#114 – Accessory Lifts for the Advancing Lifter
Matt and Scott address accessory lifts and how they fit into a well-designed training program. As Matt says, supplemental lifts — which he first discussed in Episode 21 — are variants that closely resemble the main lifts, while accessory lifts are lighter, less stressful (but still complex multi-joint) movements that allow more advanced lifters to add small increments of stress. It goes without saying, then, that accessories become useful when more volume with the main lifts or supplemental lifts would be too stressful to recover from, yet additional volume is needed to drive progress.
As Scott expounds, accessory movements are useful because they work the antagonistmuscle groups to the main lifts. For example, in a bench press the pecs are the primary movers (agonists) while the biceps and lats are the antagonists. Thus, a barbell row would be an accessory movement.
Some Examples of Supplemental Lifts
- Tempo squat
- High bar squat
- Box Squat
- Safety Bar Squat
- Chains/bands Squats
- Pin Presses / Press Lockouts
- Seated Press
- Strict Press
- Axle Press
- Close Grip
- Wide Grip
- Floor Press
- Board Press
- Paused Bench
- Rack Pulls
- Isometric-isotonic deadlifts (a la Bill Starr – see Starr’s article on these lifts on the Starting Strength site)
- Barbell Row– pronated or supinated. Matt recommends a pronated grip when doing very heavy barbell rows. A good goal is to try to get your row equal to your bench press.
- Dips– weighted or not. Although dips could also be considered a supplemental lift since they do resemble a decline bench press. Starr recommended training dips very heavy once per week and light another slot per week.
- Chin-ups– and its sister the pull-up (performed with any grip variation).
- Lying Tricep Extensions– since the triceps control both elbow and humerus extension, LTEs are a useful accessory for the press.
- Straight bar curls – or use the EZ bar if you’re struggling with biceps tendonitis. Curls are also useful accessories for the chin-up, particularly for bigger guys who struggle with doing a lot of chin-up volume.
- Barbell Rows also provide some additional work for the upper back.
Note that we don’t discuss many accessories for the lower body lifts. The lower body musculature is larger and stronger, and responds more robustly to the main and supplemental lifts. Thus, most people won’t require accessory movements for the lower body.
Matt and Scott recommend adding accessories when a trainee moves into a 4-day split model, adding in one lat movement, one bicep movement, and one tricep movement each week. Remember these are accessory movements, so they are only used to add a little extra volume without adding huge amounts of stress and impact on the joints.
When adding any movement, we must consider training economy. We don’t do exercises for the sake of doing them, we do them because they fit logically into our model for training advancement. In fact, most trainees will only need to perform chin-ups (often called the fifth main lift) and barbell rows (the sixth lift) during their training career.