Training Accessory Lifts too Hard

Posted on 12 Jul 2015 18:16


You should not be trying to progress aggressively on your assistance lifts – and you should not be obsessed with them either. I have observed a trend where people want percentage progressions and actual progression schemes on movements like bicep curls or skull crushers or leg presses to the extent that they celebrate personal records, and that is just ridiculous.

On your squat day if you are doing 3-4 exercises after the squat and the ratio of volume in terms of sets is with you doing 3-4 sets of squats and 12-16 sets of assistance work then your training is just not right for “strength”. It may be very good for bodybuilding or middle-of-the-road training that will give you mediocre size and strength results or even just to maintain strength, but it is not good for pure strength training. The bulk of your training should surround the lifts you want to improve: your bread and butter. It may just be one lift or two or whatever but a select few exercises is what the BULK of your workout time, energy and effort should be spent performing. Most of you already know this.

I think overly analyzing your progress on movements other than the big compound lifts is a waste of time. To begin with, we should accept that we do these assistance movements because of anecdotal observations or out of sheer “faith”. There is no proven evidence that suggests doing heavy dumbbell rows will get you to deadlift more weight. Sure, Matt Kroczaleski will swear by this and even I’ll say that adding mass to your upper back IS going to help your deadlift, but it is anecdotal. Aggressively progressing on these movements to the exclusion of the big lifts is not going to help you because you don’t know whether it will translate into pounds added to your actual strength-focused lifts.

A good approach to this assistance work is to just try to garner more volume on them before adding weight. So for example if you are doing romanian deadlifts for your posterior chain after squats, try to work on building volume and adding reps before you think of adding weight. Go from doing 135 lbs for 4 sets of 8 reps to 4 sets of 15 reps over as many weeks as it takes to crawl up there. Then add some weight and drop the volume down a little to cope with this progression. Then repeat the process and you will get that growth which people like to label as a “byproduct” of strength training plus you’ll be covering your base of doing posterior chain work because “it must be done”.

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