Make Training Fun with
“Greasing the Groove”!
With the quarantine still going on, it’s likely your training has been impacted in some way. Maybe you need some ideas to stay creative with minimal equipment? Or maybe you are struggling with feeling motivated to fit in hour-long training sessions, and need shorter blocks of time to practice throughout the day? Or you want to improve your skills with some challenging exercises? “Greasing the Groove” is the perfect solution!
“Greasing the Groove” means practicing frequently, when you are fresh, with flawless technique. The idea is that when you practice several times throughout the day, you can practice with excellent form and groove neural pathways that help your brain and body progress more quickly with a skill than if you tried to practice during a “workout” where you would be getting tired. It’s a great way to learn and develop new skills, sneak in some practice on exercises you might not normally be working on, and break up the monotony of long periods of time of inactivity. So, we’ve got a few ideas with videos to help you get started!
Since lots of people have pull up bars at home, here are some suggestions from Coach RT on how to “Grease the Groove” with Pull Ups and Chin Ups:
- Flexed Arm Hang – From a Chin Up Grip (palms facing you), jump or step off a step stool so that your jaw line is over the bar. Find Hollow Position by tucking your pelvis, bracing your core, squeezing your glutes and firing your lats. Don’t let your shoulders shrug up around your ears. Hold for as long as you can, but come down before your technique gets sloppy.
- Chin Up Negatives – Jump or step into your Flexed Arm Hang position, and slowly lower yourself down until your arms are straight. Stay in Hollow Position. Since you may not have a doorway tall enough to let your legs come straight down, let them come out in front of you, which will also help you stay in the Hollow Position more easily.
- Jump Start Chin Ups/ Chin Ups – Practice single reps by using assistance from your legs. Work your way up to using less help from your lower body so that you are starting from as much of a dead hang as you can.
- Jump Start Pull Ups/ Pull Ups – Once you have built up skill in chin ups, start getting some variety to switching to pull up grip with palms facing away from you.
If you don’t have a pull up bar at home, or you aren’t quite ready to start practicing these progressions, you can start by working Hollow Position either supine on the floor or standing up and imagining pulling a bar to your chest.
A fun lower body exercise to “grease the groove” with is the single leg “pistol” squat. Here are a few variations from Coach Caleb on ways to practice your pistol:
- Narrow Stance Squats – Take your feet as close together as you can and squat up and down from a chair, and eventually move away from the chair to squat as low as you can.
- Pistols from a Chair – You can practice squatting down on 1 leg and standing up on 2, squatting on 2 and standing on 1, and squatting both up and down on 1 leg. Couches or office chairs make a great starting point for practicing… since you probably need a break from sitting anyway. Gradually you can work to squatting to a lower surface like an ottoman or step stool.
- Pistols with Arm Assist – You can start by using 2 hands, and work your way to 1 hand assisting you up and down from your single leg squat. If you are outside getting some fresh air, trees are a great support, or if you are indoors a doorway works well too.
- Full Pistols – Squatting up and down with no support on a single leg seems almost like a magic trick, so start slowly and increase your range of motion only to the point of zero pain in hips, ankles and knees.
Generating full body tension is key, as is having excellent hip, knee and ankle mobility/stability. If single leg squats are too challenging for now, you can absolutely grease the groove with squats on two feet using any of the options above!
Another exercise that benefits from fresh, frequent, flawless practice is handstands. One of the biggest challenges is conquering that fear of how to fall out of them once you are away from a wall. There are a couple of different approaches to falling out of a handstand, but the one we like best for building confidence is the cartwheel method. Here are a some ideas from Coach Kati for greasing the groove with handstands:
- Kick Ups to the Wall – Start facing the wall and kick up to handstand. A great place to practice finding balance, joint stacking, and how to connect your hands to the ground.
- Wall Handstand with a Cartwheel Out – Start facing away from the wall, walk your feet up the wall, and then walk your hands in toward the wall. To come out imagine steering your hands to the left while you cartwheel your legs to the right (or vice versa).
- Cartwheels – Practice your cartwheel out away from the wall to get the sense of balance.
- Handstand with a Cartwheel Out – Kick up to your handstand, and cartwheel out using the same steering method as on the wall.
Of course, it takes some time and patience to work up to trying a handstand of any kind. Handstands require lots of wrist and shoulder mobility and strengthening exercises, as well as planks and push ups. So that might be the perfect place to start until you feel ready to go upside down.