T Nation

Best Assistance Lifts for Each Main Lift



Obviously there’s many different opinions here but what do you guys feel are the lifts that help your big lifts go up? In particularly the squat as it is my weakest lift. My current auxiliary lifts are front squats, a single leg exercise, close grip bench, OHP variation, weighted pull ups and row variation.


Reverse hyper, SSB squat and mat pulls for dead

Dips, press, rows and chins for bench

Voodoo and satan worship for squat


Ahh I knew I was missing something!


SSB squat and split squats or lunges for squat

Paused front squat for DL

OHP, Kroc rows and dips for bench


The past six months to a year it’s been high rep bodybuilding which has greatly aided in recovery.

Usually for main lift training its pause squatting, slinghot bench for higher reps (usually heavier weight than you’ll use raw), and for pulling it’s off blocks for reps. I usually try and find a way to build more muscle with 70% and less and keep anything over that for singles “most” of the time. Once in a great while I’ll do heavy triples or fives but the body can’t seem to take it as often anymore so I learned to work around it.


Squats are largely dependant on quads, so SSB and high bar squats are my first choice. Any kind of paused squat is good too. Good mornings can help too if you squat with a lot of forward lean. Single leg exercises are good for hypertrophy, but I would be careful about going heavy on those.

My bench hasn’t been going anywhere lately, but if the past I did well with long pauses, floor press, spoto press, and close grip bench. Slingshot is good for getting used to heaver weights but I’m not sure if it will directly increase your bench unless you have a weak lockout. Some people swear by dips and overhead press, I never got much out of them personally.

For deadlift it depends if you pull conventional or sumo. Deficit deadlifts are good for conventional but doing a lot of those for sumo can mess up your start position and you would probably do better with a small deficit like 1". Paused deadlifts at the weakest point (either just off the floor or at the knees). Low rack/block pulls for a bit of overload and particularly for sumo since it takes out most of the leg drive. SLDL/RDL/GM are all good for building the posterior chain and high rep SSB squats will build your upper back. Heavy barbell rows are my favorite for lats and lower back.


My faves are as follows:

Squat: Heavy walkouts, Good Mornings, Leg Press

Bench: DIPS, Press

Sumo Deadlift: Deficits (35lb plates)

Conv. Deadlift: Low block and rack pulls, RDL’s, Rows


Obviously it depends on an individual’s weak points but the things that have made the biggest difference for me are: SLDL from a deficit really helped me get my squat out of the hole, and made a noticeable difference. Front squats helped my deadlift noticeably. Bent rows (resting the bar on the floor with each rep) helped my dead and bench. Other row and pulldown variations help both as well.

The Big Three (Powerlifting)

It changes over time.

I find box squats in conjuction with plyos to always help my squat. Granted, there are million different box squat variations.

If I had to choose one box squat variation… then I’ll go with manta ray wide stance to just below parallel. The manta ray implement makes the squat something that I can do sustainably since it takes pressure off my hips, shoulders, and elbows.

Box squats in general are helpful because they help me pop out of the whole and make my sticking point somewhere I have a fighting chance of straining to get the weight up.

The box squat also takes a ton of stress off the joints since the energy you store on the descent is dissipated through the box instead going through the body to assist in the rebound. You also just can’t use as much weight.

Building meat around the shoulders with bodybuilding and re/pre-hab movements keeps me healthy enough to bench consistently. The other thing is DE type benching.

For deadlift, any DL variation that I don’t use a belt. It forces me to use good form and hence build my weaknesses.


Squat: Box squat, pause squat

Bench: Spoto press, CGBP

Deadlift: Deficit pulls, pause deadlift

This is just for me, assistance should be individual.


Bench: Weighted dips, incline flies, close grip incline bench, paused 1-inch bench

Squat: Box squats, lunges or split squats, paused squats

DL: Deficits, GHR, Blocks, just started incorporating about a 4 inch pull under the safety bars (a sticking point for me), and RDLs.

Always try to change it up a bit each week.


Bench: Rows, military press, farmers carries

Squat: paused squat, prowler pushes

Deadlift: front squat, squat, sled pulls


Farmer carries for bench?


I was about to say the same thing


I’m assuming for upper back development, but am definitely curious.


Bench: Single arm KB skull crushers/ Incline DB press
Squat: Leg press/ high bar narrow stance squats
Deadlift: RDLs/ box squats


Traps, arms, abs, and grip will improve without cutting into the main lifts. These days, it might be my favorite lift. Give it a go. Take 4-6 100 meter trips at the end of each workout for the next month with 50-75lbs to start.


That is absurdly light for farmer’s walks. By chance, are you using dumbbells instead of actual farmer’s walk handles?


That’s what I would recommend for someone starting out using dumbbells or kettlebells. For actual farmers walks, yes, it would be very light, but I don’t think most people have access to the proper equipment. Even with dumbbells, it is a badass lift.


I have found that dumbbells significantly change the effect of the lift due to how much it limits loading. It basically becomes a grip exercise; while the full body effect is lost. If one wants to gain the benefit of a loaded carry while using dumbbells, a front carr will be more effective.