Let’s Talk About Accessory Work (and I don’t mean earrings or handbags)

Accessory work is exercising small, isolated muscle groups (forearms/grip, calves, triceps, biceps) that help support and increase the lift or task at hand.

How much attention do you pay to your accessory? Is it as much as you pay to your PRs and Fran time? What if I told you one of the keys to more impressive PRs and a faster Fran is accessory work?

If you aren’t doing accessory work, you are cheating yourself as an athlete. You’re leaving benefits like better performance a stronger body and decreased risk of injury, on the table.

It doesn’t have to be time consuming. A few minutes of work before or after the WOD is sufficient.

It is one way of eliminating chinks in your fitness armor.

No matter your CrossFit goals, a small amount of accessory work a few times a week, or every day, will make you better at CrossFit.

Benefits of accessory work include:

o Increased PRs on all barbell movements

o Increased muscle size and strength

o Decreased risk of injury in smaller muscle groups

o Muscle symmetry

o Better form during WODs or high intensity work

The Accessory Muscles

The accessory muscles are the smaller muscle groups that aid the prime mover(s) and support your joints and spine.

For example, the triceps serve as accessory muscles to the pectoral muscles when bench pressing.

Other examples:

o Forearm strength and grip training to increase your pull-ups

o Core exercises to increase your squat or deadlift

o Rows to increase your upper back strength for deadlifting/squatting

Accessory Exercises

Here are 8 accessory exercises you might consider adding to your workouts:

1. Pendlay Row

These improve your pulling strength for Olympic lifts, any pulling movement in CrossFit (pull ups and muscle ups are just two) and adding muscle to your upper back

2. Glute Bridges

Most humans have stronger quads than glutes. Increasing glute strength will balance out the front and backside (see what I did there?) of your body and will contribute to stronger deadlift, squat, and Olympic lift numbers.

3. Bicep Curls

You use your biceps in CrossFit for pull-ups, muscle ups, rows, and more. It’s a good idea to strengthen the smaller muscle groups that help you perform these upper body movements as well as keeping your elbow joints healthier.

4. Tricep Extensions

Strong triceps will make you better at pressing overhead and bench pressing.

5. Strict Pull-Ups

Strict pull-ups will give you more control over movements like toes to bar, dips, andmuscle ups.

6. Grip Work

Hand and forearm strength are essential for every time you have to pick up, hang from, or move anything heavy.

Your grip strength is a huge factor in your ability to max out in many movements and make gains on those PRs.

7. Back Extensions

Think about all the movements that demand your lower back. A lot! Therefore, Back Extensions could be part of your warm up, but also to strengthen your core and posterior chain.

8. Your Core

The most primal function of the core is stability it is also a necessary component of virtually every movement of the human body. Core stability can be described as the ability to not change shape even when under stress

Having a strong core is vital for all exercises in Crossfit. It will help to prevent injury, protect your spine, improve posture and stabilize lifts and movement.  

The Point Is…

Accessory work is movements that help support and increase the lift or task at hand. As a CrossFit athlete, you will be better, faster, stronger and less prone to injury.

Whether it’s 10 minutes before, 15 minutes after, or a few exercises in between stretches on a rest day, you should find a way to incorporate accessory work into your CrossFit routine

A Last Word from our Coaches

“Accessory movements are great for building a well-rounded physique and extremely important for targeting weaknesses. Accessory work not only promotes muscle growth, but it also helps prevent injury.” Coach Cameron Kerns

“Accessory work is doing movements to address weak points in your body to overall increase strength and performance. Addressing weak point through accessory work can also help prevent sports injuries.” Coach Jeff Pearson