T Nation

How Adding Weight on Assistance Lifts?


hey lifters,

In powerlifting logs I often read when it comes to assistance work only "rows 3x10 " without any information about the weight.

In the past I added weight if i was able to make the "3x10" full.
Then in the next session I added 5 pounds and in the most cases I was able to do "2x10 and 1x8" reps.(i added again weight if i was able to make 3x10)
But in the most logs I can read, that assistance reps like "3x10" are made every session, so I'm wondering how you add the weight.

I hope anyone did understand what I mean, because It's hard for me to explain it in English

Thanks in advance to you,
Yours Tommy :slightly_smiling:

PS: Don't sue me because of my bad English, I'm a student form Heidelberg :slightly_smiling:


I'd say depends...but i am not that progressed.

I am doing 5/3/1 right now, and the main idea is for the assistance lifts to push the main lift.
Therefore everything that counts is "are you using enough weight to progress your main lift and not enough to hurt him?"


You are assuming that the lifters are actually adding weight each week. If one trains "instinctively" the weight matters not, It may be more or less than last time. Who cares, just choose a weight you can do for the chosen reps and just get the reps in. It's really that easy, IMO. Sure the goal would be to add weight each time but we all have shit days in the gym and we have days where you feel strong like bull..

Tommy, unfortunately your English is probably no worse than most folks who's native language is English..no worries. But we speak "American" here... lol


Well if the weight is not listed in the log, who's to say that any weight is being added at all? There are some assistance lifts that when performed after my more demanding compound lifts my muscles are so tired that i only raise the weight once every 1-2 months on simply because at that fatigue level 5 lbs on a DB can make a huge difference. However i try to take a similar approach to you, when i can do a weight for more than 1 set of 10, i will increase. I try to use a weight that causes my reps from one set to the next go 10, 8, 6-7.


Do whatever you think will help you get stronger. On assistance work I work up to a strong set of 6-10, it just depends on how I feel after the main lift.


I've personally found that waving the volume of my assistance work is what works for me. So when I do a 3x5 set my first week of the wave I could do 3x8 typically, but if I did that week in week out I would burn out, possibly get injured and regress on not just assistance, but main lifts too. And I usually only up the weight every month or two (a wave is usually a month).


do you guys do straight sets on assistance or do you ramp set to set?


From what I've noticed, different people do different things with their assistance work. Personally, I mostly go for straight sets, but occasionally I'll ramp up to a max repetition to shock my body. I think you'll just have to experiment some and figure out what works for you. Bear in mind that high volume is very hard my body, so for someone who can handle lots of volume will take a different approach than me.


I do different things. Usually for lifts that require more weight, like BB rows for example, I will ramp, but with lighter lifts I will do straight sets.

In all honesty there isn't a right answer, even I don't fully follow those guidelines. Friday I ramped up weight with EZ bar curls and then did three straight sets of 15 on EZ bar extensions.

I ramped DB rows on Monday but did straight sets of reverse grip BB rows on Friday.

Usually the deeper an exercise is in my session the less likely I am to ramp. When I am already fatigued, possibly have already done different exercises that have already hit that muscle, I will just choose a moderate/ easily manageable weight that allows me to get all the reps in.

More than anything it is about finding what works for you and what you prefer doing.


To answer your original question most directly if I was doing 3x10 what I usually do is on the 3rd set do more than 10 reps, 12-15 depending on the lift. If I get the 12 or 15 I was going for, the weight goes up next time. This way when the weight goes up you can usually still do all 3 sets of 10. If you barely get 10 and increase the weight it will be like 3 sets of 8-9 or something next time.


personally I don't pay too much attention to the assistance lifts weights/reps/sets. If it's a bench day, I'm hitting triceps, delts and lats hard and I might throw in biceps. I usually will pick a couple of exercises for each muscle group and keep adding weight. Reps vary from 6-15...sets 3-5. If I'm doing tricep extensions, I might start out at 100 lbs. and hit 15 reps, jump to 110 next set and nail 12 and just keep working up until I feel the triceps have been hammered sufficiently.


thanks for your advice :slightly_smiling:

One last question.

I want to try the bench press cure by dave tat in some weeks, and there is the advice on some assistance lifts
sets reps
3 8*

(*one rep shy of failure).

Do you think the "one rep shy of failure" does refer to every single set or to the hole three sets, that you are only are close to failure after the last set of 8 reps?

(I think my first impression is right)

Know I know that it does not really matter, and I have to find my own way.
But when it comes to trying training system, I think you have to try it first like the "designer" mentioned it and then you try your own style.

thanks in advance,

Yours faithfully Tommy :slightly_smiling:

ps: sorry for nerving you, but I'm such curious about the hole thing!



One rep shy of failure generally means for every set. I'm not a big fan of pushing assistance work to failure. Generally leave a rep or two in the tank for most assistance work. When a particular weight gets really easy, then add some weight but still leave a rep or two in the tank. Don't overthink the assistance work too much, just get some quality work in without burning out.


When I first got into powerlifting I did a few progressive overload programs and eventually I gravitated towards WBC methods. I always got decent results but my bench press always sucked shit. I got a copy of the Metal Militia bench press seminar and the approach they took to training seemed to contradict alot of the "solid scientific principles that comprise the conjugate method..." This baffled me. I couldn't understand how the MM guys were doing all the board work and shirted work week after week. They weren't rotating maximum effort exercises.

I took this problem to a forum...and a gentleman by the name of Vincent Dizenzo replied to me by saying:

"Too many guys are looking for the right program instead of just smashing fucking weights." Since then, you've probably heard the term SFW used...in any case, it's very true, the only problem is that when you're training alone or with some other novices you're not going to really smash weights like you could. When I visited Dizenzo and Rhodes up at Southside Gym, they really taught me what smashing weights was all about...it's not reps or sets...I did so much work on that day I lost track. I was doing triples in the shirt on a single breath until I thought I was going to die and I was sore from head to toe for several days afterwards...THAT is the kind of training that will improve your numbers and that's what you should be striving for. If you can latch up with a team or other substantial lifters, you won't be worried about sets and reps and failure etc.


I think a lot of Powerlifters don't go to failure in assistance work.

I think that, because it is to heavy to estimate a weight, that exactly fits for 3 sets of 10 to failure in the last set.

It seemed for me like a rule to get the 3x10 or 4x8 full, because i never read things like : "3x8 and 1x7"

Are there some guys, who never go to failure? And how much reps are you shy of failure after the last set of a assitance exercise?

I like it to go to failure in every assistance set and i do mostly 6-10 repititions, that's how i learned it...

sorry for my late answer, i was busy with studying :frowning:


Your what wendler says is "majoring in the minors". Just progress in the assistance lifts. If your main lifts are going up it makes sense your assistance lifts will follow. More weight, reps per set or a set progression week to week.

Personally, i don't train to failure but that's not saying it doesn't work.


Do it this way, when you're lifting heavy on your main exercises use an easy 3 sets of ten for example. When you lift lighter, go heavier, where the last set of ten is close to a max.


are you a powerlifter, or do yu train that way? if so, you don't need to always add weight to your assistance lifts. make it challanging, but don't go to failure. if you do, back it off a little bit. all your energy should be spent on your main lifts of the day.


hey, it's me again :slightly_smiling:

I wrote: "I want to try the bench press cure by dave tat in some weeks, and there is the advice on some assistance lifts
sets reps
3 8*

(*one rep shy of failure). "

...and tomorrow the routine starts.

SRS2000 wrote, that it means for every set.

But does it not mean, that you do straight sets with the same weight in every set and that you are in the last set one rep shy of failure?

Or are you in the first rep also one rep shy of failure, when you are in the first rep one rep shy of failure (because the power doesn't decrease that fast, if you are not going to failure)?

I have this idea, because I always read in Powerlifting logs, that you pick a weight and then get the reps in that stand in your routine, so it would be really "shocking" for me, if dave wants the people to reduce weight after every single set.

I know I'm thinking too much about assistance, but I still want to clear this question for me :slightly_smiling:

thanks in advance and stay strong,

Yours Tommy