Scaling ‘Grease the Groove’

In my last post about the “Grease the Groove” (GTG) concept, I discussed some of the basics of how to use this powerful tool to help speed up your skill and strength development. Many movers the world over would laugh at the idea of putting a name to it, since its really just practice; but what makes it a unique idea for most people is the utilization of short bursts of light practice throughout the day. As I pointed out previously, there are some rules that you should follow to get the best results from this practice, and that includes picking a skill that is appropriate for your level of development. I’d like to elaborate on that a bit.

When choosing what drill or exercise to use for your GTG practice, It’s important that you are able to see your intended skill both as the completed end-result that you’re striving for and as the individual components that comprise it. You need to know how to jump and land before you can perform a good backflip. You need a passable plank before you can perform a good push-up. You need to be capable of overhead squatting before you can perform a good snatch. Not to deliberately beat a dead horse, but progression is the key to everything.

That can be easier to forget than I’d like to admit.

To take an analogy from my own training, at present I’m making my first forray into the world of hand balancing. The goal I have for the next few months of training is to earn a consistent 15 second freestanding handstand (quite rudimentary, but you have to start somewhere). When I began working on this goal in earnest I initially tried to apply GTG with the handstand itself, practicing my kick-up or wall-supported handstand briefly throughout the day. What I discovered after my first week was that I simply wasn’t strong enough to justify doing so. Although I was making progress in finding the balance point and accumulating time on my hands, the little doses of practice were creating more stiffness through my neck, shoulders, and forearms than I was able to practically manage.

As always, the problem seems very obvious in hindsight. I hadn’t considered the stages of mobility, stability, and strength that were fundamental to the handstand. The position was still too challenging for me to practice with any degree of productive volume without requiring more recovery than makes sense for GTG.

Following that, I looked a bit closer at exactly what was holding back my handstand practice. I’ll spare you the laundry list, but I ultimately decided that my wrist mobility and strength (really a lack thereof) was the biggest issue, and I’ve refocused my GTG work on that. Periodically throughout the day I’ve been spending a few minutes opening up my wrists and easing into some basic loading in easy positions like quadruped or the plank (this also allows me to simultaneously incorporate basic scapular and glenohumeral stability, further bolstering that foundation). Once I feel my wrists are no longer the weakest link, I will shift my focus to the next weakest link, and so on until I’m a bad dude.

This is how you should approach your own GTG work, and really your training as a whole. You don’t have to be perfect before progressing, but if you know, even in the back of your mind, that you’re missing a crucial element of the skill you’re trying to build, you’ll get much better progress if you take that weakness out of the equation first. As I have to constantly remind myself, look at your training with one eye on your long-term development. It feels like a grind in the short term, and its very easy to get impatient, but every inch you crawl towards that goal is progress, and its much better than staying right where you are because you’re too eager to do some cool handstands.

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The Blog of Author Tim Ferriss

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