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Greasing the Groove: Lift Weight, Not Too Much, Most of the Days

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 26, 2019

For the Atlantic, Olga Khazan writes about an approach to physical fitness called “greasing the groove”, which some people have translated into the Michael Pollan-esque “lift weight, not too much, most of the days”.

One way to grease the groove is to just do the exercise whenever you think of it. Ben Greenfield, in Beyond Training, describes how he would do three to five pull-ups every time he walked under a pull-up bar installed in his office doorway. By the end of the day, he’d have performed 30 to 50 pull-ups with minimal effort.

McKay opted for something similar: He set up a pull-up bar in his door frame, and every time he walked under it, he would do one. “You’re allowing yourself to practice more without going to fatigue,” he says. “If you’re constantly thrashing your body, doing max sets every time you do a pull up, you’re gonna have a bad time.” Anyone who has tried to climb the stairs to their apartment on achy quads after an overly ambitious leg day knows the risks of overexertion. Within a month, McKay says, he went from being able to do about five pull-ups to about 15.

I read this piece with interest because I’ve been greasing the groove for the past several months without knowing what it was called or that it was even a thing. I work from home and sprinkle exercise throughout my day. Working at a standing desk makes it easy to walk away from the screen, do a few pull-ups, plank for a minute, do some jumping jacks, and then get right back into whatever I was doing. I also stretch and do a few exercises sometimes when I’m watching TV in the evening. It is almost never a full workout, but it keeps me active when I can’t get out to ski or hike or play sports with my kids.