Why is accessory work so important?

Welcome back guys, this month we are going to look at what accessory work is and why it’s so important, and then I’ll give you some clues as to why yours may not be benefiting you as much as it should do!

So, what is accessory work?

Accessory exercises are essentially the bits of your training which supplement the main strength or skill work that you do. Accessory exercises are there help improve your strength and muscle growth gains but, they can also act as rehab and prehab exercises to target any specific weak points or imbalances you may have (which everybody has!).

The main skill or strength movements you will probably be focusing on will likely include squats, deadlifts, presses, pull ups and Olympic lifting movements. The following list of exercises are some of the common accessory movements which you’ll recognise: mobility training, lateral pull downs, glute bridges, lunges, shoulder external rotations, rows and all core exercises.

These accessory training exercises – for most of us – will take up the majority of the time we spend in the gym however, a lot of people will reduce the effort put in here due to numerous reasons (see below). No matter what level of training experience you have, when accessory work is done purposefully it is far from easy and they should be taken as seriously as the main lifts within your training programme.

Examples of where it is used

Let’s have a look at some example situations to help illustrate the importance of this.

Example 1: You’re working on building strength and have started your workout day with barbell deadlifts however you are having a hard time progressing due to your hips shooting up and backwards every time you begin the lift. Your coach will no doubt spot this and give you accessory movements to strengthen your quadriceps so that you can begin your deadlift with better positioning, such as barbell cyclist squats.

Example 2: You’re working on building upper body muscle mass and you’ve started your workout with pull ups followed by lots of pressing movements however, this leaves large groups of muscles which retract the shoulder blades relatively untrained but are still important to these movements. Your coach spots this gap in your programme so follows your pull ups with some close grip cable rows.

These examples give you an impression of how accessory movements can effect both strength and hypertrophy training to provide complete training plans for the most effective training. Next time you’re unsure as to why you have a certain exercise in your training programme, ask your coach. No doubt it will directly relate to all of the above mentioned points.

So, why isn’t your accessory training working for you?

1. You don’t think it’s hard enough so you skip it, thinking that it should be the easy bit at the end.

2. You’ve been doing too many of the same exercises without any variations or progressions

3. You think the tempo’s are too slow so you get bored and end up rushing these sections of the workout (see my blog on tempo, to understand the importance of this!)

4. You skip it because you feel lots of cardio would be more beneficial to you.

5. You’re too busy chasing an arm pump to think about your posture and joint pain.

The above are just a few reasons as to why your results may be lacking so for the sake of your own constant progress, don’t let this be you! Start to take accessory work seriously and watch your strength, structural balance, sports performance and aesthetic all improve constantly.

Designing programmes which contain all of your main lifts, and the correct accessory exercises can seem like a daunting process, but all of my online programmes come equipped with this so you no longer have to worry about it.

Thanks for reading as always guys and I hope that you have been able to take something valuable away from this. Get in touch if you have any questions or have anything you’d like me to write about.

Keep training,


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