Most coaches agree that watching a group of athletes do their accessory work can be painful, borderline cringe-inducing at times.
Because the majority of the people rush through it without any kind of detectable focus. While it might seem like accessory exercises are the easy part of your training session, accessory work—if it’s done correctly in a deliberate and calculated way—is where many of the gains are made.
Before I go any further, let’s talk about what accessory work is:
It is (often) isolation movements that essentially supplement the other strength and skill work you’re doing. So basically, accessory work should help enhance the gains you’re already getting from the main lifts like squats, deadlifts and presses. Accessory work can also include both prehab and rehab exercises to help you fix any weak points and iron out muscle imbalances, again enhancing your performance even more, and keeping you injury-free in the process.
Things you might recognize as accessory work are movements like glute bridges (isolate the glutes and hamstrings), back extensions (hamstrings and low back) and lat pulldowns (lats and delts).
Are you doing your accessory work correctly? If you can relate to any of the following, you’re probably missing the mark:
- How important can this tempo requirement be? I’ll just do it at the pace that feels natural. (If you’ve had that thought, you’re probably not getting all you can out of your accessory work)
- You’re still not sure what accessory work is.
- You sometimes think these thoughts as you’re ploughing through your seated banded rows: What’s the point in this? I don’t feel anything? What’s this supposed to be working, anyway?”
- You often do your accessory work with a coffee in your hand.
- You think of the post-workout accessory work as a time to chat and casually catch up with your friends.
- You always finish way before everyone else and wonder why they all look like they’re struggling so much.
- You have been doing a ton of pulling accessory work but you’re pulling hasn’t gotten any stronger.
- You refer to accessory work as the easy stuff at the end of the real workout.
- You skip it all together and go for a 1-mile row instead.
If you think your accessory work game needs work, talk to you coach for advice.