Is that a heroin addict, or your average powerlifter? The arms look a little big for an average powerlifter.
One of the weirdest trends in powerlifting today is the mentality seemingly shared by every lifting new jack on the planet- the belief that accessory work is as pointless, useless, and possibly detrimental to one's strength as a combined heroin and krokodil addiction would be. I've no idea what the source of this belief could be, but it is quite possibly one of the most ridiculous thought processes ever shared by a large group of people in history. The belief that the Earth is only 6,000 years old rivals this belief in its utter, jaw dropping, jibberingly moronic mentality. Perhaps we should blame some of the more famous training programs and their progenitors, which seem to treat bodybuilding exercises as tantamount to heresy and produce naught but mediocre lifters- I've no fucking clue.
I might have to make a caption contest for this shitshow.
By now, you're likely shaking your head in disbelief, shocked that I would dare to laugh in the face of Millennial internet lifting dogma, which seems to have cemented itself in the heads of everyone in spite of the fact that such dogma rarely leads to impressive totals. I can do so, however, because I end up training people who have utilized the most popular programs on the internet, and they all suffer from the same issues- ridiculous muscular imbalances, easily fixable weaknesses in small muscle groups, small, weak arms, "shoulder impingement issues" (HOLY FUCKING CHRIST, YOU DON'T HAVE A SHOULDER TO IMPINGE BECAUSE YOU TREAT SHOULDER TRAINING LIKE SOME ESOTERIC RITUAL ONLY BODYBUILDERS AND CROSSFITTERS DO), weak abs, weak calves, and a hideous misunderstanding of how strength training actually works.
Jim Cash- brutal lifter, brutal physique... brought to you by bodybuilding.
Yeah, that's right- if you think accessory training is pointless, you should probably go drown yourself in an unflushed toilet, because you have all of the common sense of a halfwit fishing around in a garbage disposal for a hard candy while reaching for the light switch next to the sink to better see your confectionery prey. If you're asking yourself why, let me tell you:
- just about every great lifter in history, save the Bulgarians of the 1970s and 1980s, has incorporated bodybuilding exercises in their programs.
- All of the old time strongmen advocated curls and tricep extensions in their training programs.
- Olympic weightlifting great Vasily Alexeev benched and curled religiously, as did Phil Grippaldi and David Rigert, none of whom necessarily needed strong biceps or pecs for their sport (Ivanov).
- Pat Casey, the first man to bench 600 in competition, began his career as a bodybuilder and continued to do tons of curls, tricep extensions, leg curls, and leg extensions throughout his powerlifting career (Gallagher).
- Kirk Karwoski, for all intents and purposes, trained like a bodybuilder for his entire career (Gallagher).
- Jon Kuc did more accessory work than he did primary lifts, and he looked phenomenal while setting the powerlifting world on fire (Kuc).
- The coach of the Chinese Olympic weightlifting team, Coach Fang, says that "a weightlifter MUST use bodybuilding exercises to progress in the snatch and clean and jerk," and recommends that at every workout a lifter should choose one or two small bodyparts at the end of each workout and do 6 sets for each to failure, with whatever weight one chooses (Winter).
Jay Rosciglione. Think he skipped his accessory work?
Coach Fang’s program includes training one or two small muscles at the end of every workout, with a particular focus on upper back, lats, triceps, obliques, and abs in particular. Those recommendations seem to fit in with the accessory work espoused by other great lifters, as upper back work is one of the staples of Chuck Vogelpohl's training (Simmons), general bodybuilding training was a staple of beastly bench presser George Halbert (Simmons), Jon Kuc continually stressed the importance of ab work (Kuc), and every great powerlifter in history has done heavy and extensive tricep accessory work.
Tell big Bill he should have skipped leg extensions and done more squats. I dare you.
And for those of you who think that leg extensions and leg curls are pointless exercises for people with crap leg development, think again- I've used them with great success in the past as an accessory movement or as a replacement for squatting on my light days, the Chinese and Egyptian Olympic weightlifting teams use isometric holds on leg extensions (Winter), drug-free lifter John Kuc used leg extensions and curls as his sole accessory work for squats (Kuc), Ed Coan loves unilateral leg curls (Koenig), and beastly strongman and powerlifter Bill Kazmaier was a huge fan of extensions and leg curls (Kazmaier).
If an Olympic weightlifter is chumping you in a front double biceps pose, it's time to rethink your training routine.
Clearly, inclines worked for Kevin Levrone.
- Incline Dumbbell Press. For these, I pause deep at the bottom, explode to the top, hold it at full extension, and then do about a 2 second descent. Most of the great benchers I know do these, and they are definitely worth doing for shoulder stretch and extra pec work.
- Dips. Though I don't do these as much as I used to, they're great for most people. Loading the belt is a pain in the ass once you get over three plates, and doing sets of 50+ gets tedious. As a general rule for dips and pullups I pick a total rep number and do sets of whatever until I hit that total. I.e., I'll pick 300 reps and do sets of 40-75 until I hit 300.
- Cable Flies. Frankly, I love these things, and do them with high reps and finish my sets with presses.
Who wouldn't want a back like Kai's?
- Seated Hammer Rows. I could do these for hours, and occasionally do. My reps range from 5-12, and I don't have a set number of sets- I just get a massive pump and waddle around the gym like a flying squirrel with a myostatin deficiency.
- Barbell rows from the floor. Another of my favorites, I do them more or less like Pendlay rows, but with slightly more body English and a hell of a lot of explosiveness- if I leave the gym with an unbruised sternum, I've failed. I keep my reps low on these and use them as a replacement for deadlifts, along with shrugs.
- Shrugs. I pull these off the rack from knee height, so it's a bit of a combination lift, and work up as heavy as I can pull it off the pins (usually around 9 plates).
- Pullups. I often have days that consist of naught but pullups, and just stay in the gym doing sets of 12-20 until I hit the hour mark and go home. Keep your rest periods short and just go bananas on these.
- Face Pulls. I throw these into random days for extra upper back work, on the recommendation of Chuck Vogelpohl.
The man. The myth. The legend, doing his namesake lift.
- Klokov Presses. I'm all over the place on these, doing anything from an hour and a half of sets of 12 with 135 to an hour of singles and doubles. Honestly, these things are invaluable for shoulder health.
- Laterals. I do these somewhat sparingly, but still hit them every couple of weeks.
- Rear Laterals. I throw these in on both shoulder and chest workouts, doing either machines or free weights.
- Hammer curls. I usually do these with a rope in the cables, but will go heavy to be a showoff with the dumbbells as well and work up to the 105s for four on occasion. These were a favorite of Bill Kazmaier, who claimed they helped his bench immeasurably (Kazmaier).
- Pushdowns. I'll do these with a cambered bar, reverse grip and regular, the rope, or any other attachment I might have at hand. Reps range from 5-50, depending on my mood.
- Skullcrushers. I do these laying on the floor with dumbbells, lowering the weight slowly to just above and outside my ears. I pause them on the floor, then explode to the top. This is a favorite movement of top amateur bodybuilder and former world record holding powerlifter Ryan Celli, who asserts that if you gain strength in this movement, your bench will definitely go up.
Ernie Frantz credited calf strength for his pulling power.
- Leg Extensions. Though I've railed against these in the distant past, I've come to love them. I don't retract my legs entirely, so as to keep stress off my knees, but I use the full stack and hold each rep for at least 3 seconds for an isometric contraction for reps. Occasionally, I'll do these for a half hour with 60-90 second rests between sets, going to failure each set, then do leg curls and calf raises and jet.
- Leg Curls. I prefer to do these unilaterally and standing, but however I do them, I hold each rep at the top for an isometric contraction, then stop just short of full extension to keep constant tension on the muscle.
- Calf Raises. These are essential for pulling power, stability in walking out the weight, and stability in squatting. Anytime you see a powerlifter with shitty calves, you're seeing a shitty powerlifter.
Pudz doesn't do 360 reps of abs a week just to look pretty. A weak midsection equals a weak lifter.
- Ab wheel. My favorite exercise, I just do these whenever I feel like it while watching tv. Usually 5-10 sets to failure a couple of times a week.
- Standing crunches. I use an ab strap for these and stand in the pulldown station, going to full extension and holding the contraction for a count or two on each rep.
So, there you have it- you should definitely be doing accessory work, no matter what your favorite internet message board might say to the contrary. Avoidance of accessory work will only lead to plateaus, injuries, and general suckitude. Don't suck, and don't look like shit- hit those bodybuilding movements and have a physique that matches your lifts.
Gallagher, Marty. Kirk Karwoski. Parrillo Performance Press. 1 March 2007. Web. 20 Feb 2015. http://www.parrillo.com/publications/97.pdf
Gallagher, Marty. Pat Casey: The First Powerlifting Superstar. Starting Strength. 2014. Web. 20 Feb 2015. http://startingstrength.com/articles/pat_casey_gallagher.pdf
Ivanov, Dmitri. EFS Classic: The Science of Winning According to Vasili Alexeyev. http://www.elitefts.com/documents/science_of_winning.htm
Kazmaier, Bill. The Bench Press, Part Two. The Tight Tan Slacks of Dezso Ban. 16 Apr 2014. Web. 20 Feb 2015. http://ditillo2.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-bench-press-part-two-bill-kazmaier.html
Kazmaier, Bill. Squat and Deadlift. The Tight Tan Slacks of Dezso Ban. 30 Apr 2014. Web. 20 Feb 2015. http://ditillo2.blogspot.com/2014/04/squat-and-deadlift-bill-kazmaier.html
Koenig, John. Atlas Speaks: An Interview with Ed Coan. T-Nation. 15 Feb 2001. Web. 20 Feb 2015. http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance_interviews/atlas_speaks
Kuc, John. Advanced Bench Press Training Routine. The Tight Tan Slacks of Dezso Ban. 17 Mar 2014. Web. 19 Feb 2015. http://ditillo2.blogspot.com/2014/03/advanced-bench-press-training-john-kuc.html
Kuc, John. Advanced Squat Training. The Tight Tan Slacks of Dezso Ban. 22 Oct 2013. Web. 20 Feb 2015. http://ditillo2.blogspot.com/2013/10/advanced-squat-training-john-kuc.html
Simmons, Louie. How to Reach the Top. Westside Barbell. 16 Jun 2013. Web. 20 Feb 2015. http://westside-barbell.com/index.php/the-westside-barbell-university/articles-by-louie-simmons/articles-published-in-2007/396-how-to-reach-the-top
Simmons, Louie. Training The Back. Westside Barbell. 14 Jun 2013. Web. 20 Feb 2015. http://www.westside-barbell.com/index.php/the-westside-barbell-university/articles-by-louie-simmons/articles-published-in-2003/344-training-the-back
Winter, Gregor. Isometric Leg Extension Holds. All Things Gym. 7 Dec 2013. Web. 20 Feb 2015. http://www.allthingsgym.com/isometric-leg-extension-holds/
Winter, Gregor. Larry’s Chinese Weightlifting Experience Part 1 – Snatches & Squats. All Things Gym. 4 Jan 2014. Web. 18 Feb 2015. http://www.allthingsgym.com/larrys-chinese-weightlifting-experience-part-1-snatches-squats/