Most jobs require you to sit for long periods of time and no matter how many times you jump up to make tea, the reality is most of us spend the majority of the day perched on our backsides, only to return home to an evening sat in front of the telly. In our recent workout at work articles we’ve suggested mini routines which can be utilised within your lunch hour, but what happens if you don’t have a lunch break to spare? Then it’s time to try greasing the groove, a training method that can slot conveniently into the structure of your day and help protect you from the dangers of inactivity.
Sitting is Killing you: From Top to Toe:
For the record, this isn’t me just trying to scare you out of your seat, these dangers are all real and have led to sitting being duped the ‘new smoking’.
Moving muscles pumps blood and oxygen through the brain, triggering brain and mood enhancing chemicals. When we are sedentary for too long, this fails to happen, so we end up grumpy and lacking concentration.
Muscles burn less fat and blood flow slows during long durations of sitting, allowing fatty acids to settle more easily and clog your heart. Prolonged sitting has been linked to high blood pressure and cholesterol. Those who spend most of their time sedentary are also twice as likely to have cardiovascular disease.
The pancreas is where your body produces insulin, a hormone that carries glucose (sugar) to cells for energy. Cells in idle muscles don't respond as readily to insulin, so the pancreas produces more and more, which can lead to diabetes and other diseases. A 2011 study found a decline in insulin response after just one day of prolonged sitting. Scary.
Studies have linked sitting to a greater risk for colon, breast and endometrial cancers. Although the reason still remains unclear it has been suggested that excess insulin encourages cell growth. Regular movement boosts natural antioxidants that kill cell-damaging free radicals, production of these is limited when seated.
As we move, soft discs between vertebrae expand and contract like sponges, soaking up fresh blood and nutrients. When we sit for a long time, these discs are left squashed unevenly. Collagen hardens around tendons and ligaments. People who sit more are at greater risk for herniated lumbar disks. A muscle called the psoas travels through the abdominal cavity and, when it tightens, pulls the upper lumbar spine forward. Upper-body weight rests entirely on the ischial tuberosity (sitting bones) instead of being distributed along the arch of the spine.
Sway Back - When you stand, move or even sit up straight, your abdominal muscles are working to keep you upright, but when you’re stuck in a chair, they go unused. Tight back muscles and weak abs can wreck your posture and exaggerate the spine's natural arch, leading to a condition called hyperlordosis, or swayback.
Tight Hips - Flexible hips help keep you balanced, but chronic sitters extend the hip flexor muscles in front for so long that they become short and tight, limiting their range of motion and reducing stride length. Studies have found that decreased hip mobility is one of the main reasons elderly people tend to fall over.
A Weak Posterior - Sitting requires your glutes to do absolutely nothing, and they get used to it. Soft glutes damage your stability, your ability to push off and your ability to maintain a powerful stride.
Poor Circulation - Sitting for long periods of time slows blood circulation, which causes fluid to pool in the legs. Problems range from swollen ankles and varicose veins to dangerous blood clots called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Soft Bones - Weight-bearing activities such as walking and running stimulate hip and lower-body bones to grow thicker, denser and stronger. Muscle pulls against the bone, strengthening the bone. Scientists partially attribute the recent increase in cases of Osteoporosis to a lack of activity.
Increased Risk of Death
People who watched the most TV in an eight and a half year study had a 61 percent greater risk of dying than those who watched less than one hour per day.
Now I know right now all you want to do is ditch your desk job and run like the wind, but remember what Aloe Blacc, taught us, we’ve “got bills”,so you’re going to have to stay at work but there are ways you can try and keep more active even with a desk job and GTG training is one of them.
Pavel Tsatsouline: Greasing the Groove
Greasing the groove, simply refers to repeating the same exercise regularly throughout the day, following the principle that practice makes perfect. The technique works best with bodyweight exercises, making it perfect to implement in the office. First let’s look at how GTG techniques are used in the bodybuilding world and then how that can be applied to your desk job.
GTG and Pull Ups
Synaptic facilitation aka GTG was created by former trainer of the Russian special forces, strength and conditioning coach Pavel Tsatsouline, who came up with the following equation to epitomise his technique:
Specificity + Frequent Practice = Success.
To explain how the technique works let's focus on pull ups. The greasing the groove technique suggests that in order to improve pull ups, they must be practiced frequently, enabling you to get stronger and be able to do more.
Tip: In order for this to work and not lead to overtraining, the key is to not train to failure.
Due to this reps should be completed at a lower percentage of your maximum, as they are going to be repeated frequently without going to failure, the rep range you're looking for is around 60% of your max. So if you can usually complete 10 pull ups with strict form, you're going to be repeatedly doing 6.
A good principle for setting your frequency is to then repeat these exercises EHOH. EHOH stands for Every Hour On the Hour, which means you can get at least 8 sets in throughout your day.
As the movement becomes easier and more natural, you should be able to do more and more reps. You can then gradually start adding more weight/resistance to keep the exercise challenging.
- Do it with only 1 or 2 exercises at a time.
- Do 50-80% of your maximum, NEVER go to failure.
- Grease the groove only when feeling fresh, if you feel weak or sore, then you have over-reached your recovery abilities.
GTG: Office Workout
Not only can the greasing the groove technique help you develop additional strength for your regular training plan, it can also help protect you from the dangers of sitting, by getting your heart rate up frequently. As the technique works best with bodyweight exercises it also makes it really easy to implement in an office environment. Try the following exercises EHOH, you can set up a timer on your phone such as Hour Mate or even have a stop watch beep on the hour to remind you to complete a set. It’s a great way to keep you active in the office and also help push you towards your goals in the gym.
Push ups: A simple exercise which can be made harder by elevating the legs, try putting your feet on your chair or even off your desk - so long as there not too grubby!
Burpees: Whilst most people hate burpees, they are great for getting your heart rate up and require little room making them ideal for an office environment and of course repeating them this often will (eventually) make them easier. They can be made harder by working towards, single arm or single leg jumps.
Dips: Chances are unless you’re lucky enough to be blessed with a dip station in the office, these are going to have to be desk dips, but even those can be made harder by elevating your feet, perhaps by placing them on your chair.
Pistol Squat: A pistol squat is one of the most difficult bodyweight exercises there is and can often be done on one side but not the other. Regular practice will have you balanced before you know it.
Handstand: This can be done freestyle or against a wall and is a great move to build core stability and shoulder strength, plus an impressive party trick (be ready for strange looks if you are caught mid-handstand if someone walks into your office).
Pull up: If you can persuade your boss to hook you up with a bar the pull up is the ultimate GTG move.For those who can’t do a full pull up you can start with negatives and build your way up. If you're going for a door attachment, make sure you have room to pull-up without hitting your head on the ceiling!
Greasing the groove is definitely a technique you and your colleagues should give a try, whilst it may not improve your hypertrophy it's a way to build the muscle firing patterns in preparation for a max effort or keep active in the office, or both. Plus it does have a rather snazzy name.