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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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August 01, 2011

WOW: Grok the Groove

By Mark Sisson

Pick at least one exercise to:

Grok the groove


Warmup: None.

If the title confuses you, wait for today’s “Dear Mark” to show up and it’ll make more sense.

“Grok the groove” is in reference to Pavel Tsatsouline’s “Greasing the groove.” It’s a way to improve your ability to perform a specific exercise by accruing lots of training volume without overloading your body. Basically, you perform a movement as often as possible without hitting failure and without grinding out any reps.

Pick an exercise that you’d really like to improve. Pullups are a popular one, but any exercise will work. If you choose two or more, make sure they’re complementary. Don’t choose movements that hit the same muscle groups. Squats and deadlifts together, for example, would be poor choices because you wouldn’t last very long. Squats and pullups, or deadlifts and pushups, though? Great combos. Pullups and pushups are an awesome combo that you can do pretty much anywhere with a little creativity.

Once you’ve chosen an exercise or set of exercises, do them as often as you can. Do five pullups every half an hour. Swing a kettlebell fifteen times every forty five minutes. Don’t go to failure, keep the reps crisp and clean, and always leave some energy in the tank.

Since this is a Workout of the Week, Grok the Groove for the entire week. Feel free to walk, hike, sprint, run, and play as you normally do, but cease all other strength training for this week. Just do your exercise, or exercises, and do them as often as you can. Do a rep test before you begin and again at the end of the week. If you improved on your max, congratulations: you got stronger.

A few things to remember:

  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: keep fresh!
  • If you find yourself grinding reps out, make a change. Either lower your reps per set, or increase the time in between sets.


No variations this time.

What Are WOWs?

  • Workouts of the Week (WOWs) are an optional component of Primal Blueprint Fitness that add a fractal and often fun and playful quality to the basic PBF protocol.
  • In most cases WOWs should only be completed by those that have mastered Level 4 of each Lift Heavy Things Essential Movement. Also, it’s recommended that WOWs replace one or both Lift Heavy Things workouts or the Sprint workout (depending on the WOW) each week instead of being done in addition to the Lift Heavy Things and Sprint workouts.
  • Learn more about WOWs and Primal Blueprint Fitness by getting the free eBook. And access all Workouts of the Week in the WOW Archive.

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15 Comments on "WOW: Grok the Groove"


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6 years 20 days ago

I am going to try to improve on my pull-ups this week! 🙂

My current max is 14 pull-ups.
My goal for the end of the week is 16 pull-ups.

Wish me luck!!

Jason Sandeman
6 years 20 days ago

Mark, if I can’t do a pull up yet, is this WOW a good way to get me from zero to hero?
I also wanted to thank you for all you do!

6 years 20 days ago
Other good exercises to help: Pull-ups off the edge of a table with your body underneath it and your heels on the floor or a chair. You could do this with a bar too. If you can’t use your arms and back to lift yourself all the way up then you can use the rest of your body to assist and still get a good arm and back workout. Wrist curls: with your arms facing down and up. You can also hold a weight and rotate your wrist. I do these sometimes watching a movie, with my arm on the… Read more »
6 years 19 days ago

Thanks so much for the tip about the under-the-table pullups. I’ve been wondering how I can work on my pushups without going to the gym or installing an ugly bar in my dorm doorway.

6 years 20 days ago
Jason: pullups. There are a few different ways to improve pull ups. One is to get some pullup assistance bands and use those to effectively ‘make you lighter’. The more traditional way is to do a flexed arm hang, where you hop up and hold your body from the bar with your arms flexed (think about a freeze frame halfway between the top and bottom of the movement). The final way is to start out at the top, and, slowly as possible, lower yourself to full arm extension. Repeat. Good luck! For me, the two movements I want to work… Read more »
Primal Toad
6 years 20 days ago


My fitness experiment for this month is to do intense stength workouts 1-2 times per week. Aside from thatI will play, play, play, play. I LOVE doing bodyweight exercises at random times and thus will be doing them so this WOW fits me perfectly!

As an example..

I did 10 squats and 10 push-ups after ever hole while playing a round of mini golf yesterday. It was a riot.

6 years 19 days ago

“Greasing the groove”.. sounds like a workout you need to do with a partner.

6 years 19 days ago
I wouldn’t be doing an exercise all day long. That would be eventually obtuse and boring. Plus your overtraining. Pullups for example, like any muscle challenging exercise should be done every 3 or 4 days. Do it only once on that day but stick to the 8 to 12 reps, probably a good 20 to 30 minutes of doing it. Anything over 12 reps is redundant and your now out of the muscle building range. It becomes only endurance. Also I don’t know why I would want to do pullups and pushups on the same day. It works different muscles,… Read more »
6 years 19 days ago

Just keep reading and learning. I’m not putting you down, but your concepts of how to build muscle are far to narrow.

6 years 19 days ago
I don’t know all the science behind this but when you work out opposite muscle groups together you’re supposed to get better results. When you do compound exercises and work out large muscle groups you’re body releases more muscle building hormones, so maybe if you work out more than one muscle group at a time you’re really amping up those levels. Also, on a side note, using large muscle groups triggers an adrenaline release. I read about a study where one group of men did a full-body workout, I think three days a week, and another group worked one muscle… Read more »
6 years 19 days ago

If you think your going to overtrain from doing 50-60 pull ups a day you dont understand what actual overtraining is.

The point of greasing the groove is to and muscle recruitment, enchance motor patterns and enhance skill. As with pretty much anything, you get better at doing things the more you do them, this is also why beginner weight training programs have you squatting 3 days a week.

If you go to failure multiple times a day you will struggle to progress. The whole point here is not getting burnt out by avoiding failure.

6 years 17 days ago

I dig Pavel, love kettlebells and much of Pavels advice, However, the grease the groove did nothing for my push ups. I got really strong at 40 and that’s it. When I changed to a ciruit routine with push ups, pullups, sit ups, and bar dips, all done below max, I got 103 in two weeks. The 20+ every hr. or so didn’t help at all, at least for me. I’ve always been a “less is more” when it comes to strength training.

6 years 16 days ago

I’m really digging this week’s WOW. I wouldn’t make a habit of it, but it’s a nice change of pace since my normal HIIT is sort of the opposite. Plus, there’s a good feeling to banging out 100 pullups in a day. Really curious when I get back to my normal routine what gains I’ve made, endurance-wise. Skill-wise, I can see gains for sure – paying a lot more attention to each move when I’m doing fewer at a time, and so many in a day.

5 years 8 months ago
Would this be a great way to build endurance and strength for someone who has difficulty doing the recommended two sets of the Primal Blueprint? Back home I used to do fine with two sets of levels 4 and 5 workouts for about two days a week, but here in Russia I struggle with completing just one set (I’m not sure if it’s the climate, or elevation, or what-have-you). Looking back at this WOW, I actually think this will be a better idea and I don’t think I’d get bored of it anytime soon. I can do pull-ups in my… Read more »
4 years 6 months ago

I found this challenge really fun. I was able to increase my pull-up max by 5 in one week, and get much closer to doing a grok-squat…I’m not quite there yet, but another week or two of practice might do it.