T Nation

Lazy with Assistance


I know that assistance is not important part of training, but just interested how people use their assistance in 5/3/1.

  • how often you change your assistance movements?

And how much "thinking" you give to programming assistance (in terms of reps/sets etc.)?

I'm personally super lazy with my assistance. Only assistance I have used for several months are chins and ab wheel (Also occasional kb swings as conditioning). Usually have done 30-40 total reps (more in swings) without really programming them in any way.

Just for the note: I'm hitting two big strength movements and hang cleans in every session, so there is not obviously much more space for anything else for now. I'm still little worried that I'm being too soft with assistance work.


On Squat or Deadlift days, I mostly do some heavy sit-ups or leg raises and call it a day. The rep maxes and FSL is enough to kick my butt and I have no interest in adding much more than ab work.

On Bench or Press days, I hit my rows and pull-ups very hard and use a double progression. After that I go by feel. Usually on Bench days I’ll hit the main lift, some heavy DB Rows, and finish with some DB curls. On Press days I usually feel good after the main lift and pull-ups, so I get a lot more assistance stuff done.

For the assistance stuff I just pick a weight, do sets of 10 reps, and just go until I’m pumped and sore. Nothing written in stone except the main lifs, ab work, and lat work. So ya, kind of lazy too.


Assistance work for me varies depending on if I’m pushing intensity or volume with my main lift. Right now I am running Spinal Tap for all of my main lifts and keeping assistance work pretty minimal for a few weeks until I see how I handle the extra volume. If I feel like hitting a little extra “pretty” work like side raises, curls etc. I will do more exercises and cut the volume to 2-3x10 instead of 5x10. The staples of my assistance work that never change are pull-ups / lat pulldowns, rows (cable or DB), KB Swings and Ab Wheel. Lat Pulldowns and Cable Rows are typically done on days I’m running low on energy. I also love running 5’ Pro for a big assistance lift such as front squats and close grip presses.


I just decided to cut my assistance to minimum and really hit the main work hard and push PR:s. I will start 28 weeks next monday with this set up:

Squat 531 sets & reps
*Abs/low back

Bench 531 sets&reps
*Chins, Dips, Curls

Deadlift 531 sets&reps
Press 531 sets&reps
*Kroc row

Agile 8, Jumps/Throws, BPAs/Face Pulls included.

I try to make my main work count for next half a year and get back on right path.


Assistance effort/importance is based on what you are doing:

BBB - low
BBS - low
5’s Pro/FSL - high
5’s Pro/FSL/hard condtioning - low

That’s just an example but I’m sure you can understand what I mean. More effort in one area requires you to back off in another. That doesn’t mean you drop it but you can’t major in everything.


Who says assistance isn’t important?


Thank you Jim, that’s a good guideline to follow when I’m cycling through different 6 week blocks. I have found that the amount on assistance is easy to program according to how you feel after your main lifts.

Rave - You’re right. What I meant that assistance is not_that_important part in training compared to other aspects:

  • Speed work.
  • Volume/intensity work in main lifts.
  • Mobility and form work.
  • Recovery.

I first make sure these things are allright before I think about the assistance. Of course assistance is not useless, doing rep work in chins have made my back grow a lot and probably saved my shitty shoulders from aching all the time.

But if I must choose to do FSL work or assistance work in squats after my 5/3/1 sets, I’ll normally go towards the FSL. But that is just me, I really haven’t try assistance based templates, or any kind of “weak point”-training. I just hit the main movements as hard as I can, and keep the assistance at minimum.

Some day I may need to change it (this could be clever thing to do actually with squats, because I have some serious problems with my operated left leg, and I really haven’t found any clear solution to the problem), but not planning to do so for at least 4 months.


Here is a simple way to get all your assistance in without killing yourself, making sure you satisfy all the internet gods of truth and have balance.

Bench (300 TM)

100x3/rear laterals x 20
130x3/rear laterals x 20
150x3/rear laterals x 20
180x3/chins x 10+
210x3/chins x 10+
240x3/chins x 10+
270xPR Set
5 sets of 5 reps @ 210/ 3 sets of db rows/2 sets of curls

All your shit is done.

With squat/deadlift - you don’t superset obviously but you can finish up with hanging leg raises, back raises and some one leg work. 3 sets or so of each.


I’m actually doing something like this. It is good to get some extra confirmation to know that I’m doing things right.

Now I’m using A-B split because of unstable schedules (I go to the gym 2-4 times/week).
A) DL, Press
B) Squat, Bench.

After workouts I normally hit ab/low back work for 2-3 sets and superset pressing movements with chins.