Crank More Using Old School Soviet Special Forces Methods
I wanted you to check out this method (aka Pavel’s Grease the Groove) of how to crank out more push-ups and pull-ups and set a new personal record (PR). This technique will surely have you on a journey to set new records and blow away your old ones. Using this method I have set several new records for including 100 burpees for time.
Also for those that don’t know – this is a method that Navy SEALs use in their training workouts as they are required to do pull ups every time they go into the chow hall on San Clemente island.
I was working out at SEALFit in Encinitas, CA. with Rob Budd, a top Kettle-Bell trainer and workout machine. Rob was explaining to me about a former Soviet Special Forces trainer named Pavel Tsatsouline who advocates stretching, kettlebell workouts and many bodyweight exercises.
So I am new to kettlebell training, love bodyweight exercises and had not heard of Pavel. Who is this guy, Pavel? So after the workout, I sat down on the floor of the gym with my Iphone and googled this guy and found his website- Whooah! Pavel is blowing me away. Not only can he hoist kettlebells with precision, but he can do a crazy amount of pushups, stretch like a mountain cat and nails multiple one legged squats (the pistol). This guy is bad *ss and has trained both Soviet Union Special Forces troops (Spetznaz) and crack Special Ops troops in the U.S. also.
Lets check out more of Pavel’s bodyweight exercise methods.
Crank More of Body Weight Exercises with “Greasing the Groove”
Greasing the Groove, or GTG for short, is based on the principle of “synaptic facilitation”…doing frequent, non-exhaustive sets of a specific exercise to strengthen the nerve pathway. So doing the same lift multiple times per week, but training short of failure. This is a method used by Bulgarian and Russian weight-lifters which has allowed them to dominate in many of the Olympic lifts over the years. These athletes actually train a particular lift (bench press, squat, dead lift, power clean, etc.) several times a day.
A Technique to Try – “Practicing a Lift”
To gain strength as a skill, is similar to any other physical skill. The more you practice a certain skill, the better your body becomes a doing that movement. Take a basketball player for instance…many basketball players practice their free throw each and every day. The reason they do this is to develop a “groove” where the body gets more efficient at performing that movement. They are strengthening the neural pathways to perform that movement, the more they practice it.
Failure Can Be Your Worst Enemy
If your trying to gain mass like a bodybuilder in Venice Beach then working towards failure (high reps) is fine. If your trying to become strong it is not the path (high reps) to take. Lifting to failure becomes a problem as it leads to fatique, burnout and in some cases, injury. When you workout to failure and your muscle becomes fatigued, it loses it ability to contract hard.
For Greasing the Groove (GTG) you need the hard contraction. This is a key to getting stronger. You want to be able to have strong neural impulses multiple times per week or day. This will strengthen the neural pathways and make your stronger. Training to failure is not your friend if you want to get stronger.
Pavel Teaches Soviet “Spetsnaz”
The “Spetsnaz” are the top elite Special Forces unit of the Soviet military. These guys are the best of the best in all of Russia. Total bad asses. One of the physical requirements was to do 18 pull-ups with a 22 pound weighted vest. Most of the U.S. military cannot even do 18 pullups let alone with a 22 lb vest.
Are you kidding me — 18 dead hangs with a vest? So Pavel goes to work and designs a custom pull-up workout for the Spetnaz. This special workout allowed these guys to easily reach that requirement. With only 1 to 2 pull-up workouts per day these athletes saw incredible gains. Pavel calls this technique “ladders”.
Use Pavels Ladders to Get Wicked Strong at Pull-ups or Push-ups
Pavel describes this method…“We would file out to the pull-up bars and perform what we called ladders. I do a pull-up, you do one. I do two, you match me, etc. until one of us cannot keep up. Then, if we still had time, we started over. One rep, 2 reps, 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10… 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,… 1,2,3,4,5. We totaled hundreds of pull-ups almost daily without burning out, and the extreme PT tests of our service were a breeze.”
An Explanation of Why Does Pavels Ladders Work?
If you understand why Pavels ladders work, you can incorporate this principle into your workout. Pavel explains…”high-volume plus specificity minus burnout”. To put this into easier terms…you are doing many sets of one exercise but you are stopping before failure in every set. The key with the ladder is to stop 1 to 2 reps before failure…preferably 2 reps.
REPEAT: Stop 2 reps before failure.
High Repetitions and Fatigue are a No-No
Since you are avoiding fatique then you will not have a high rate of muscle break down or sore muscles. You will not develop excess mass like a body builder which is not good for moving your weight around at a rapid pace. Take this advice and stop before failure. Do not do high volume to failure unless you want to look like guys on the TV reality show “Jersey Shore”. Pavel’s ladder for the Spetznaz is a proven method that will catapult your pushups and pullups into a new personal record.
Question: What is a good book I can read to learn more about bodyweight workouts?
We like the book Convict Conditioning 2 by Coach Paul Wade. It is an excellent resource for bodyweight workouts.
More Info on Pavel
For starters check out Pavel’s book (Power to the People). It is a good read and you will get a ton of pointers from this one.
More Books and Info from Pavel:<
How to Develop the Ultimate in Wrought-Iron Muscle, Mid-Section Body Armor and Core Generation of Explosive Power The sole goal of Hard Style Abs is to achieve an extraordinarily strong mid-section. But not simply to swivel heads with your rippling “six-pack”. For, according to Pavel, your abs should be simultaneously weapon, armor and force generator.
Questions from athletes in our gym.
Question: I am stuck at 5 reps pull ups grease the groove – what do I do? Mix it up and do chin ups and work on negatives and you will see results. You can also take a week off from pull ups and re-set your workouts.
Question: What are the benefits of ladder training for increasing pull up reps?
Answer: The ladder methods give you a defined system that you can work on and document so that you can come back the next week and improve. Check out this article with more tips to help you.
Pavel Tsatsouline Interview
Mind Over Muscle by Pavel
Russian Bodyweight Workouts