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How to Progress on Assistance Exercises?

Obviously I can’t just keep adding 5lbs a month to my curls and stuff so how should I approach progression on these lifts?

tain progressively

Progressing with certain assistance movements can be tricky. Obviously, we all have ingrained in our minds that “progressive overload” is the way to go. But as you said, you can’t keep adding 5lbs to your curls every few weeks haha. And you don’t really need to. As long as you are progressing on your big movements, sometimes assistance work is really there just to keep the body in balance, to work on technique, to build some extra muscle etc, and just doing it (even without really “progressing” much from workout to workout) can be enough.

In the end, a lot depends on what the movement is. For example, if your assistance work is a bigger movement, like front squats, incline bench, good mornings, snatch grip DL’s, then I would suggest just doing a regular progression (maybe with some tweaks). For example, I do 5/3/1 front squats after I do back squats on thursday workouts, and I’ve made a lot of progress doing this. You just have to understand that you are WAY more likely to have bad days when you are doing that lift AFTER a main lift, and not worry so much if you are having trouble getting the sets/reps you are supposed to one week. It’s assistance work. But this method can work really well.

Another thing you can do with these bigger movements, and with some “smaller” movements, like pullups, dips, dumbell bench, dumbell strict press, is to do a big set to failure (or a couple big sets), and move the weight up once you hit a certain number of reps. So for example, you do a max set of dumbell flat bench with 75 lb dumbells and get 15 the first week, then 18 the second and 21 the third.

Because you broke 20, you move upto 80lb dumbells and can get 14 the first week, then 17, then 19 then 21, so you move up to 85. OR you could pick a total number of reps over 3 sets (paul carter suggests this). So, you incline bench 185 for 3 sets to failure, and once those sets COLLECTIVELY add up to 50 reps, move the weight up.

Finally, something I do with smaller movement like curls and dumbell rows, where there might not be much room for progression, is pick a moderate goal that I want to accomplish at the end of a training cycle, and then progress in small increments towards that goal only when you feel like it. So for example, say you can strict curl 85 lbs for 10. Set a goal for a couple months from now to hit 95 lbs for 10. Then, every workout you can take on it’s own… hit 85 for 10 the first couple weeks, and then if you’re feeling good add a rep or two.

Stick at that for a while, then maybe add 5 lbs when you’re feeling good and week by week try to up the reps again. So you might be moving the same weight for the same number of reps for a couple weeks on end, but slowly you’re going to inch your way forward so that, at the end of a few months, you hit that 95 x 10. sure it’s not a ton better, but it’s progress. And because it is assistance work, simply doing it at all is the goal, not making 30 or 40 lb pr’s.

Just remember the priority is with the main lifts, not the assistance work. Don’t get too caught up in it. But those are some ideas of what you can do.

Pick a rep range that you’re going to work in. Let’s say 3 sets of 8-12 to make it easy. Start off lifting a weight that you can only manage for 3 sets of 8 (maybe 10,9,8 or whatever) and then keep using that weight until you can do 3 sets of 12 with good form. Once you can do that, move up a weight again so you can only just get 3 sets of 8. Pretty simple.

One accessory progression method i wish id have found earlier was looking at time in addition to weight/reps/sets. Dont turn it into cardio, but if you are doing the same work in less time, thats progress.

I generally tell people to do what Rattler do when they are confused about how to progress on accessory movements.

I personally prefer to add weigh incrementally (as little as 2.5 pounds per work out), and then reset when I feel my technique start to crumble.

Take barbell rows as an example:
Week 1: 5x10x210 - feels easy, move up
Week 2: 5x10x220 - feels easy, move up
Week 3, 5x10x230 - feels good, move up
Week 4, 5x10x235 - feels good, move up
Week 4, 5x10x240 - feels pretty hard, was falling apart by the 5th set, but I’m going to go up anyway
Week 5, 5x10x245 - Was falling apart by the fourth. Drop the weight and focus on where you started to crumble. Maybe I started to let my lower back round and wasn’t arching hard enough. Arch harder.
Week 6, 5x10x225 - feels easy, move up

Etc., etc., etc.

i like how someone on here once put it, i train to get better at competing not at training.

i would only worry about progressing on the main lifts which i am guessing is bench, squat, and deadlift. if those are going up then the accessory doesnt matter IMO. worrying about them would be like majoring in the minors.

[quote]asooneyeonig wrote:
i like how someone on here once put it, i train to get better at competing not at training.

i would only worry about progressing on the main lifts which i am guessing is bench, squat, and deadlift. if those are going up then the accessory doesnt matter IMO. worrying about them would be like majoring in the minors.[/quote]

Agreed. With assistance exercises you should really go by feel. So long as you’re main lifts are going up, you’re doing something right.

[quote]asooneyeonig wrote:
i train to get better at competing not at training.

[/quote]
unless you cross fit

BRO

[quote]rehanb_bl wrote:

[quote]asooneyeonig wrote:
i train to get better at competing not at training.

[/quote]
unless you cross fit

BRO[/quote]

LOL tru dat

Lately I have been trying to A) do more reps per 3 sets and if I fail B) adding another set, and when neither of those work I C) rest slightly less between sets and when even that fails I D) start over and focus on improving my form and MMC.