A Few Thoughts On Supplementary / Assistance Work

12 Mar

Does this sound like you?

You know you need to do the big movements. Squat, Deadlift, Press, Pull Up; or at least close variations of those traditional movements. You’ve even set yourself up with some kind of scheme to progress those lifts. Now you’re wondering how to go about choosing supplemental and accessory lifts.

Here are 3 things to consider when setting up your program:

1. How many days are you training, and what’s the focused big movement for that day?

If it’s four days per week, you probably have two lower body lifts, and two upper body lifts. The first thing I recommend is making sure you split the training into a lower, upper, lower, upper scheme. This includes any form of conditioning you might be doing. This is important because it will allow for more recovery, and it keeps your body working on the same general patterns so you’ll be more efficient.

If it’s three days a week, I recommend going one of two ways: First option, which I have had the most success with for people looking to add size and strength, is a lower, upper, full body scheme. Second option, which has proven to be useful for beginners and those looking mainly to shed body fat, is three full body sessions per week.

Think about how your training is split up and choose a supplemental lift and accessory movements that fit into the general focus for that days training (Upper, Lower, or Full).

2. What Are Your Weaknesses?

I’ve found the most success making sure that the big lift for a day’s training session is something I, or my client, is proficient at. This might be a slightly altered version of a full movement, but it’s something that can be loaded and executed correctly. The Supplemental lift should be something that is also loadable and similar (not the same) to the focused lift. When choosing the supplemental lift I like to think about where my / or my client’s weaknesses are in relation to that focused lift.

Am I having trouble out of the hole of a squat? Maybe, I will use bottoms up squats. Is my client having trouble locking out deadlifts? Maybe we’ll use deadlifts from the blocks. The supplemental lift is something I will monitor closely in terms of improvement in strength and its relation to improvement of the big lift.

The accessory work should address overall weaknesses, imbalances, and pre-hab type work that I know is beneficial depending on their training demands, life demands, and sport demands. This is where I throw in a lot of single leg, torso stability, posterior chain, and upper back work; for a few examples. I’m more concerned with this getting done than seeing the weights steadily increase.

3. What’s the MAIN goal of my training?

To name a few, is it: maximal strength, sport performance, fat loss, movement quality? A program might have traces of all of these. However, you will get more from your training with a dialed in objective. Consider this more from a “how will I execute” my supplemental / accessory movements, and less from a “what should my movements be” standpoint. The exercise selection should still fit into your training split, and address your weaknesses / imbalances. Someone looking to shed fat may just want to perform these in a more circuit style sequence; where as someone looking to build maximal strength might want to focus on producing better efforts every set as well as handling more weight. Moreover, someone looking to mainly improve the big lifts may have WAY less accessory work than someone trying to improve sport performance or movement quality.

Drop a comment below if you would like me to go more in depth on anything listed above. Thanks for reading!


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