Powerlifting Accessory Movements I Find Myself Programming Most Often

A big thing that seems to differ from coach to coach is their use of accessories, and I fall in the category of being a big proponent of accessory work. While there are many reasons for this, my main 3 reasons for programming a larger amount of accessory work than most is…

1.) The obvious reason, and why most program accessories, is for the hypertrophy benefit. I may even lean more to this side than others as well, as I am not a fan of high repetition squats and deadlifts, and typically keep squats at 7 reps or less and deadlifts under 6 repetitions at most. Even for bench I rarely go over 8 repetitions, so accessory work allows us to increase volume through higher rep schemes, leading to hypertrophy benefits.

2.) The less obvious reason I program accessories is that I use it as a progression model for building volume tolerance. After a meet, I use high volumes of accessories to build tolerance to higher workloads, and then as blocks progress I will slowly bring down the accessory work and allocated that volume now to the competition movements. Rather than just immediately adding 1 or 2 sets to squat, bench press, or deadlift when I feel the time is right to add volume, I first add that volume through accessories. Typically if I add an extra 3 sets of accessory work, that will eventually translate to 1 or 2 added sets to the competition movements down the road.

3.) Leading back to both points, accessories can be used to help with reducing injury risk. Rather than doing super high rep squats and deadlifts, or immediately adding more sets to heavy barbell movements, accessories can accomplish similar tasks with significantly less loading requirements. This in return reduces risk of injury and increase longevity in the sport.

So with that being said, I want to list the accessory movements I find myself currently programming most frequently. I could easily go in depth with each exercise, but to save you time of having to read another essay from me, I am going to try to a bit more simple with the explanations. With that being said, here are the 8 accessory movements I am currently programming the most (listed in order of the videos HERE):

1.) Weighted Dips- Especially when done as pictured using a belt squat machine for the loading, the angle of weighted dips can be adjusted to mimic the bench press position of someone who tends to have a larger arch and elevated rib cage. Which for as a coach tends to be most of my athletes.

2.) Belt Squats- This one has been becoming very popular lately, and for good reason. It’s a great way to get added squat volume without the same fatigue on the back. Barring that someone has access to a Pit Shark, I have found that I actually like the free hanging loading pin belt squat more than most of the other belt squat machines.

3.) Dumbbell Single Leg Assisted RDL- I absolutely love these and for good reason. You can provide a fairly large overload stimulus unilaterally to the hip extensors without nearly as much strain on the lower back as regular RDLs. This “assisted” version also helps to take away the stability demands of regular single leg RDLs.

4.) Back Extensions- When it comes to building the lower back for the deadlift, I have found back extensions to be the best bang for the buck. They do a great job of building the lower back without seeming to create excessive levels of fatigue.

5.) Nordic Curls- This is a very challenging exercise to perform, but when done correctly I find many benefits to it. Sprinters have long been known to use them for reducing hamstring injury risk. Also, I find that the demands on the knee flexors are similar to that of a deadlift, where those knee flexors are fighting against the urge of the knee to want to lockout too soon.

6.) BFR Leg Accessories- Blood Flow Restriction has been shown time and time again within research to display excellent hypertrophy benefits while using significantly less load. BFR is very commonly used for arms, but I think is greatly underutilized for the lower body.

7.) Alternating Dumbbell Pendlay Rows- I really like these due to the added contralateral stabilization demand, as well being a bit easier on the lower back that a regular barbell pendlay row.

8.) Copenhagen Planks- Powerlifters rarely do direct adductor work, yet we also have high frequencies of adductor injuries. I have found that copenhagen planks more than anything seem to do a good job of limiting adductor issues. And for those with adductor injuries, it can be a great rehab exercise.

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