I think it’s important to start this article off with a little disclaimer. Accessory exercises aren’t magic. Think of them as the cherry on the cake, where regular technical practice and strength work are the base and the icing respectively. They’re a great addition, but never a replacement for the fundamentals (which are outlined my other article here)
With that said, the strategic use of accessory exercises to address weak spots, prevent injuries and build muscle is an important part of any good weightlifting programme. Here are my top seven weightlifting accessory exercises (in no particular order)…
Great for power transfer and lower back injury prevention. Everyone knows what a plank looks like, but very few people do them correctly, and even fewer people do them often enough. If you can get to the point of performing 3 sets of 40s with perfect form, whilst loading 20kg on your hips, you’ll have some incredible core strength.
2) Reverse Plank
The reverse plank isn’t that common in the UK or US, but is incredibly common over in China and Russia, with various athletes and coaches swearing by them for lower-back stability and injury prevention.
Weightlifting and Bodybuilding Programme
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Another classic exercise which I love for 3 main reasons. First, it builds some good upper back strength, second, it helps to maintain shoulder mobility, and third, when placed at the end of a workout it also adds a sort of spinal decompression element. Win, win, win.
If you’re someone who tends to get ‘stabby’ shoulder pains too much from heavy overhead work, YTW’s might just be your saviour. They train external rotation, open out your chest and help to sort out upper body postural issues. Keep them light and perform high reps at the end of your workout.
It always amazes me how many weightlifters complain about having a weak lockout whilst simultaneously having the noodliest looking arms I’ve ever seen. Try building up your tricep extension strength and you’ll probably find that your lockout gets much stronger.
6) Glute Bridges
Weightlifting requires hip extension, and your glutes are hip extensors, so it makes sense to strengthen them. Plus, since most non-professional lifters also have school, college or jobs that tend require a lot of sitting around, glute bridges can be a great postural correction to correct anterior pelvic tilt.
Leg and hip strength imbalances can develop over time, lunges help to prevent and correct this. They’re also a great way to build some general strength and mobility for the jerk split position.
And that’s my list. I’m not saying there aren’t other useful exercises, all I’m saying is that these are the ones I programme most frequently in order to develop qualities that relate to weightlifting, either through developing key muscles or preventing injury. Depending on your own strengths and weaknesses you might want to mix in some other accessory exercises.
At the end of the day, do what works, and let the results speak for themselves.
‘Til Next Time
MSc Strength & Conditioning
British Weightlifting Tutor/Educator