Do you have a simple exercise that you’d love to do more of, but you’re always struggling? Doing mini workouts throughout the day can help you finally do more reps. Think five push-ups every hour, or a pull-up every time you walk through the door where you hung your pull-up bar.
The technique is often called “greasing the groove” and credited to Pavel Tsatsouline. His theory was that repeating an exercise throughout the day teaches your brain, nerves, and muscles to work together more efficiently. Basically, you’re practicing it like a skill.
But there may be more to it. After all, it’s still an exercise and you’re still doing a lot of it—so, just like any workout, you’re getting stronger by getting a lot of reps in.
Here’s how it works:
Pick an exercise where you can do at least a few reps but would like to do more. You also have to be able to do it at home or work, so nothing that requires equipment that lives at the gym. Push-ups and pull-ups are classic. You might also choose another bodyweight exercise like squats, or a challenging yoga pose.
Figure out how many reps you can do, and cut that number in half. So if you can do struggle through three pull-ups, you can start greasing the groove with just one.
Do that short, easy set as often as you can. You could set a timer to remind you every hour during the work day, for example.
Be mindful of how much total work you’re asking your muscles to do. Don’t do the exercise in your regular workouts and throughout the day; pick one or the other. And don’t feel like you have to do your mini-workouts once an hour on the first day. Start with three or four sets, and add more the next day.
Since the sets never get hard enough to fatigue you, the exercise will never feel hard. But since you’re doing a ton of them, in time you’ll make progress and be able to do more reps. It’s a technique that’s worth a try if you’re trying to get that second or fifth or 10th pull-up.