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Dave's Talk on Accessories and 5/3/1

Hey everyone. I had a sort of strange question about accessory work. I watched the linked video, which is Dave Tates seminar on accessory work. I know this might not seem like the right place to post this but hear me out as it does relate to Jims 5/3/1. In this seminar Dave talks about how there are three levels, the main movement, supplemental, and accessory work. He mentions this method can be used in all forms of training from Conjugate, cube, 5/3/1, sport athletes. Obviously, Dave focuses on conjugate because that is what he knows and has the most experience with.

This is where my question comes in. Dave says to increase your main work, let’s say the squat, you need to bring up your supplemental lift that carries over to your main lift by using accessory work. For example, if you want your squat to go up you want to use a supplemental movement that drives the squat, like a front squat. To drive that supplemental movement up you want to use accessory movements that drive the numbers up on your front squat.

So, my question is he mentions you can use this for 5/3/1 but most if not all the supplemental work in the templates are the same movements are used as the main movement. For example, you will squat your work sets then your supplemental would be squats with FSL or SSL. Which leads me to how would one plan or use an accessory to drive your supplemental if your supplemental movement is the main movement? This is just something that I have been trying to think about. I know a few on here say its just titles and all that but I was just bringing up the conversation to see what others think. I found the seminar interesting and what Dave says makes sense but when thinking of the way the program is laid out I can’t see how the principles would fit into the progarm.

Dave tates accessory explanation

The common principle is that you’ve got super specific heavy main work, not-as-specific volume work, and general/not-specific volume work.

Yes, 10x5 Squats is more specific than 10x5 Front Squats, and it may seem like Tate and Wendler have different thoughts about supplemental work, but really, 10x5 Front Squats and 10x5 Squats are both “less specific” than the main movement.

I also guarantee you that both Wendler and Tate have both gone through periods when their supplemental work is the same movement / different movement to their main work.

To actually answer your question more directly:
Tate’s thing still applies to when you use the same lift. You can even break it into even more levels than 3 levels. The important thing to realise is it’s all just about less specific stuff supporting more specific stuff, and if neglect the more “general” stuff and have no athletic foundation you’re going to struggle because you’re building a pyramid that is too narrow. To use an example:

Goal: Increase Squat 1RM

  1. The most specific thing: Squat at about 100% of 1RM, for 1 rep.
  2. The pretty specific thing: Squats around the 55-90% region for a variety of reps, usually around 5.
  3. The less specific things to help bring up the above more specific things: Squats for 5x10 at 45%, or 1x20 at 55%, etc.
  4. The not-specific-but-related things to help bring up the above things: 100 reps of hanging leg raises, leg press, etc.
  5. Pushups, pullups.
  6. Conditioning, sprints, prowler, jumps, throws.
  7. Quitting smoking, not drinking alcohol.
  8. Being alive.

From my understanding, and I’m kind of bullshitting here probably because I know very little about it: even “Bulgarian” or whatever training follows this principle. They periodise their training over THEIR ENTIRE LIFTING CAREER by building a solid base of GPP etc from the age of like 3 years old. They do all that constant maxing after they already have a super athletic well-rounded foundation. AND, allegedly, pharmaceuticals.


Correct. Although, if you read Forever, he gives an option for any and all supplemental protocols to be done with an alternative movement provided lifters take the time to set an appropriate TM. Jim tends not to focus on this as an option, my thoughts being that people who are experienced enough to choose appropriate supplemental are also probably experienced enough that they don’t need to be told. Important caveat: this is just my thoughts, it hasn’t come from Jim.

Jim is also pretty clear that for beginner lifters (which most of us are), you aren’t strong enough to have weak points yet, you just need to get stronger.

By finding lifts that help drive the main movement. Usually this will be done by looking for what isn’t getting stimulated appropriately by the main movement, ie. Looking for “holes” in your training, or trying to balance your training.

Also, see my point above about not being strong enough to have weak points yet.

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Also, this.

As I understand 531, it’s really a GPP program rather than a powerlifting specific program. In fact it’s often emphasised that 1RMs are completely unimportant for the program. Dave Tate tends to specialise much more in powerlifting, which is a very specific goal aimed at increasing your 1RM. The two aren’t completely divorced from each other, but there’s very important differences too.

The same way you would use an accessory to bring up a supplemental lift that’s not your main lift. Identify the weakness and target that.

If my main lift is a back squat and my torso tilts forward I might suspect my quads are the reason. I can keep the same back squat as my supplemental and focus during those reps on not letting my torso fall forward with how I initiate out of the hole. Or play with tempo to ingrain the correct motor neuron firing pattern.

Then I’d do some isolation movements for my quads.

Or I’d do a more quad dominant squat as supplemental (front squat) and if I’m limited by my upper back there I’d do a suitable accessory for that so I can continue using it to develop my quads.

Yes I know there is an option for supplemental lifts but most of the templates use the same movement. Which is what brought me to this question. Dave focuses on powerlifting and conjugate which is different then 5/3/1. His examples are easy to follow if you follow conjugate but to apply it to 5/3/1, in my opinion, doesn’t really fit in as easy or nicely as it should.

This makes sense. The way Dave explains it he makes it seem like you need to have three different lifts. For example, your first lift would be a main lift such as the bench. Then a second movement for your supplemental, which is different then your main movement. And your last should be an accessory movement that builds your secondary movement. I’ve always thought of accessories as something that builds lacking muscles or helps imbalances. For example, the bench might be your main movement but the accessory movement might be dumbbell presses because it builds stabilizer muscles that you can’t get through a barbell.

I get why you want to think about this. If two high level guys contradict each other that just means whatever they’re advocating is not truly “fundamental”, but rather two approaches that both work. Therefore the true fundamentals are something else. We want to know what the fundamentals are because, if we knew what they were, we could go do that thing and avoid the other thing.

However, explicitly and accurately defining the fundamentals in a field is actually extremely hard, and it’s kind of a philosophy-thought-experiment-abstract-theoretical-mind-puzzle thing - which is bad - because the human mind is notorious for rationalisation and bias and all kinds of treachery. In all fields, all the top level guys/coaches seem to have their own version of what “the fundamentals” really are. Yes, they overlap, but they also call each other out and say that guy’s wrong - listen to me.

In the end, all people can really give you is “this is what worked for me, and this is what I’ve seen work for others, and this is what I think all these things I’ve seen work have in common”.

Here’s the thing though: Knowing that an approach definitely empirically works is better than having a hypothesis about what the fundamentals probably are.

Here’s why:

  • If an approach reliably empirically works (eg. 5/3/1, or Tate’s thing), then it necessarily also follows the fundamentals (whatever they are) because if it didn’t follow the fundamentals it wouldn’t work.
  • If you have an idea of what the fundamentals probably are, you could still mess up by (1) being wrong, or (2) incorrectly applying them. Not to mention (3) the treachery and stuff I mentioned will make you rationalise and double down on your theory and you’ll find something to blame.

So if you can choose between following what you think the fundamentals are, or just copying the smart guys homework, then you should always copy the smart guy’s homework.

(smart guy’s homework analogy stolen from @T3hPwnisher)

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Holy cow this is so much overthinking.

Assistance/accessory work makes muscles bigger. That’s all. Bigger muscles are stronger.

Find out what muscles are holding back your lifting and make them bigger.


But they don’t have to. As I said, Jim gives the option to use other lifts in any and all supplemental protocols, providing the lifter takes the time to calculate a sensible TM for the lift. This is direct from 531 Forever.

For the record, I really like using different supplemental lifts for some lifts. I find some to be really effective for me, but also vanilla 531 can be really fucking boring, and different supplemental lifts can change that up a bit. I haven’t found many that are more effective than the basic lifts though.


Whenever a new seminar on picking up heavy objects comes out, everyone wants to do the whole Meditations of Descartes thing.


Having now watched the video, I’ll try and apply what was said to 531, to see if it makes sense.

The topline, or training goal is the thing you want to be awesome at. You haven’t specified what that is, but I assume it’s something that a stronger squat/bench/deadlift/press will help with.

Your main lifts then become lifts that will help you become more awesome at X. As mentioned, these are S/B/D/P in most 531 templates. If you have good reason to believe that a trap bar deadlift contributes more to being awesome than a straight bar, that might be a main lift.

Supplemental lifts are exercises that build your main lift, and what exercises build the main lift better than the main lift? Again, if you have good reason to believe that doing your FSL sets as paused squats instead of squats will have a greater carryover to regular squatting, establish a TM and have at it.

Assistance exercises are there to build the muscles that drive the movements. If you thinking having stronger abs will build your Squat (spoiler alert: it probably will), maybe you should do some Hanging Leg Raises? If you think having bigger triceps will help you Press more, maybe dips might be a good Assistance?

These are the main points of the seminar, as I understand it, and also fit 100% with 531.

This makes sense. I understood what Dave was saying but just not how it would fit in when Jim says assistance work should focus on push, pull, single leg/core. I enjoy the simplicity of that but what Dave says makes sense too.

In what way are they different? I just don’t see the conflict.

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I don’t know what Dave said but he definitely doesn’t think you shouldn’t do push or pull or single leg or core.

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Tate says the lifts should build on top of each other.

So “Squat” might go Squat, Front squat to build the squat, then hanging leg raises to build the front squat. Then the last assistance exercise would picked special to build the hanging leg raise. What’s the best assistance exercise to build the hanging leg raise?

And "Bench’ could be Bench, then dips. Then maybe skull-crushers to build up dips. From there you’d use another assistance lift to help increase the skull-crusher. What’s the best move for this?

I love Dave Tate, but I agree with OP, this scheme for assistance gives me anxiety.


So what you have there is:

Main movement: Squat
Supplemental movement: Front Squat
Assistance movement: HLR

Looks a lot like 531, and is exactly what I took from the video.

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In the end Dave Tate’s just a human being trying to turn something simple that people have turned complex into something simple so that people can deconstruct it to reveal the simple truths, by making it complicated.

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You’re really making me question myself now

This is all some square peg/round hole stuff that I fell victim to myself.

Dave Tate represents a part of the lifting spectrum. This part is the part where people will analyze, breakdown and deconstruct everything, then build it back again. Some dudes THRIVE with that approach. They win comps and break records by doing it. Some folks MELTDOWN with that approach. They spend all their time analyzing down to the stupidest detail and get nowhere.

On the other part of the spectrum, you have Jon Andersen, who said that the reason he did 10x10 is because he thinks he has some sort of OCD and likes the number 10, and since he had a learning disability, picking a round number like that made things easier. The focus was just on working hard with ONE movement. For some folks, you get to become an international strongman and 3 sport professional athlete with that approach. Other dudes tell themselves they’re training RPE 10 all the time and can’t make progress.

Derek Poundstone was similar: the training was about pain tolerance and misery, because those were the qualities necessary to win.

It ALL works: it doesn’t ALL work for everyone. If one method isn’t working for you, don’t try to make YOU fit the method: find the method that fits you.