T Nation

Let's Talk About Accessories


#1

Everyone loves to do their main lift and maybe some back off sets. Everyone mostly hates accessories.

So let’s discuss how to handle accessories when we’ve got them in our programming.

If you’ve got 4x10 of something how do you pick your weight? Do you do warmups? Do you keep the weight the same? What’s your rest time like? Controlled reps or sloppy get them done reps? RPE 6-7 or RPE 9 ?

I’ve got 2 methods I really like.

  1. keep the rest time under a minute between sets, this turns it into pump work for hypertrophy but when executed properly leaves you with a wicked pump and some muscle breakdown.

  2. work up in weight each set making it so the last 3-4 jumps are your “working sets”, you end up resting a bit longer between sets but you’re able to get some solid hypertrophy in while still pushing the limits of the weight you can handle.

Another option is the over warm up method, Say you’ve got 3x 15 programmed, work up to a heavy set of 10 where you could only get to 12 reps, drop the weight a bit then do your 3 x 15. I like this method on movements where you’re not able to go very heavy in the first place, for instance say lateral raises.

How do you handle your accessories? What do you do if time’s running out and you got someplace to go? Do you skip any?

Discuss.


#2

I do a warmup set or two, more if I haven’t done that exercise lately and I don’t know what weight to start with. I do straight sets with the same weight, let the reps drop off on subsequent sets. I keep breaks short for bodybuilding-type stuff, but more like 1-2 minutes. It doesn’t seem like there is any additional benefit to resting less than that and you will be doing way less reps by the end or have to reduce weight, I don’t really see that as a good thing.


#3

Interesting perspective. I should probably note I only use this during offseason hypertrophy stuff normally, or if i’m in a rush.

That said if the goal of a movement is stimulating hypertrophy, then hypertrophy should be the number one concern not so much weight on the movement. At least for me. That’s not to say never try to increase the weights of the accessories.

( FYI - I’m trying to drum up useful conversations for PL once a week or so instead of our usual form checks and randomness, thanks for the feedback )


#4

True, but more lifting weight can’t hurt.

I’m not sure if there is any conclusive evidence on this for either side of the argument, but Eric Helms was saying that he doesn’t think that excessively short rest periods are useful because volume is the main driver of hypertrophy and if you have to reduce reps and weight then you are getting less volume.

On the other hand, when it comes to high rep hypertrophy work you aren’t really getting much of a hypertrophic stimulus until the last few reps of the set anyway, so if you rest less then you get less “ineffective reps” in the following sets, kind of like rest-pause training. But I suppose the other potential downside with that is the increased fatigue, if you have ever done rest-pause training or myo-reps (which is basically the same thing) you will know what I mean.

In the end, it probably doesn’t make a huge difference one way or another. I don’t really enjoy rushing between hard sets so that is another factor for me, but I also find certain exercises a bit tedious so I keep rest periods on the shorter side to get through it faster. Any potential benefits of long breaks between sets of flys or face pulls are outweighed by being bored out of my mind and showing up late for work.


#5

Hahahahahahaha, this. 100% this.

I don’t do every movement with the short rest, nor do I do it every session but take for example last night:

Meadows row elbows high 4 x 10
bar plus 25 x 15
bar plus 50 4 x 10

Revers grip mag lat pulldowns, sit on the lat pulldown backwards and arch backwards hard 4 x10
60 x 15
80 x 10
100 4 x 10

Tsunami bar lat pulldown 4 x15
just stuck with the 100 from the set before

Mechanical dropset face pulls 100 reps
Took 2 sets

My lats were cramping hard by time I got to the tsunami bar pulldowns. Today my lats feel wide as a barn door ( even though they aren’t, sadly )

Was a great change of pace.


#6

I tend to look at Thib’s stuff for accessories. He has lots of ways to keep stuff interesting. Be it myo, eccentrics, rest-pause. Then just cycle the methods around.

I like to keep rest at 60-90 seconds and I don’t go to failure (RPE 7-8 in week 1, then slight increase in reps over the cycle). You still get work in, you should be able to hit the prescribed work.


#7

As long as you are still accomplishing your goals then that’s what matters. Good stuff.


#8

Damn! I have trouble just picking the exercise…lol


#9

Hahaha.

That’s why you got to have a game plan at least a week in advance.


#10

I have tried that, but I don’t seem to pick them much better in advance. I guess I get confused about the supplemental vs assistant stuff.


#11

I don’t powerlift, but if I’m trying to do accessories versus bodypart lifts (is trying to build a lift vs a muscle) I’ll do a giant set with what I’m trying to build, an opposing movement and an ab movement/plyo or explosive movement. I’ll do something like inverted rows/Db incline/sled pull or ab wheel. For lower I’d do a plate loaded clean/front squat/l-sit or box jump.

It really just comes down to what I need to work on for the final movement and something to keep my heart rate up. As for weight, just whatever feels good. I’ll try to raise the weight every week, every two weeks, add a rep, add a set, etc. I’m less concerned with weight on this and more concerned with feel tbh. But again, not a powerlifter, just explaining how I view it.


#12

Do you have a log? That’s your confusing?

I’ll go over some examples tomorrow ( about to pass out ) of each and see if that helps.


#13

I’m going talk about supplemental and accessories as I see them relating to strength training.

Specifically in the context of conjugate but this can apply to other methods.

Supplementals, aka your builders
Supplementals should be similar to the movement you’re wanting to build.

For example if you’re building the bench press the following could be supplemental

  • Barbell Floor presss
  • Board work
  • Spoto press
  • Close Grip Incline
  • Back off bench sets

What wouldn’t be a good supplemental for bench press ( in my opinion )

  • Specialty bars such as swiss bars, football bars
  • Log press
  • DB work
  • Squats
  • Pushups
  • Pullups

Supplemental should be similar to the movement you’re wanting to build, they should be nearly the same movement. My reason for not liking swissbar/football bar is because while it’s a press it’s a different grip that may not directly transfer.

Accessory movements
Accessories should strengthen, condition, improve technique and hypertrophy the muscles involved in the main movement you’re training.

For example of bench above:

  • DB presses
  • Tricep extension variations
  • Tricep press down variations
  • Pushups
  • Pullups
  • Rear delt work
  • Biceps / Forearm
  • More barbell pressing work
  • Swiss bar
  • Rowing variations
  • Pulldown variations
  • Dips
  • etc

Accessories are generally to build muscle and strengthen joints. The above is not all inclusive or is it individualistic. If you know for a fact that doing a heavy set of 6 on swiss bar after your main bench work increases your bench then by all means do it.

Just remember ( as it relates to conjugate )
ME work is to test your strength for the day, train the CNS for heavy loads, teach you to strain

Supplementals are to build on your strength

Accessories are to build your muscles that allow for you to build your strength.

@ChickenLittle


#14

Thank you so much for such a detailed response. Don’t have time right now, but will be back later. Thank you


#15

Great response, but I’m a little bit confused about something. Specifically talking about conjugate training, it seems that for bench the supplemental movements could all also be ME movements. How do you distinguish between the two?

Also, I am a beginner and do not train with the (real) conjugate method, but I do train with Westside for Skinny Bastards, so I guess it’s sort of similar.


#16

If you get through with a set and think to yourself “man that was stupid as hell, I should of not done that” then THATS an ME movement.

Your ME movement can be the same, the difference of course would be the exertion level and intensity. ME is going to be at a much higher intensity than a supplemental, Intensity being a percentage value of 0-100%.

For example:

A1 Close grip 1 board against double minis work up to a hard set of 6, then 90% of that for 2 sets of 5-8 reps
B1 close grip 1 board against double minis 3x10
C1 Incline Tate press 4x 10
D1 decline DB skull crushers 4 x 10
E1 100 rep overhead tricep extensions
F1 Lateral Raise 4 x 15
F2 Rear delt flyes 3x20

That’s 1 ME movement ( hard set of 6 ), then a supplemental backoff set, followed with an additional accessory set(s), then breaks down into accessories the build everything up.

An ME traditionally is 1 single rep. However for RAW people especially in off season or those that haven’t done ME in a while can learn to strain through a few reps.

For my geared off season I’m sticking to 2-3 reps mostly.


#17

I read some of Louie’s articles where he says they now only do singles for ME work, what’s the deal with that vs. max triples, or 6’s like you have above?


#18

To possibly explain westside The stronger you are the more chance of risk past a singular rep when it comes to over 90%.

The 6s is an extreme example of trying to introduce someone into ME work. It wouldn’t be a long term approach. For example if you’re a 500lb squatter in wraps, on meet day, how heavy can you realistically go for a single every week? Probably not that heavy or for too long. So by increasing the reps, you’re increasing time under tension and forcing the lifter to run through their entire technique multiple times.

Now if it’s an 800lb squatter how often can they go heavy for a single? Probably more times than the 500lb squatter just do to CNS adjustments and other factors ( likely technique proficiency and lifting career age ).


#19

Just as a disclaimer, i’m no expert. I’m just a dude who’s been around a few times and want to give back any little knowledge or help I can.


#20

Understood. So ME/Supplemental/Accessory moves needn’t be defined by their target muscle(s) alone, but also training effect. Thank you :slight_smile: