How to Improve your Front Lever by Greasing the Groove
If you’ve trained for some time, regardless of discipline, the basics can become boring.
While there are many ways to alter the intensity of basic exercises, especially with bodyweight training, we have a tendency to want to dabble in something different.
This is understandable, given that we’re always seeking out a new skills to learn, and ways to improve upon our existing ones.
I can guarantee that some point during your bodyweight (or gymnastics) training, you’ll think about learning a front lever.
In short, a front lever involves gripping a bar (or rings) and pulling yourself up such that your body is in a straight line, parallel to the ground.
The front lever is an impressive display of pulling strength that combines a strong scapula (retraction), with a high level of abdominal control.
The front lever is a skill, which means you must spend time time focusing on building the necessary foundations to master it. There are no shortcuts, tricks, or “hacks”.
You can either do a front lever, or you can not.
This is what makes it an impressive feat, and if performed well, it will draw awe from those around you.
However, this article is will not serve as a blueprint for achieving a full front lever (we’ll write about this soon).
Rather, we will be focusing on how the “greasing the groove” method will complement your existing front lever training, and improve it dramatically.
What is “Greasing the groove”?
The “greasing the groove” method involves decreasing exercise intensity, allowing an increase in exercise frequency.
This method is beneficial as it can be used in addition to your regular workout routine, allowing the necessary focus required for skill work.
To not overload yourself, we typically advocate greasing the groove with only one or two skills at a time.
When applied to learning a front lever, greasing the groove assists with building crucial neural pathways, helping your body learn to fire all the right muscles to perform the movement.
The more often you’re performing a front lever, the more often you’re building core, scapula and the requisite pulling strength.
How often should I be greasing the groove?
Progress with the front lever can stall, and you can fail to make noticeable progress with your static holds.
In our experience, we attribute this to poor exercise frequency due to excessive muscle fatigue.
In other words, you’re not putting enough time into your front lever static holds, due to being too sore from other exercises.
Therefore, with the grease the groove method, we advocate the following:
Daily amount of work: 4 – 6 sets (30 – 60 mins between each set)
Weekly total: 4 – 6 days per week
Intensity: 50 – 80% intensity.
For simplicity, the examples below assume a 10 second front lever hold max. For your purposes, apply your front lever max hold time, and abide by the same logic. Example: 50% intensity = 5 second sets, 80% = 8 second sets, etc.
What does a sample front lever program look like?
We’ve provided you with two sample grease the groove programs/methods below that can be used with your front lever training.
Each program is intended to be used for 4 – 6 weeks, and should be interspersed throughout your day.
This is to ensure good rest, and that each set is performed with ideal form devoid of muscular fatigue.
Pay close attention to the changing variables at play here for both methods.
Method One: Increasing intensity per week.
Method Two: Keeping intensity the same for each week.
Note: There’s no reason to over-complicate your approach here. Pick one method, and stick with it for 4 – 6 weeks. Abiding by either method will guarantee you results with your front lever work.
General Advice for Greasing the Groove
The time (4 – 6 weeks) defined above has not been chosen by accident. Neurological adaptations generally take this long to occur for a new movement pattern, but will vary depending on the person. From our experience, when applied to front lever work, this amount of time is just right.
Increases in strength due to short term (eight to twenty weeks) training are the result of neural adaptations.
Neural adaptations can include improved synchronization of motor unit firing and improved ability to recruit motor units to enable a person to match the strength elicited by electrical stimulation. – University of Massachusetts Lowell
Make sure you re-test your max hold in week 6 and see how you fare; you may surprise yourself!
On intensity and frequency
Remember, greasing the groove is meant to be used in addition to your regular training.
Therefore, you should not be reaching failure or working in an intensity that’s too hard. This will not only impede your front lever progress, it may also leave you too fatigued for your regular training sessions.
Greasing the groove, as outlined above, works best at a lower intensity.
At 50% intensity, you’re building up your time under tension, practicing the movement pattern, and priming your neural pathways for the skill.
Don’t burn yourself out, understand that each repetition in the set should be comfortably performed. If it’s not, reduce your hold times by a second or two to make sure it’s more manageable.
To put it more generally, there exists an inverse relationship between frequency and intensity.
More frequency means lower intensity, and more intensity means lower frequency.
When should I not be greasing the groove?
This method is not recommended for those only wanting to improve muscle mass/size. While there is a slight hypertrophic response, it’s far from optimal.
Be aware of your goals and intentions with your training. We don’t want to leave you disheartened after six weeks of front lever training when your arms haven’t grown exponentially to 18 inches.
If you treat the greasing the groove method as a means to improve your skill based work, you will see improvement over time and break through plateaus that are holding you back.
Especially with the elusive front lever.
For more information, watch Daniel’s original Greasing The Groove video below from December 2013.
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