Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Increasing Your Push-ups and Sit-ups: Grease the Groove

For some individuals, increasing the number of push-ups and sit-ups they can do seems impossible. But I have stumbled across a simple and relatively easy technique that anyone can use to increase their strength in any exercise: Grease the groove.

As far as your PT test is concerned, this technique can allow you to possibly double the number of push-ups and sit-ups you can do in one minute in as little as six weeks! And you can do it at work while in uniform.

What is Grease the Groove?
Traditionally, if you wanted to improve your push-ups and sit-ups, you did lots and lots of push-ups and sit-ups. You might even be encouraged to do hundreds of push-ups and sit-ups each day trying to build the endurance strength necessary to get max points on your PT test. But this approach often exhausts the muscles used in each exercise (so much that you likely have a hard time maintaining perfect form for many of your reps). Consequently, because your form is usually poor, you see very little improvement on your PT test despite weeks of preparation.

Grease the grove, on the other hand, works smarter, requiring that you only do three sets a day per exercise, with each set separated by at least an hour, for five days a week, until you achieve your desired strength. That's it!

The beauty of this approach to building this endurance strength is that you never truly exhaust your muscles, allowing your brain to use specificity and frequency to efficiently recruit as many muscle fibers as possible when executing an exercise without exhausting the central nervous system. This very quickly improves your neurological strength, causing you to possibly double your push-ups and sit-ups (or any exercise) in four to six weeks. (1)

Using Grease the Groove for Push-ups and Sit-ups
Since this site is all about helping people pass their PT test, I will only talk about push-ups and sit-ups in the following example of the grease the groove technique. But keep in mind that this technique can be used for any exercise (it's great for developing pull-up strength).

Overall, you will only do three sets each of push-ups and sit-ups every work day, with each set separated by at least 60 minutes. The process is as follows:
  1. Sometime in the morning (e.g., as soon as you get to work), do as many reps as you can with good form for both push-ups and sit-ups. Since you are doing the maximum reps that you can, this first set is called the max set. After you complete this first set for both your push-ups and sit-ups, STOP EXERCISING for at least 60 minutes
  2. For your second set (which, again, should be at least 60 minutes after your first set), complete only half as many reps for your push-ups and sit-ups as you did for your max set (don’t do any more than half, even you can). Again, since you are only doing half as many reps as your max set, this set is called the half set. After this second set, STOP EXERCISING for at least another 60 minutes.
  3. For the third and final set (which, again, should be at least 60 minutes after your second set), do another half set of push-ups and sit-ups. 
  4. That’s it, you’re done for that day. Repeat this process for each work day (typically Monday through Friday) and rest on the weekends. Repeat each week until you achieve your desired sit-ups and push-ups.

My Example
On Monday at 0730, I'll do as many push-ups and sit-ups as I can (lately I've been doing 80 push-ups and 70 sit-ups). After this max set I'll write down the number of reps that I achieved and then get started with my work. At 0830 I'll take a break from my work and do a single half set of 40 push-ups and 35 sit-ups. I then go back to work. At 0930 I'll do a final half set for both push-ups and sit-ups (again, only 40 push-ups and 35 sit-ups). So, by the end of my workday on Monday I will have done 1 max set and 2 half sets for a total of 160 push-ups and 140 sit-ups.

For Tuesday through Friday I will repeat this process, doing a single max set as soon as I get to work at 0730, then a single half set at 0830, and my final half set at 0930. As my max sets increase, so too will my half sets. So, if I can do 84 push-ups and 74 push-ups on Tuesday, then my half sets will be 42 and 37 (respectively). I'll keep repeating this process until I hit my push-up and sit-up goals (which are currently 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups in one go).

Getting Started
As far as your push-ups and sit-ups are concerned, you have to be able to execute each exercise in perfect form before you decide to use this technique. If you don’t use the correct form then some of your push-ups and sit-ups may not count on your PT test, no matter how many extra you can do after using this technique.

Also, from my own experience, you want to make sure that you can get at least 20 reps of either sit-ups or push-ups (using perfect form) before using this technique. It may take longer for you to see results if you can only do a couple of reps using perfect form.

If you can’t get 20 reps using perfect form then try making an exercise easier, using the grease the groove technique to quickly build up your strength. When you can get about 60 reps using modified form, go back to using perfect form. Continue to use this technique until you hit your desired reps.

Here’s an example of what I mean: If you can't get at least 20 perfect-form push-ups, then start out doing the mechanically easier modified version (where you do push-ups on a chair or table). Once you can get up to 60 reps using this modified form, switch back to doing perfect form push-ups on the floor.

Keeping Track
After using this technique myself--and helping several people understand the awesomeness of grease the groove--I quickly realized that writing my max and half sets on a pre-made form would be much more helpful than just trying to remember what I did (mostly because I have such a terrible memory). So I made a simple form that helps me see exactly how quickly my max sets have improved. Since I'm sure you'd like to also have a simple form to track your progress, I have uploaded my grease the groove form to this post (see below).

Click here to download the PDFfile of the grease the groove log form.

Grease the groove is a very simple and effective exercise technique that you can use to increase the number of reps you can accomplish for any exercise (e.g., pull-ups, hand-stand push-ups, squats). As far as the PT test is concerned, you can use this technique to quickly improve your push-ups and sit-ups in very little time (so long as you use perfect form).

Why not try it out for the next 42 days to see if you can double the number of push-ups and sit-ups you can do in one go? You might be pleasantly surprised.


  1. Wow this is different than the traditional GTG. Which is 4-6 sets of half max reps, but this is way more effective so far. In 3 days ive gone from 30 max situps to 52. Ive never done more than 35 in a row. This has me so excited. Situps have always been my weakness, but they might be my highest score in a few more weeks. Im definitely getting 270 or better on my next APFT.

  2. I'm glad that my version of Grease the Groove worked for you! I've used the original version that had me do 6-10 half sets throughout the day for each exercise. To try to simplify this process I started reducing the number of half sets I did each day until my improvement rate started to decline. Three sets a day (one max set and then two half sets) was as low as I could go before there was a noticeable drop in day-to-day improvement.

  3. Where is the pdf it says it no longer lives in dropbox?

  4. Is it alright to do this routine in conjunction with other chest workouts 1 or 2 times a week or should I skip the GTG sets on days I work chest?

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