Accessory vs Assistance


Each Class, PT and Group session we plan at AGFitness will have structure and we often are asked why we are doing certain exercises during each session. We explain the main lift along with the Assistance and Accessory lifts….the next question “What is the difference between an Accessory lift and an Assistance lift?”

Well, we are going to try break it down a little and look at the Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift

Firstly an Accessory lift is a movement which is localised and more muscle orientated. Usually you will use lower weight and higher volume exercises which will be done towards the end of a workout as they don't require as much physical and mental exertion as an Assistance lift. These exercises are used to add valuable muscle mass and strengthen both tendons and ligaments. An Accessory can basically be anything that doesn't fall into the Assistance category…and there are a fair few!

Accessory lift examples for Squat – Split Squat variations , Lunge variations, Step Up variations, Box Jump variations, Weighted Carries, Heavy Prowler Pushes, Chest Supported Row (Yes, some back)

Bench Press – Closegrip Bench Press, DB Press, Tricep Extensions, Push Ups, Flyes, Row variations, Front Raises

Deadlift – Romanian Deadlift, Single leg RDLs, Rope Pull Throughs, Good Mornings, Glute Ham Raises

Secondly, an Assistance lift is a similar movement to the main movement with respect to form and execution. These movements are more joint and movement orientated. These exercises are done earlier in the workout to maximise their potential as they require more physical and mental exertion due to heavier weight and lower volume.

Assistance lift examples for Squat – High and Low Bar Squat, High and Low Box Squats, Wide and Narrow Stance Squat, Pause Squat

Bench Press (Majority of work done for lockout) – Floor Press, Board Press, Inclines and Reverse Band Press

Deadlifts – Rack Pulls, Rack lock outs, Block Pulls, Sumo Deadlifts and Deficit Deadlifts

To sum up Assistance lifts are “powerlifting” orientated and are possible (Not Always) to work up to a 1RM while Accessory lifts are “bodybuilding” in essence and you wouldn't a attempt 1RM (If you want try a 1RM bicep curl go for it and good luck!)


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