Monday, January 25, 2010

I'm Greasing My Groove

As I mentioned last week, I'm reading Pavel Tsatsouline's "Enter the Kettlebell!" to get myself psyched up for swinging a big-ass cast iron ball around. But Pavel's no one-trick pony: He's written a few other fitness manuals, including "The Naked Warrior," a book that promises to teach readers "exactly what it takes to be super-strong in minimum time" using nothing but gravity and body weight. I'm reading this one, too.

What's fascinating about "The Naked Warrior" is what it doesn't do: It doesn't provide instruction on how to do dozens of different body weight exercises, nor does it ask that readers crank out rep after rep until exhaustion. Instead, Pavel commands: "DO FEWER EXERCISES BETTER."

In fact, "The Naked Warrior" routine consists of just two exercises: Pistol Squats and One-Arm/One-Leg Push-Ups. The rest of the book focuses on techniques for tensing your body and "power breathing" to enhance your strength. Pavel also spends some time discussing a training method called "Grease the Groove" -- a low rep, high-intensity, high-frequency approach to achieving personal bests.

Fitness Ninja's greasing the groove (with a newborn, no less!), and just yesterday, he linked to Pavel's description of this strength-building method here. As Pavel puts it:
Specificity + frequent practice = success. It is so obvious, most people don’t get it. Once I came across a question posted on a popular powerlifting website by a young Marine: how should he train to be able to do more chin-ups? I was amused when I read the arcane and non-specific advice the trooper had received: straight-arm pull-downs, reverse curls, avoiding the negative part of the chin-up every third workout… I had a radical thought: if you want to get good at chin-ups, why not try to do… a lot of chin-ups?
Just a couple of months earlier I had put my father-in-law Roger Antonson, incidentally an ex-Marine, on a program which required him to do an easy five chins every time he went down to his basement. Each day he would total between twenty-five and a hundred chin-ups hardly breaking a sweat. Every month or so Roger would take a few days off and then test himself. Before you knew it, the old leatherneck could knock off twenty consecutive chins, more than he could do forty years ago during his service with the few good men!
Sounds good to me. As an experiment, I've started doing five weighted pull-ups (using a weight chained to a weightlifting belt) ever time I step into my garage. After P90X, my personal best was 18  pull-ups in a row -- and I'm not sure I can match that now -- but let's see if "greasing the groove" can push me over 20. (Or if it's going to make me want to avoid stepping foot in my garage.)