T Nation

Main Lifts vs Assistance Volume


#1

My question is whether it is reasonable and effective to have significantly more total volume (by total mass moved) accounted for my assistance work than work on the main lifts. That's the question. I'll outline the context below for those who want more detail.

I've set out my programming for my next full power meet. I've kept it pretty basic, kept to what I know works for me.

It is set out over 12 weeks in three blocks of four weeks: block 1 I work in the 70-80% range in sets of 5 for the comp lifts, block 2 80-90% in triples and block 3 90-95% in singles and doubles. Volume drops block to block for comp lifts and assistance, except for bench press which stays relatively steady (again, based on what I know works for me in that volume is king for bench progress). That will broadly mean my main lift work in block one sits between 7 and 9 RPE in block one, 8 and 9 RPE in block two and 9 RPE in block three.

There is a hint of block periodisation about the program but only in that on the days I'm not working on the main lifts I work on size in block one and speed in block two, with grooving the movements in block three.

This is how the volume breaks down over the cycle:

Block 1
Total volume 367,444
Main lifts 127,369
Assistance 240,075

Block 2
Total volume 342,595
Main lifts 94,303
Assistance 248,292

Block 3
Total volume 284,059
Main lifts 78,601
Assistance 205,458

So, it's a pretty much 1:2 or 1:3 ratio.

Now, I figure it ends up like that because my assistance work is much lighter but higher in reps as well as the fact that a fair bit is accounted for by reverse hypers which I do for high-ish reps and heavy-ish weight - but not being strict reverse hypers they aren't really taxing for the load used. I might be doing them wrong, but they make my back feel very nice.

Anyhow, there it is.

Answers/suggestions much appreciated.


#2

The ratio doesn’t matter. For some people, they can stick to the main lifts and progress without having weaknesses or technical issues hold them back. Some people like training heavy on the main work and getting in a lot of volume with assistance. Some people like getting a lot of moderate-heavy volume from the main work.

It’s more important to understand how the movements will help you. If a person misjudges their weaknesses, a significant amount of volume in either the main work or assistance work may not help. Sometimes the strengths can’t outrun the weaknesses.


#3

[quote]lift206 wrote:
The ratio doesn’t matter. For some people, they can stick to the main lifts and progress without having weaknesses or technical issues hold them back. Some people like training heavy on the main work and getting in a lot of volume with assistance. Some people like getting a lot of moderate-heavy volume from the main work.

It’s more important to understand how the movements will help you. If a person misjudges their weaknesses, a significant amount of volume in either the main work or assistance work may not help. Sometimes the strengths can’t outrun the weaknesses.[/quote]

Thanks for that. It does make sense.

What I’ve found is for squats and DL I can only tolerate so much heavy work and stuff like dynamic effort style work before it beats me up. Bench is different, I think mainly because it is so far behind the other two.

However, I can do a bunch of assist stuff without getting so beat up so I figure it makes more sense for me to do just enough squat and DL to get stronger but to add a bunch of assistance to get individual points of each lift stronger.

Luckily, a upper and middle back work applies to all three.


#4

I can do a lot of heavy bench volume, but not for squats and pulls so you’re not alone. I bench twice a week. I squat one day one week and pull once the following week. I can get a lot of volume and heavy work in on both lower lifts only doing each of them twice a month. Fact: we just need more recovery for the lower lifts if we’re gonna hit them hard. Bigger muscles need more recovery.


#5

[quote]MarkKO wrote:

[quote]lift206 wrote:
The ratio doesn’t matter. For some people, they can stick to the main lifts and progress without having weaknesses or technical issues hold them back. Some people like training heavy on the main work and getting in a lot of volume with assistance. Some people like getting a lot of moderate-heavy volume from the main work.

It’s more important to understand how the movements will help you. If a person misjudges their weaknesses, a significant amount of volume in either the main work or assistance work may not help. Sometimes the strengths can’t outrun the weaknesses.[/quote]

Thanks for that. It does make sense.

What I’ve found is for squats and DL I can only tolerate so much heavy work and stuff like dynamic effort style work before it beats me up. Bench is different, I think mainly because it is so far behind the other two.

However, I can do a bunch of assist stuff without getting so beat up so I figure it makes more sense for me to do just enough squat and DL to get stronger but to add a bunch of assistance to get individual points of each lift stronger.

Luckily, a upper and middle back work applies to all three.
[/quote]
I’d say it varies on where you are at as a lifter. You can get strong by barely doing the competition lifts heavy/frequently, and you can get strong by doing lots of work with the competition lifts. With the latter you’d probably run into imbalances if you don’t include supplementary/assistance work to round out imbalances.

Hope you have a good off season, bud. I am trying to get my GPP up myself, I have gotten into disgustingly bad shape.


#6

[quote]Destrength wrote:

[quote]MarkKO wrote:

[quote]lift206 wrote:
The ratio doesn’t matter. For some people, they can stick to the main lifts and progress without having weaknesses or technical issues hold them back. Some people like training heavy on the main work and getting in a lot of volume with assistance. Some people like getting a lot of moderate-heavy volume from the main work.

It’s more important to understand how the movements will help you. If a person misjudges their weaknesses, a significant amount of volume in either the main work or assistance work may not help. Sometimes the strengths can’t outrun the weaknesses.[/quote]

Thanks for that. It does make sense.

What I’ve found is for squats and DL I can only tolerate so much heavy work and stuff like dynamic effort style work before it beats me up. Bench is different, I think mainly because it is so far behind the other two.

However, I can do a bunch of assist stuff without getting so beat up so I figure it makes more sense for me to do just enough squat and DL to get stronger but to add a bunch of assistance to get individual points of each lift stronger.

Luckily, a upper and middle back work applies to all three.
[/quote]
I’d say it varies on where you are at as a lifter. You can get strong by barely doing the competition lifts heavy/frequently, and you can get strong by doing lots of work with the competition lifts. With the latter you’d probably run into imbalances if you don’t include supplementary/assistance work to round out imbalances.

Hope you have a good off season, bud. I am trying to get my GPP up myself, I have gotten into disgustingly bad shape. [/quote]

That’s very true. When I started out all I really did was squat and DL variations. I did other stuff but that accounted for probably 75% of my training.

What is this ‘off season’ of which you speak? Right now I’m prepping for a push/pull on 6 December and a week or so after that I’ll start my 12 week prep for my next full power meet mid March 2016.

Admittedly, preparing for a push/pull makes it kind of off season for squat which is why I’m just doing SSB squats to mostly get my stance and depth exactly right.


#7

[quote]MarkKO wrote:

[quote]Destrength wrote:

[quote]MarkKO wrote:

[quote]lift206 wrote:
The ratio doesn’t matter. For some people, they can stick to the main lifts and progress without having weaknesses or technical issues hold them back. Some people like training heavy on the main work and getting in a lot of volume with assistance. Some people like getting a lot of moderate-heavy volume from the main work.

It’s more important to understand how the movements will help you. If a person misjudges their weaknesses, a significant amount of volume in either the main work or assistance work may not help. Sometimes the strengths can’t outrun the weaknesses.[/quote]

Thanks for that. It does make sense.

What I’ve found is for squats and DL I can only tolerate so much heavy work and stuff like dynamic effort style work before it beats me up. Bench is different, I think mainly because it is so far behind the other two.

However, I can do a bunch of assist stuff without getting so beat up so I figure it makes more sense for me to do just enough squat and DL to get stronger but to add a bunch of assistance to get individual points of each lift stronger.

Luckily, a upper and middle back work applies to all three.
[/quote]
I’d say it varies on where you are at as a lifter. You can get strong by barely doing the competition lifts heavy/frequently, and you can get strong by doing lots of work with the competition lifts. With the latter you’d probably run into imbalances if you don’t include supplementary/assistance work to round out imbalances.

Hope you have a good off season, bud. I am trying to get my GPP up myself, I have gotten into disgustingly bad shape. [/quote]

That’s very true. When I started out all I really did was squat and DL variations. I did other stuff but that accounted for probably 75% of my training.

What is this ‘off season’ of which you speak? Right now I’m prepping for a push/pull on 6 December and a week or so after that I’ll start my 12 week prep for my next full power meet mid March 2016.

Admittedly, preparing for a push/pull makes it kind of off season for squat which is why I’m just doing SSB squats to mostly get my stance and depth exactly right. [/quote]
Oh, I didn’t know you were doing a push/pull meet. I had just assumed you were doing a long off season until your full power meet.


#8

[quote]Destrength wrote:

[quote]MarkKO wrote:

[quote]Destrength wrote:

[quote]MarkKO wrote:

[quote]lift206 wrote:
The ratio doesn’t matter. For some people, they can stick to the main lifts and progress without having weaknesses or technical issues hold them back. Some people like training heavy on the main work and getting in a lot of volume with assistance. Some people like getting a lot of moderate-heavy volume from the main work.

It’s more important to understand how the movements will help you. If a person misjudges their weaknesses, a significant amount of volume in either the main work or assistance work may not help. Sometimes the strengths can’t outrun the weaknesses.[/quote]

Thanks for that. It does make sense.

What I’ve found is for squats and DL I can only tolerate so much heavy work and stuff like dynamic effort style work before it beats me up. Bench is different, I think mainly because it is so far behind the other two.

However, I can do a bunch of assist stuff without getting so beat up so I figure it makes more sense for me to do just enough squat and DL to get stronger but to add a bunch of assistance to get individual points of each lift stronger.

Luckily, a upper and middle back work applies to all three.
[/quote]
I’d say it varies on where you are at as a lifter. You can get strong by barely doing the competition lifts heavy/frequently, and you can get strong by doing lots of work with the competition lifts. With the latter you’d probably run into imbalances if you don’t include supplementary/assistance work to round out imbalances.

Hope you have a good off season, bud. I am trying to get my GPP up myself, I have gotten into disgustingly bad shape. [/quote]

That’s very true. When I started out all I really did was squat and DL variations. I did other stuff but that accounted for probably 75% of my training.

What is this ‘off season’ of which you speak? Right now I’m prepping for a push/pull on 6 December and a week or so after that I’ll start my 12 week prep for my next full power meet mid March 2016.

Admittedly, preparing for a push/pull makes it kind of off season for squat which is why I’m just doing SSB squats to mostly get my stance and depth exactly right. [/quote]
Oh, I didn’t know you were doing a push/pull meet. I had just assumed you were doing a long off season until your full power meet. [/quote]

That was the plan but I have unfinished business with deadlift.