I have written about Pavel Tsatsouline many times in the past. Pavel is a Russian strength expert and has written many books on strength, flexibility, and other concepts of fitness. His home base website, Dragon Door, is chalked full of great resources.
One of his books, The Naked Warrior, talks about a concept that he coined as “grease the groove.” I suggest you read his book to obtain a complete understanding, but I will do my best to do it justice.
Here is essential idea: You have an exercise you are not really strong enough to do many of. Pull-ups are a great example. Let’s say for sake of argument that you can only do 1 Pull-up at any one time and would like to get that number up somewhere between 5 and 10. The solution is to “grease the groove,” meaning that you do a specific movment frequently to build up the muscle/neural connections.
Specificity + frequency = success!
Now for some tips to make this work. One way is to put a Pull-up bar somewhere in your basement or garage. Then, every time you walk by it, do your 1 Pull-up. Do not try for anymore than that. Just one…but do this often. Shoot for once or twice a day. If you don’t have a Pull-up bar, then use the top of an open door. I actually did this with the door to my office at work. Everytime I walked out of my office, I did 1 or 2 Pull-ups.
What you are doing is forcing your muscles and neurons to develop memory of working together to achieve the movement. This increases your strength and ability to do the movement better. After several weeks, try doing as many Pull-ups as you can at one time. I guarantee you will have increased the number from where you started. For example, in just four weeks, I went from 3 Pull-ups max to being able to perform 10 in a row.
yeah, I know: pretty cool.
You don’t have to understand (or even care about) the science. Just try it out. Do it for Push-ups, or Dips, or whatever you want to improve on. Just remember – specifcity + frequency = success!