How many pull-ups and push-ups can you do? 10? 20? 50? Whatever the number is, your answer should be "not enough!" After all, there is always room for improvement. These exercises are so beneficial that increasing your numbers will invariably have a positive impact on your performance, your physique, or both.
What is the best way to get better at pull-ups and push-ups?
Including them in your workouts is an excellent place to start. Make both of these exercises the cornerstone of your upper body training, and you should see some decent progress.
But what if I told you that there was a better way to get good at these exercises that is actually easier than your regular workout? You'd be forgiven for thinking I was lying to you. However, such a method exists, and it’s called grease the groove, or GTG for short.
STRENGTH IS A SKILL
Muscle size has less to do with strength and performance than a lot of people realize. The main factor that dictates how much force your muscles can produce is your nervous system. Your muscles are made up of muscle fibers. Those muscle fibers are grouped into motor units. A motor unit is a bundle of fibers that are all innervated or activated by a single nerve. Every muscle is made up of lots of separate motor units.
Motor units can either work at 100% of their contractile capacity or not at all. To generate more force, you simply recruit more motor units. The more motor units you can activate, the stronger you will be.
Imagine a group of 12 soldiers trying to push a truck. If only three of the 12 are pushing, the truck will go nowhere fast. But, if you can get all 12 soldiers pushing together, that truck should soon start moving.
The same is true of strength. Even if you have big muscles, if you can't get all your motor units working together, you won't be able to generate much force. But, even if your muscles are smaller, if you get all your motor units working as a cohesive unit, you'll be able to produce much more force.
The good news is you can learn to recruit more motor units at the same time. With practice, you'll be able to turn on more motor units at the same time, and that will make push-ups or pull-ups much easier. The key to achieving this feat is practice.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT... OR DOES IT?
They say practice makes perfect, but that's not entirely true. If, when you practice, you do so incorrectly, you’ll just get better at doing something wrong. In strength training, this means if you always train to failure, you end up training yourself to fail.
If you want to get stronger, you’ll get better results if you avoid failure. 'Greasing the Grove', the subject of this article in case you forgot, involves doing lots of submaximal reps with perfect form.
GTG (greasing the grove)
So let's get down to the logistics of this technique. Say you can do eight pull-ups and want to be able to do more. Instead of doing more sets of eight, the last one of which will probably be an ugly-as-sin grinder, do lots of micro sets of 2-3 reps throughout your day. Each rep will be perfect but won’t fatigue you.
How many sets should you do? As many as you can! Put a pull-up bar up in your office and do a few reps every time you walk beneath it. In time, your nervous system will become much more efficient, and you'll be able to recruit more motor units at the same time.
After a few weeks of grease the groove training, you should find that you can do eight reps with ease. That's despite never having done more than 2-3 reps per set during this time. Grease the groove really works, but you have to commit to doing lots of sets spread throughout your day.
You can use this technique to improve your performance in any exercise, from pull-ups to pistols to push-ups. Just remember, DO NOT push yourself to failure. Instead, make sure you leave lots of reps in the tank and simply try and clock up as many submaximal but high-quality sets as you can.
Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect!
This knowledge implemented alongside our Push-up Pull-up plan will be the difference between you and that guy still sweating through his 5 reps. Pick up your copy at the link below.