Greasing the Groove to Improve Pullup Reps

Time for a small confession – I suck at pullups. It’s a movement I’ve kind of shrugged off, largely thanks to my abysmal rep counts leaving me disheartened, but it’s about time I finally started changing that.

I was recently introduced to the concept of ‘greasing the groove’, a technique developed by strength and conditioning master Pavel Tsatsouline. The basic premise is that if you repeat a specific movement on a regular basis, for example, several times a day Monday-Friday, without training to failure and/or fatiguing the muscles you can vastly increase your rep count.

So, if you can do 10 reps with good form, aim to do 5-8 reps at different points throughout the day. The theory is that you’re training your body, muscles and nerves to perform the movement as efficiently as possible, with the movement becoming easier and more natural over time.

While this approach doesn’t conform to the standard approach to strength or hypertrophy training, getting better at the movement and increasing your rep range puts you in a position where you can progress to a more traditional sets/reps program. Moving from a 3 rep max to 10-12 provides a lot more options when choosing a new program, so there’s validity in working simply to increase efficiency and endurance in the early stages.

While it’s recommended as a method of improving bodyweight exercises, largely because of the lack of any need for equipment, greasing the groove can also be used for traditional weight lifting movements. It’s far easier, in terms of practicality, to work on improving your push up reps than improving your bench press reps as you don’t need to have a bar set up 24/7 to accommodate you. However, if you have the equipment available then the same approach should produce results with weight training the same way it does for bodyweight workouts.

The key rules for the greasing the groove system are:

  • Never train to failure
  • Only work on improving one or two movements at a time
  • Take a rest from the program if your muscles are feeling fatigued

I’m getting started with this today, so I’ll keep a record and post some numbers in a few weeks!


  • Updated May 26, 2020
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