I'm really excited to write for you today about my favourite training accessories! While you might be partial to multi-coloured headbands and snapchat filters, my absolute favourites are single-leg work, evidence-based abdominal training and mobility work! Yes, I might have tricked you...but at least you're here...so you may as well keep reading!
Today, I'm writing about accessory movements and training! What is accessory work? Well, accessory exercises and movements are training drills that are designed to help strengthen your ___________ (insert your main form of training here)! Some people might refer to their accessory work as 'Cross-training'... the two certainly intersect, but in my opinion, accessory work is often a little more intentional and individualized and is based on a particular weak-link in a prime movement. Specifically, accessory work helps improve your overall performance, whether that is running, squatting, or olympic lifting by addressing a very specific part of the main compound movement you do in your training routine or sport. A very common example exists in powerlifting; coming out of the bottom of a heavy squat, there is a really unfriendly place called the sticking point. It's basically that point where you feel like you're not going to be able to stand all the way up out of the lift and your speed of movement drops significantly. Believe me... it feels like it takes FOR-EV-ER to get through that small range of movement...and then presto, you get past it and the rest of the lift is a piece of cake. Easy, peasy, lemon squeeze-Y! How do you train yourself to shorten/eliminate/or at least get through this zone? I'm glad you asked and I bet you already know the answer...accessory movements! Whether it is a single leg squat pattern, a pause-squat pattern, a one-and-one-half squat pattern, glute bridges or abdominal work, the key here is that the accessory movement addresses the CAUSE of weak-link such as insufficient muscle recruitment, a poor motor pattern coming out of the bottom of the squat, weak abdominals or weak glutes.
More than simply improving your performance, accessory training will also help you avoid injury. I've mentioned before that our bodies are good at developing compensations to get us to our overall movement goal, and that often these patterns are suboptimal and can predispose us to injury. BUMMER! Particularly if your sport involves one repetitive motion, such as running, one small little movement 'flaw' can easily 'add-up' over the thousands of steps you take and lead to a repetitive strain injury effectively sabotaging a competitive season. For example, it is often recommended that long-distance runners, in addition to their race-training program add in lower limb mobility work, glute strengthening exercises as well as run technique training in order to minimize the impact going up their biomechanical chain from their feet to their hips and above. Ever get a sore/achy low back or hips after a long run? This might be a sign that something needs to changed/strengthened/mobilized to help optimize your movement pattern.
Can I give you an exact accessory training prescription based on your sport? I think you can tell from what I've written so far that the answer is 'no' (even though I would like to). The accessory movements have to be based on your own performance, injuries, weaknesses, mobility limitations and areas of 'greatest potential'. There are some general recommendations as I alluded to earlier: for example, to improve squat performance you often want to include single leg work, abdominal work, and address the mobility of your ankles and hips. When it comes to running, technique training and glute strengthening, as well as anti-rotational and anti-flexion abdominal exercises are also generally recommended. However, there needs to be individualization of these key themes based the athlete in question. The point of this article was simply to open your eyes to the fact that (1) Accessory training is a thing, and (2) It can help you break through performance ruts and prevent injury!
I always say that I want to help people create training routines that are SAFE, EFFICIENT, and EVIDENCE-BASED! When it comes to accessory training, we're certainly addressing the 'efficiency' portion of this intention. If you keep squatting the same weight, with the same patterning, and hitting the same plateaus... chances are you're not going to make much progress without adding in some accessory work to strengthen your weak links. If you run the same distance, along the same route and get the same nagging knee or back pain after each one, the same sort of logic applies. Take time to check out some of the thought-leaders (NOT GURUS!!!) in your area of training or sport, and chances are they'll have at least one Youtube video or T-nation article emphasizing an accessory drill that will improve your performance. If that doesn't appeal to you, snag a few sessions with a trainer, coach, or health professional such as a Chiropractor or Physiotherapist to have your patterns analyzed. Trust me, its worth it!
Get to it friends. Accessorize to your little heart's content and watch your performance skyrocket!
Happy training friends
P.S Having said all of that, I will say that my Volt Nike Romaleos are my absolute favourite training accessory! #teamnike