In many CrossFit gyms, performing single joint work like a bicep curl is sometimes frowned upon. Look, I get it, doing banded hamstring curls is not quite as fun as pulling a double body weight deadlift, but that doesn’t make single joint movements any less important to a well balanced training program. While you aren’t going to cure metabolic disease by performing accessory work, you will help correct muscle imbalances, increase muscle mass through hypertrophy, become more injury resistant, and increase training longevity.
Most of our training sessions look like this; warm up, compound lift, energy systems training (AKA cardio), and accessory movement. While our strength portions or compound lifts and cardio get a lot of love, many times the accessory work gets left off as an afterthought. Think of our training like this; compound lifts get you strong, conditioning burns fat and improves heart function, and accessory work builds muscle and helps resist injury. If you want to train hard and continue to see results for years to come, accessory work and assistance exercises must be a consistent part of your training program.
Accessory work will also help you bust through strength plateaus without the risk of injury and overtraining. Special exercises help strengthen the weakest links in the chain and, in turn, help improve your compound lifts. Overall, single-joint movements can be pushed to a much higher degree with little to no risk of injury whereas bilateral movements if pushed to near maximal effort on a continuous basis, can result in overuse injuries or overtraining.
In summary, accessory work is the secret sauce to building muscle (AKA toning), reducing risk for injury, and busting through strength plateaus. So next time you think about skipping banded face pulls or single leg RDLs at the end of a workout to grab an ice cold fit aid, think again. Remember your goals and that the magic is in doing the simple things consistently to ignite the miracle of the compound effect.
Here are a few examples of some common performance goals and accessory work commonly used to reach these goals. Give them a try at the end of your next training session.
Toes to Bar (core): 4 x 25 Banded Standing Abs
Deadlift (posterior chains): 3 x 8 Single Leg RDL each
Bench Press (triceps group): 150 Banded Press Downs
Back Squat (glutes): 150 Banded Pull Throughs
Pull Ups (biceps): Bicep 21’s
Pain Free Pressing (rear delts): 3 x 50 Banded Reverse Shoulder Flys