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Keep it Simple Stupid Part 2: Assistance Work
In part one of this series, I discussed the need f or athletes and lif ters to be simple in their selection of max ef f ort exercises. As a competitive lif ter it is critical to be a master of the competitive lif ts, and raw lif ters need to be perf orming them on a regular basis. For athletes, there are two reasons why it is key to be simple in your exercise selection. First, you do not want to use your bioenergetic stores on the development of lif ting technique because you need to reserve that f or the technical development of your sport skills. Second, the less f requently you change your main exercise, the less soreness you will incur, which is key when having multiple sport practices per week. T here are many benef its to perf orming the competition lif ts exclusively as your main exercises. However, there are risks as well. One risk is the development of muscular imbalances, which can lead to developing weak points. Your body wants to allow its strongest movers to handle the weight and will transf er the stress there. So, if you have strong quads and weak hamstrings, your body will f orce you into being a quad dominant squatter. Over time, this will limit your potential. To avoid this f rom occurring, you need to be smart about organizing your assistance work. Assistance work should be divided into two groups. T he f irst group is supplementary work, these are variations of the competitive lif ts designed to address specif ic weakpoints or sticking points;. T he second group is assistance work, which is training f or specif ic muscle groups that will increase hypertrophy and maintain muscular suppleness. T his will help avoid overuse injuries by bringing balance to the physique.

Supplementary Work
Supplementary work consists of using variations/varying intensities of the competition lif ts to address dif f erent weak/sticking points and build special work capacity. However, while supplementary work is important, it does not take precedence over competition lif ts and the loading strategies should ref lect that. Similarly to your main lif ts, it is critical not to rotate supplementary work too f requently because will not have enough time to let them serve their desired purpose, nor will you be able to truly gauge their ef f ectiveness on your strength. Let’s take a look at some of my f avorite supplementary exercises and the f unctions they serve.

Squat
Speed Squats - For the raw lif ter, speed/dynamic ef f ort work should be done at a higher percentage than the 45-60% normally prescribed f or geared lif ters. A good range is 60-75%. Focus on locking in your technique and pushing the bar with maximal f orce. Make sure to keep your rest periods short during your speed work (45-90 seconds). A great way to build special work capacity early in a training cycle is to use speed sets used af ter your main lif t. I perf ormed as many as eight triples of speed work af ter my main work sets. Chains and bands are acceptable to use during speed work, but should be reserved f or when straight weight is no longer yielding a positive training ef f ect. Dead Squats – Dead squats are the best way to build power out of the hole and are a staple in my training program. Dead squats should be done f or singles. Depending on where you are in the training cycle, two to 12 sets should be perf ormed. When earlier in the training cycle, lighter weights and short rest periods (30-75 seconds) should be used. Once the weights increase, take the necessary rest intervals to perf orm the work. Read more about Dead Squats in Josh Bryant’s article, “How to Win Meets and Inf luence Squats and Deadlif ts.”

Deficit Pulls – Def icit pulls are a great way to build power of f of the f loor in the deadlif t and accommodate your body to the longer time under tension that max singles of ten require.A common problem among squatters is f alling f orward because of upper back weakness/lack of tightness in the setup. speed is the best way to avoid sticking points and missed lif ts.” Closegrip Board Presses – T he closegrip bench is a staple in all big bencher’s programs to build lockout power. Pulls against Bands – For athletes who struggle at the top of the lif t. stretched between dumbbells. the less likely you are to stall at any point during the lif t. Bench Speed Bench – Good bar speed is the number one way to avoid sticking points. Paused Widegrip Bench – If your shoulders are healthy. which you can read about in detail is “Bring Your Bench Press Alive with the Dead Bench. T hey will also f orce you to improve your hip mobility. Bands can be set up in a number of ways. So are healthy ones. depending on where you are during your training cycle. Your ability to keep a good posture through your squat should really improve. Here’s a look into one of my deadlift training sessions. T he saf ety squat bar will remedy this problem quickly because of its ability to accentuate any lack of tightness or weakness in the upper back due to the f orward bar position. T hey can be quaded around the base of a power rack/platf orm. add accommodating resistance.Isometrics are a powerf ul tool in your training that must be used with great discretion. Do not go below f our reps in this exercise Dead Bench – Another great exercise f rom Josh Bryant. f or two or three work sets. It is a great way to both overload the top portion of the movement. T he f aster the bar is moving. Utilizing speed pulls with sets of two to f our and short rest periods are a great way to build your special work capacity. Seated Military Press to the Top of the Head . Make sure you are pushing your head back into the yoke as hard as possible to keep your head and chest up. which will allow you to get into better positions to start your pull.Safety Bar Squats . or pinkies on rings. paused widegrips are a great way to build power of f of the chest. dial in your technique and increase lower back strength. Stay between three and eight reps per set f or two to three sets. Notice the wide variety of supplementary work I use to address different portions of the lift. I perf ormed as many as 10 sets of f our reps of speed pulls with 500 pounds (about 70%) af ter my heavy deadlif t sets. Sets of three to eight in the def ecit pull will build your strength f rom the f loor. as opposed to in f ront or behind the head. Isometrics . and to teach the athlete to impart maximal velocity to the bar through the entire movement. and varying your hand position is also advisable. Follow the same percentage guidelines that I outlined f or the speed squats. which is why I pref er to perf orm my military presses to the top of the head. Triples are the best option here. T he seated military press will build great shoulder strength/stability and tricep strength. Use sets of one to 10 reps. or simply wrapped around the bar and then placed under your f eet. Reps should be singles to sets of eight. as they . Just move your grip one inch out f rom your competition grip and perf orm the same way that you would a regular bench. Deadlif t Speed Pulls – As with the squat and bench. You can put your thumbs on the smooth part of the bar.Strong shoulders are critical to a powerf ul raw bench. Reverse band pulls are also a good option here. A 2 or 3-board coupled with the closegrip board press is a great way to overload the triceps even more.

I of ten like to set my watch f or 15-20 minutes and perf orm all the assistance work I can during that time period to avoid dedicating too much time to this relatively insignif icant aspect of training. Don’t worry about setting PRs in assistance work each week because it will detract f rom your ultimate goal. You’ll notice that I didn’t list any back work here. Bench: worked up to 425 x 3 (paused) 2.” let’s take a look at assistance work. 1. lat pulldowns. chinups. should suf f ice f or assistance work. reverse f lies and band pull-a-parts. As I mentioned above. Assess your weak points and pick an exercise f rom this list to attack them. Here’s a look at my bench training template f rom May 29. and then deload all pulling f or two weeks bef ore competing. assistance work is to bring up lagging muscle groups and retain muscular suppleness. and then pull the bar loaded with 50-60% of your max. Widegrip Bench: 320 f or 2 sets of 8 (paused) 4.are very taxing to the CNS. Back work is tremendously important f or a big bench.” Perf orming one to f ive sets of eight to 20 reps f or a f ew of the exercises f rom each of the f ollowing lists. Assistance Work Assistance Work Now that we’ve covered supplementary work f or the “Big 3. which should be to improve the “Big 3. Speed Bench: 325 f or 8 sets of 4 (one minute rest) 3. which f ar out f rom a meet can add up to 20 work sets between my main lif t and supplementary variations of it. To set up an isometric. I will use two to f our variations of a given lif t within a single session. . Dead Bench: 335 f or 8 sets of one (45 seconds rest) 5. just set the pins in a power rack wherever your sticking point is. Assistance work should promote blood f low into the muscles and be relatively easy work. these matter. T hat covers my f avorite supplementary exercises f or each lif t. Hold this against the pins f or f our to 10 seconds. are my pref erred back exercises to improve the bench. Chest supported rows. Squat Single Leg Squats GHRs Single Leg RDLs Walking Lunges Barbell/Dumbbell Step Ups Bench Dips (I go heavy here and below eight reps) Front Raises Lateral Raises Flies Curls (Yes. I perf orm these during my last three weeks bef ore a meet. pullups. but I like to perf orm my back work af ter my deadlif t sessions or dedicate a separate day to it. Look at the training and guns of any old-time powerlif ting stud).

My f avorite ab exercises are: Ab Wheel Hanging Leg Raises Side Bends Decline Situps Situps on GHR Spread Eagle Situps T here’s my simple guide to supplementary and assistance work. No.S. Getting crazy strong is about dedication. Stick with an exercise f or a f ew months and really start pushing some weight with it on your supplementary lif ts. Don’t let your accessory work take on such a priority that it detracts f rom your max ef f ort work.Deadlif t Bentover Rows (I go heavy here and below 8 reps) Pullups/Chinups GHRs Shrugs Back Extensions Glute Bridges Band X Walks Obviously ab strength plays a huge role in excelling in powerlif ting. 1 Powerlif ting total check out T he Juggernaut Method and the soon-to-be released “9 Day Work Week. consistency and patience…not magic exercises. To learn more about how Chad built his U.” .

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