T Nation

Reducing Accessory Volume as Strength Progresses

Trying to learn more about programming and wanted to know if the volume for your accessories should decrease week by week as the weight for the main sets of the big 3 goes up?

Earlier, I would always keep trying to increase weight on the strength work (5/3/1, 5x5, etc) lifts while increasing the weight for accessories and keeping the volume the same.

Each training cycle is 5 weeks long and was wondering if I can increase the weight on the accessories while reducing the volume to reduce fatigue and allow for better progression on the big 3. Previously, found it harder to progress on the main lifts but never thought it was because of the accessories.

ex. week 1
main lift-
squat- 3x3, 1x3+ at 295lbs
RDL- 3x12 at 285lbs
Bulgarian split squat- 3x15 at 60lbs

week 2
squat- 4x2, 1x2+ at 300lbs
RDL- 3x10 at 290lbs
Bulgarian split squat- 3x12 at 70lbs


With the next cycle, accessories will return to the original rep scheme with more weight.

P.S. - not prepping for a meet, just learning and trying to move more weight.

Not unless you are peaking for a meet.


From my experience a wide exercise selection keeps me healthy.

1 Like

I do a whole lot of accessory work through the week, which I change every 4-6 weeks, but I’m starting to feel that it might be something that’s holding me back since I’m constantly increasing the weight and keep the reps and sets for assistance work the same.

If I understood that right that is called hella progress!!!

To me that sounds like you are doing say 20 reps at each exercise but each workout it is with 5 more pounds. Which is great progress.

Or do you mean your assistance work is staying the same while your big 3 are adding weight? Which then your assistance lifts are doing their job.

everything is going up each week. I’m adding weight but for the big 3 and the assistance work while keeping the reps the same for only the assistance work.

I keep stalling out on the assistance work and each week, I feel more beat up than I should. Also feel that I’d make more progress if the assistance volume went down but I’m not too sure since I’ve always trained by increasing the weight for the assistance without changing the reps.

You could try less strenuous assistance work. If RDLs are taking more out of you than they are giving back, you could try 45 Degree back raises, or dumbbell stiff leg deads, cable pull thrus or something that leaves you fresh, not beat up.

You could progress slower on assistance work. Maybe;
Week 1 RDL 3 x10 with 285
Week 2 RDL 3 x12 with 285
Week 3 RDL 3 x15 with 285

Week 4 RDL 3 x10 with 290
Week 5 RDL 3 x12 with 290

If you’re not training for a specific meet, at a set date, experiment a little. Keep track of what assistance lifts and intensity(like how heavy) makes your main lifts go up smoothest. If it doesn’t make you stronger, Don’t Do It!


Look into how 5/3/1 forever is setup. With the leader/anchor as the strength stuff gets more intense you do a bit less of it but actually more assistance volume. However in this case the assistance would be some easier stuff, like barbell RDL would not count.

1 Like


A way to keep the same assistance exercises but make them less strenuous is to do much higher reps and less weight.

When I was young I could handle heavy assistance but now I use really light weight and high reps on everything that isnt the big 3 and it has helped me get healthy and stay healthy.

I can do that since I like doing light, single joint work. My biggest concern is getting stronger… I’m trying to build up my 1RM and test it every 4 weeks after spending the first 3 with 90% of my 1RM doing low rep sets and aiming for AMRAPs PRs at the end. Would it be possible that heavier work like RDLs could be interfering with that? I haven’t stalled just yet on the strength work but I feel a little beat up and that scares me from moving more due to a laundry list of injuries in the past. At the same time, taking off heavier assistance makes me feel like I wouldn’t make my weaknesses stronger. Just trying to add more to my total ASAP.

more so than being beat up or injured?

Short answer yes, if you are not recovering. It sounds like you train each main lift about once a week though so recovery almost can’t possibly be an issue. But also if this is attacking your weaknesses then it should be helping?

What program are you running?

If you are training each of the Big 3 twice a week then it is a strong possibility that assistance work and AMRAPs the workout before testing your 1RM will affect your 1RM Test negatively.


You are not currently peaking but in an offseason mode which means LET those assistance and AMRAPs affect your 1RM test. Then when you go into a peak the fatigue will dissipate and your strength will slingshot a bit.

That is the basis of all powerlifting peaking programs. Build, Overreach, Recover while Maintaining strength and this will hopefully cause a slingshot effect.

Train each of the Big 3 twice a week.

My personal favorite non personalized program is running Lower-Pull-Push twice a week with 5-3-1 Periodization and I drop the “Deload” workout. So each block takes 1.5 Weeks. You could test your 1RM instead of Deload.

If you can only train 4 times a week you can do a Lower-Upper-Off instead.

Currently squatting and benching twice a week and pulling once. I squat heavy 1x a week and the second day is tempo work to focus on my form with about 65-70%. Same goes with my bench. I pull once a week since my deadlift is seems to go up from any squat related work. I’m not too concerned with my deadlift since it’s always going up. I used to squat 3x a week, but it felt like overkill.

Running a version of GZCL I made, where each week you aim for 10-15 reps in total on 85%+ on each main lift. I’ve set mine up where in week 1, it’s 3x3, 1x3+ at 85%. Week 2, 4x2, 1x2+ at 87.5% and week 3 is 1x3 (85%), 1x2 (87.5%) and 4x1, 1x1+ at 90%. Deload. Add 5lbs to the TM. Repeat. Just started added a 4th week where I’m maxing out.

Ran 531 for 2 years before.

It’s totally possible that RDLs are not a great fit. Maybe you lean forward a little on your squats, so you use a little too much lower back. To fix the “weakness” you plan to do RDLs, to strengthen your hamstrings.

But you kinda lean over on the RDLs too! As a result, you use lots of lower back, and not much hamstring. So instead of building up a weakness, you double pound the wrong muscles. Back stays over worked and beat up, hamstrings stay under developed and weak. Then you get hurt 4 days later Deadlifting.

Instead, you could do a “little” “whimpy” exercise like hamstring curls. Directly target the lagging muscle. Pull your heels all the way to your butt. Blast the hamstrings till they scream! With no abuse to your lower back, and very little chance of injury.


This is your problem right here

Just keep assistance work at least two reps short of failure on each set. If that means that you do less reps then so be it. A set of 5 is less fatiguing than a set of 10 with equal RPE if you ask me.

1 Like

So should I just simply focus on the first 3 weeks and not worry as much about my 1RM?

It’s debatable whether or not you should ever actually attempt a 1rm outside of a meet. Every 4 weeks is totally unnecessary. You should focus on building strength rather than testing it, there is no need to max out to see that you have gotten stronger. You can go for rep PRs or heavy singles at MAYBE 95% at most. If you can lift 90-95% faster and with better technique than the last time you attempted the same weight then you have gotten stronger, but you don’t need to do that every month either. You can also build strength by training the competition lifts at 75-85%.

1 Like

Training at 90%+ for weeks on end is a good way to burn yourself out. The Bulgarian method, which involves exactly that, works well for some people but only for a short period of time. To continue with that indefinitely will require more drugs than you can afford and will most likely result in overuse injuries.

1 Like

I only hit 90% on the third week after which I max out. Probably max out every few months instead and focus on the lower percentages like you mentioned by building up on sets of 5.