What is accessory work and why should we do it?
Most people are aware of the primary exercises, compound movements and big lifts that are used and are without doubt the best movements for results when it comes to strength, hypertrophy and endurance training.
While these movements are the foundations of a good programme the accessory exercises shouldn’t be overlooked. These are additional exercises, often more focused on one area/muscle group that help you do the primary movements better with improved form and efficiency.
What are accessory exercises?
They are the ‘extras’. We know the big compound movements are great. But it’s the accessory work that we can do that will help improve them over time. For example, in the squat, the body utilizes a big group of muscles, quads, glutes, hamstrings and abdominals. Accessory work added in to improve this could be:
Single leg work like lunges and split squats.
Isolating certain muscle groups, e.g performing leg extensions to work the quads.
There can be a huge variety in accessory exercises, then can isolate one particular muscle or a smaller muscle group. They can also be a variation of a primary exercise, for example doing bench press with dumbbells.
Why should we do it?
The main reason to include accessory exercises is to improve the primary movements. They can help with strength, form and efficiency.
Build Strength therefore we can lift more
The accessory work compliments the big primary movements, so working on strengthening the supporting smaller muscle groups will mean that the primary exercise will be performed better. So over time, we can expect to lift more weight.
Protect your body
While we know strength training is very good for our body and joints doing the same big, heavy lifts over and over again can cause aches and niggles. By mixing up your training and adding in accessory work it helps to protect the joints, improving and strengthening the smaller muscles, therefore, decreasing wear and tear.
Push Past Plateaus
Often when people start training we see big improvements over a short period of time. We see this progression start to slow down and can sometimes hit a plateau; a point where we aren’t making progress. If you’ve hit a plateau have a look at your training and consider adding in some accessory work to help push past it.