It’s the end of the workout, you’re spent, and the last thing you want to do is put your equipment away, much less get up and do more work. I’ve talked about the importance of warm ups here in the past, and in that I noted that I have a tendency to write in accessory pieces into the warm ups. Warm ups and accessories have very different purposes and benefits. They do have similar reasons people avoid them however. In general, accessory work is more or less boring. You’re heart rate isn’t going to be bouncing out of your chest and you probably won’t be doing something that’s very “Instagram-able”. Taking the time to put in the work on these things is what will keep your body sound enough to pull of those things that get all the likes.
What first comes to mind when we hear “accessory work” is usually something involving DB’s. I’ll consider this a reference to unilateral, or single sided, work. The big thing we benefit from here is that we can’t rely on favoring one side to pick up the slack for the other. Heavy front squats are fun, but if our weight is shifted slightly one way because a leg is a little weaker than the other it’s going to lead to big issues down our back, hips, knees, and ankles. Putting in the work on things like Bulgarian split squats will help ensure we are bilaterally, meaning left and right side, symmetrical, so that we refrain from favoring one side or the other.
Another big accessory idea is core work. Most people actually don’t mind the crunch and sit up stuff cause they think they’ll get their beach body for the summer (you won’t, abs are made in the kitchen, different blog), but I want to focus more on something like a plank. Now stuff like planks and hollow holds have a lot fewer fans than sit ups. This is because they’re hard, but these isometric holds are very beneficial! Obviously planks are included here, but also ring supports at the top or bottom, handstand holds, pistols holds, and chin over bar hangs are the same. Holding in these positions isn’t going to give us a huge bicep pump, but the structural stability gains you acquire out of them are amazing. While holding the specific positions of a movement the tendons and little muscles around a joint work much harder, and help us gain control of our movement, which is an invaluable ability.
These unilateral and isometric movements are the most common concept of accessories, but it can have a much broader definition than that. I think of it more as any specific, thoughtful, or purposeful work done to help another specific thing. This could be doing a handstand walking EMOM of 15′-25′ even though you can walk over 100′ UB without much trouble. Doing this gives you time to focus on body position, hand movement, and breathing that you normally couldn’t when you’re just trying to move as fast as possible in a workout.
Accessories help with all kinds of things. Fixing structural imbalances, keeping our body strong at the joints to support the big fun lifts, and refining skills we already have to make us more efficient at them. All of those things come from taking the time to do accessory work, so pick yourself up after your workout and put your time into your accessories.