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My job as a software developer requires me to spend nine hours a day in an office. The building has a gym, but it is not so well equipped that I use it as my primary facility. I work out at another gym after work using a three day whole body split. I use a modified HIT routine and hit these three sessions with intensity.

Lately, I have been getting up from my desk and walking down to the gym at least once a day. For example, just now I came back from a five minute session where I just walked in and, without changing, pumped out fifty dips to failure with my legs stretched between two flat benches. Then I walked back up to my office and my outlook for the day is so much improved that I'm even motivated to write about the experience now. I feel better because I am pumped. Yesterday evening I trained triceps for real. Do you think that my single set to failure just now helped or hurt my prospects for muscular development?

My inclination is to keep this up, focusing each day on one of the muscle groups that I trained last during my primary sessions. I suspect that the additional period of pump each day will give my muscles a better environment for protein synthesis which will tend toward an overall increase of growth over time.

Or is there a reason anyone can tell me of that this extra work might be counterproductive because it interrupts the recovery period for the muscle which began after my last workout one or two days earlier?

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There is a popular practice called "Greasing the Groove" developed by Pavel Tsatouline which is similar in practice to what you are doing currently, but with one key difference: intensity. Pavel's GTG is designed to increase your performance in a specific activity (e.g. pull ups) through the simple formula Specificity + Frequency = Success. Specificity means you are doing one particular exercise--let's say pull ups. Frequency means you are doing that exercise several times a day (at submaximal effort). Success means you will increase your performance in this exercise over time. The key to GTG is that you do it at submaximal effort, so that you don't exhaust your body (as opposed to your approach of training to failure). This allows you to balance GTG alongside your existing training program without seeing performance loss in either.

With your current situation, it would be easy to overreach by training to failure, and as a result see degraded performance in your lifts on the primary workout days. Additionally, it doesn't make sense logistically: if you are training to failure the muscle last worked out, that only covers Tu/Th, it doesn't cover what you would do on MWF. With GTG you have a set plan for every day, and have a measurable performance goal (increase to maximum reps).

Anecdotally, I've done GTG several times. First with pull ups, then with push ups, and most recently with handstands. At no point did I see a performance decrease in my primary lifts when doing GTG, because I was always careful to keep my daily exercise at submaximal levels. In contrast, I noticed much more muscular development in the targeted areas (shoulders, back, pecs) and much better rep performance when doing GTG.

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According to this approach, maybe a better way to use my time here at work would be to cycle through various compound movements on a weekly basis, performing them at submaximal intensity. One week I might do a set or two of pull ups every day. The next week I'll do dips every day, etc. I like this idea since it is simpler logistically and still works to give me the mid-day energy boost that I crave while sitting at my desk. Thanks. –  James Andrew Apr 12 '13 at 13:49

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