In a general fitness program that strongly emphasizes foundational, compound movements it can be difficult to see the value of accessory work. Accessories can even seem like nothing more than a time filler. As the name suggests, accessory exercises don’t make a program, but they can greatly enhance a program. The goal of our program is always to increase muscle mass and performance, and decrease body fat. Here are a few ways that accessory work contributes to these goals:
Hypertrophy. Accessory exercises target smaller muscle groups that typically don’t get direct attention with larger compound movements. Naturally, lower weight and higher volume rep schemes are more conducive to developing these smaller muscles. These higher volume rep schemes, in turn, are ideal for hypertrophy, which is a fancy way of saying bigger muscles!
Coordination. Oftentimes our accessory work includes unilateral variations, such as single leg deadlifts, split squats, single arm press and pulls, and suitcase holds. These movement variations are not only really good at getting those smaller muscles to work hard (which ties into hypertrophy), but they also help to develop balance and coordination. If you can squat well on each leg individually, you will be much more prepared to execute a full squat with both legs. Put simply, that means better form!
Strength. As you may have already concluded, having more muscle mass and being able to coordinate that additional muscle well will lead to increased strength in all of your lifts!
Here's the main takeaway: Keep in mind the purpose of the accessory work we do. It isn’t always the most exciting, but if you execute it with purpose you will reap the benefits!