’t even break a sweat.
In terms of time, just put it in perspective – how long does it really take to do a set of push ups? For most people less than a minute.
The best part is that the next day, I was able to do it again because I wasn’t sore. My strength went up pretty quickly and so I increased my total daily volume to 200 reps and added 5 reps to each set for a total of 25 reps per set. Divide 25 into 200 and I was doing 8 sets a day – roughly one per hour. Some days when I wanted to take it easy I would only do half of that, but it didn’t matter. My strength kept going up and I was eventually doing sets of 50 push ups 8 times a day for a total of 400 push ups a day! Let me re-state that this was all without breaking a sweat or getting sore. On top of that, there were actually some days where I allowed myself to be lazy and not finish my daily goal – and it still worked. Keep in mind that I was also training for a very elite test, so if being lazy sometimes and still achieving my goal worked for me, there’s no reason why it won’t work for you. The key is that I was consistent the majority of the time.
If you’re just an average guy, you can be even more lazy than I was and still get amazing results. If you’re a couch potato who can’t get the motivation to exercise, you can’t use the excuse that it’s too much effort or that it takes too much time because as I just described to you, none of that is true with this. If I could use it to pass the Navy Special Warfare Physical Fitness Test, there is no reason why you can’t use it to get stronger and get in shape. Again, how long does it take to do one set of push ups? Less than a minute. You will not be sweating. You will not be in pain. Just do it a few times a day. Pick a goal. Do the math I described above with your own numbers and just do it. Even if you do only one set every day. You will eventually start doing two. The important part is that you are doing something instead of just sitting on your couch getting fatter.
I realize I was mostly speaking to out of shape folks in the above paragraph and some of you more fit guys and gals might be wondering how you can apply this method to working with weights. It’s actually completely do-able, because with weights you’re not going to be banging out 100’s of reps. In fact, even though I used push ups as an example, the GtG method is actually most commonly used by Olympic weightlifters. If you have a bench or dumbbells at home you can just do one heavy set of your chosen exercise (up to 6 reps) when you wake up in the morning, one when you get home from work and one later in the evening. That’s 3 sets a day. Do this 5 days a week and your strength levels will quickly rise.
To sum it up:
Step 1. Pick an exercise or two that you want to get better at (bodyweight exercises are best for beginners since you can do them almost anywhere).
Step 2. Pick a goal and figure out your set and rep scheme based on the “don’t go to failure” math concept described above. In case you forgot it, it’s:
a. Pick a Total Daily Rep Goal (ex. 100 push ups)
b. Test your Max Reps (ex. 40) and Divide that Number by Half (20). Take the Result (20) and Divide it into your Total Daily Rep Goal (100). The answer is how many sets you’ll be doing throughout the day (ex. 5). With weight training this is slightly more complicated because you have to take the amount of weight you are using into consideration as well. A general rule of thumb is that you want to se 80% of your 1RM (one rep max) for 1-6 reps.
Step 3. Just Do It! Even if you don’t do all the sets you want to in a given day, just do some. Even one. It doesn’t matter. You just need to be doing something and don’t forget to take at least an hour between each set.
One last note I want to re-emphasize is that this strategy is very effective for increasing either muscular endurance or maximum strength but won’t really work that well if you are in a growth stage of a bodybuilding program. If you are a beginner-level bodybuilder you will experience muscle growth simply from using your muscles where you hadn’t before, but for an intermediate or advanced level bodybuilder this program will not result in hypertrophy. That’s not to say they shouldn’t use it, but use it during a strength cycle or a muscle endurance cycle, not when trying to add mass to your frame. Also, if you’re always trying to add mass to your frame, then you need to either speak to a professional like me or read up on program periodization because training for hypertrophy only, will actually result in less hypertrophy in the end. Interesting how the body works right?
Good luck in your training.