How to Pick the Accessory Work that’s Right for You

Accessory work will get you super strong, address muscle imbalances and help your muscles grow (hypertrophy) to take on more muscle mass. It’s also really fun. Think about it: you don’t get nearly as frustrated with how your one-arm rows feel versus a bad squat day.

In a broad sense, accessory work can include anything that’s not a major lift—things like snatch pulls or close grip bench press, for example— though this article will focus more on accessory work meant to assist certain muscle groups and not one specific lift.

Whether you do CrossFit, powerlifting, weightlifting or strength training the most important thing for long-term success and healthy is symmetry. Do you have it? Most of us don’t.

Ask a coach or lifting partner to watch you lift or video it and send it to someone you trust. Assessing where your technique breaks down —do you collapse in a heavy clean? shift to one leg in a back squat? — can also be a big indicator of what strength imbalances you have.

Let’s start by attacking four of the big, most common issues…

Your core is not cutting it.

But your core gets strong from lifting, right? Heavy barbells help but they aren’t enough to build a bulletproof midsection. If you’re folding over in cleans or have a lot of low back issues, check your core.

It’s not about getting a six-pack- the core is a huge stabilizer needed in pretty much every movement necessary in CrossFit and lifting.

Add in: Hanging Leg Raises, Side Bends, V-ups, hollow body holds, superman holds, GHD sit-ups.

Back it up.

Back work is tremendously important to a big bench, clean, squat or any other major lift.

Most people don’t spend enough time hip hinging (bending over at the hip with weight) and it can cause all kind of problems down the line. Have trouble staying over the bar in your Olympic lifts? Add some back work. And please, please do some rows.

A lot of CrossFit programs are missing horizontal pulling of any kind, though they spend a ton of time doing pull-ups (vertical pulling) and it causes massive problems down the line.

Build a better back, not just for the gym, but to stay pain-free and enjoy your life.

Add in: Chest-supported rows, one-arm dumbbell rows, lat pulldowns, reverse hypers, good mornings, hip (glute) bridges, band pull-aparts, reverse dumbbell flies.

Having trouble engaging your lats during pull-ups? You’re not alone. Many athletes power their pull-ups with their deltoids and biceps, causing the lats to be underworked. This causes a muscle imbalance in the shoulders, putting you at a greater risk for impingement or other shoulder injuries. _______________ Today's #ADailyDose features PVC banded pulldowns, which will definitely fire up that upper back and help put those lats to work! (They're also perfect for those of you who are still working on getting your first pull-up.) _______________ Drape a band over the top of a pull-up bar and string a PVC pipe through the ends. Start with a lighter band at first and increase the resistance as needed. When pulling down on the PVC pipe, really focus on engaging the lats instead of pulling from your biceps. Arch your back slightly with your chest out–but core tight, no overextending!–and keep your elbows pointed back while squeezing your upper back. ________________ Try a static hold at your chest for a few seconds and a slow negative back to the top to really feel the burn. If you’re feeling tight, you can use your first few reps to get in a nice stretch like Amanda does by dropping her head forward at the top of her first rep. (Athlete: @amandamontalvord)

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Everyone needs to be doing single leg (and single arm) movements.

Hip pain, knee pain, back pain, shoulder pain. All of these things have been caused by imbalances.

Assuming you aren’t dealing with an acute injury (in which case, we recommend these guys) doing unilateral work can do wonders for keeping your joints healthy and exposing problems before there’s an injury.

If you can do a step up with 100 lb. on your right leg and 70 lb. on your left, you know where you need some extra focus. Additionally, the unilateral stuff often forces you to use your core to stabilize and, again, is awesome for overall health and longevity.

Add in: Split squats, step ups, farmers carries, single leg deadlifts, hamstring curls, lateral raises.

Strict gymnastics- not just for CrossFitters.

Core strength, stability, building a better back. All these things we already talked about can be helped by adding in some strict gymnastics.

It also cuts out any excuses for those of you with limited access to equipment or aren’t comfortable technique-wise with some of the other movements we discussed. Get against a wall (preferably with your chest facing the wall) and get into a handstand hold already.

Add in: Handstand holds, dips, chins, pullups, L-sits, toes to bar (strict)