Home Gym Accessory Movements I Program Most Often
With gym shutdowns nationwide, home gyms have had a meteoric rise. And while those who have access to a barbell, rack, bench, and plates right now are feeling very fortunate to continue their training, the one downside of most home gyms is the limited variety of accessory movements. Lacking dumbbells and machines limits a lot of what people normally do for their upper and lower body accessory work, but most would be surprised by how much you can still get done with just barbell. To give some ideas, I wanted to put together a breakdown of the 9 accessory movements I have found myself programming most often for my athlete’s home gym workouts. I’d also recommend searching “barbell landmine variations” on Google to open yourself up to even more ideas. But looking at bang for your buck, these are the 9 movements I think most will find very beneficial. (CLICK HERE for videos)
1.) Inverted Barbell Hamstring Curls are a movement I like year round, but are fairly unknown to the general population. And within a home gym setting you have even less options for leg curls accessories, so these move up my totem pole of importance even more. Like many of these other bodyweight movements, we can make adjustments with our body angle to regress or progress the difficulty of this movement. Most lifters will find it plenty difficult with their feet on the floor, but you can also elevate your feet 12-18 inches to make it even harder. The biggest key though on Inverted Barbell Hamstring Curls is to fight the eccentric, so I always program these with a 3-0-0 tempo to notate that the eccentric motion should be under control at all times.
2.) Zercher squats provide a great alternative to Goblet squats and other lower body accessories in the absence of dumbbells. A big benefit of Zercher squats is there are many different variations of this movement that can be performed. For those who have done Zercher squats before, you probably know the limiting factor tends to be your core and is a very common accessory movement I program for Strongman competitors to mimic stone loading. But for powerlifters, providing some heel elevation by placing your heels on a 45lb. plate can change the leverages to better target your quads. This allows you to stay more upright and bias towards greater degrees of knee flexion. The Zercher position could also be carried over to other exercises like lunges or split squats.
3.) Meadows Rows acts as a great substitute for single arm dumbbell or machine rows. It may be a bit less optimal to be gripping the end of the collar versus a dumbbell, but for alternatives within a home gym, its hard to beat Meadows Rows for a back accessory. It is very easy to set up, load, and perform while allowing the ability to work through low to high rep ranges.
4.) Outside of Barbell Bench Press and Dips, its tough to find horizontal pressing accessories within a home gym. My personal go to is Barbell Pushups. The issue with regular pushups is we tend to cut range of motion due to the proximity of our face to the floor, so slightly elevating a barbell and lowering our chest to the bar creates a higher degree of difficulty. For most you will need to add further difficulty to this movement, so options to do so include elevating your feet, adding a tempo, and placing weight on your upper back if possible.
5.) Reverse Lunges is already one of my favorite lower body accessory movements, but I do prefer them performed with dumbbells. But with home gyms and limited access, Reverse Lunges can still be a great exercise used with a barbell. The issue I find with a barbell is most people tend to want to extend more at the low back, so just be very mindful of your bracing while performing these.
6.) Pull-ups are the typical home gym bodyweight back accessory movement, but often overlooked is Inverted Barbell Rows. These offer a great way to train the horizontal pulling motion with low stress on the lower back. A great benefit too is this movement has a wide degree of regression and progression based on changing your body angle. Most powerlifters will tend to need to invert though, placing their feet on a bench to create adequate difficulty. And if needed, I will also add a tempo to increase difficulty even further.
7.) I program Pendlay Rows fairly often, but find myself doing so even more frequently now with the gym shutdowns. I personally am not a big fan of barbell rows due to the low back involvement and the tendency for people to cheat on them. So for this reason, my go to barbell row variation is Pendlay Rows. The key with these is being strict and limiting the use of “body english” to perform the movement. When done right, it doesn’t take much weight to make Pendlay Rows fairly challenging.
8.) Half Kneel Landmine Presses are another great substitute for pressing work in the absence of dumbbells. I promote the half kneel position as it take out the use of the legs to get momentum. With the Half Kneel Landmine Press, there are also a variety of angles you can perform these at to target the pressing muscles differently. For the purpose I have been programming them, I like to keep a vertical torso angle so that the press angle mimics an incline press. If you’d like to use this as more of a direct shoulder work accessory, Eric Cressey has a great breakdown of these on his YouTube channel. He promotes a slight forward torso lean as you press to achieve a finishing position that would be directly overhead.
9.) While Larsen Presses are not quite an accessory movement, but more so a variation, I did want to touch on the the reasoning why I am programming these more than ever. Many people are stuck with crappy benches that are far from the normal IPF spec competition benches they are used to. This makes it very difficult to replicate the same setup and positioning you’d typically be able to achieve on bench press. So instead of having my lifters try to struggle through this, I am programming more Larsen Pressing to remove the factor of the bench. While bench width still does play a role on Larsen Presses, it does remove the bench height variable which is where most lifter’s issues are arising. I find more consistent training pushing Larsen Presses at this time since the position and form they can achieve in their home gyms can still closely mimic what they’d be doing at their normal gym.