Are you treating your accessory work like carnivores treat their vegetables? As an afterthought to the main steak event?
As a coach, this is what I witness on a daily basis—people going through the motions without intention or focus, as if they’re gagging down mushy, overcooked vegetables.
When done correctly—in a deliberate and calculated way—accessory work won’t feel like the easy part at the end of the workout. In fact, it’s where many of your gains will be made. Kind of like a perfectly-cooked and well seasoned vegetable dish!
Accessory Work, Defined
Before I go any further, let’s talk about what accessory work is:
It is the work you do that essentially supplements the other strength and skill work in your training. Accessory work is there to help enhance the gains you’re already getting from the major lifts you do, such as squats, deadlifts, and presses. Accessory work can also include rehab exercises to help you fix any weak points in your movement patterns or iron out muscle imbalances.
Things you might recognize as accessory work are movements like glute bridges, back extensions, lat pulldowns, or even mobility training. Often these movements seem easy, but if you’re building a lot of tension in your body when you’re doing a glute bridge or a dead bug, for example, I don’t care how fit or strong you are, it will be hard.
If you can relate to any of the following points, chances are you’re missing the mark during your accessory work.
Evaluate Your Accessory Work Practice
Ask yourself the following questions:
“This tempo is crazy slow. I don’t have time for that. I’ll just do these a bit quicker to get through them.”
If you have had a thought like that, chances are you’re not going to reap the benefits. “This isn’t even hard. Why am I doing this? What muscles am I supposed to be feeling?”
If you have felt this way during accessory work, focus on building as much tension in your body as possible as you’re working your way through the exercises. In other words, try harder. You do your accessory work while scrolling Instagram.
If you’re able to casually work through your accessory work while posting on social media, chances are you aren’t trying hard enough and are definitely lacking the deliberate intention we’re looking for. Similarly, if this is the time you socialize and catch up with friends at the end of the workout, something is surely amiss. “What’s taking people so long?”
If you’re always the first one finished, reconsider how your approach the easy stuff at the end of the workout. You have been doing a ton of accessory work for your glutes and hamstrings, but it has not translated to increased strength on your squat or deadlift.
If accessory work isn’t translating to gains elsewhere, it might be time to mix up your accessory work, or get some coaching and figure out where you’re missing the mark. You skip it altogether and decide to do 100 burpees for time instead.
If you think you need more volume all the time and won’t leave the gym until you feel like you were hit by a bus, yet you’re not improving as fast as you think you should , something is off and you probably need less burpees and more accessory work. You wonder what accessory work even is… Hmmm…
Take accessory work seriously. Just like vegetables, it will provide you gains if you do.