Assistance work Mistakes: avoid these 4 blunders

Assistance work Mistakes

Assistance work makes up the lion’s share of your entire programming in a strength phase, at least in most cases. Depending on your program, you might do 4-5 different exercises after your main movement for the day. Of course, it depends on the goal, but if strength training is your focus, it’s probably close. In this article, I will discuss some common mistakes I see made regularly.

Ignoring weak points in assistance work

If you know you have weak points and aren’t attacking them and designing assistance work to strengthen your weaknesses, you are missing out. I know it’s more fun to do the things you’re good at, but remember, this is how you improve by eliminating your weaknesses to bolster your main lifts. Again, specific assistance work is key to building these lifts, whether it be OHP, bench press, deadlift, or squat.

Being too fancy with assistance work

Stay with the basics. Only go up the chain of complicated exercises when the more simple ones no longer work. Please don’t make things more complex than they need to be. For example: If you’re still processing with assistance work without bands and chains, weight releasers, etc., then only add those things when they are needed, not when they’re desired as you see them in an IG video; or your favorite lifter on Youtube. Like Beef and Rice, chicken and potatoes in your diet, the basics work for a reason. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be. I have a weak point index in my book 10/20/Life that can help you get started while taking the thinking out of it.

“I’m bored with my assistance work!”

“I need to confuse my muscles, plus I’m bored with my current assistance work. Well, my facetious reply to this would be, “only children get bored,” but I’m not always a complete dick, so that I won’t say that. Unfortunately, though, sometimes training will suck and be monotonous-such is life. If you are getting more robust and better, don’t change things just because you are losing some excitement in your assistance work. Focus on the outcome, and grind the process out. Results matter; how much you enjoy the process matters much less. Not everyone will understand this, but those who get it will understand.

Not training core (properly)

By now, you know I’m a core whore, and I focus on the importance of core endurance when training for strength and considering back health. In strength training, having a robust core is essential to transfer power to the ground while removing energy leakages and micro-movements. If you are training for strength, I suggest training your core in ways that will carry over to the goal. And if you’re a powerlifter and want to be as strong as possible, you must work on your rigidity and core endurance. If you are a dancer or ballerina, your exercise choice and goal will be much different. The way I see some strength athletes train their core makes me wonder if they are trying to be a ballerina on the weekend while powerlifting on the weekday!

Always design your core work and, for that matter, your assistance work to meet the demands of your sport and your goal.

For those of you who need help with coaching, programming, or returning to sport from a back injury, please reach out to me here. 

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Brian Carroll

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Brian is a retired world-class powerlifter with over two decades of world-class powerlifting. From 1999 to 2020, Brian Carroll was a competitive powerlifter, one of the most accomplished lifters in the sport's history. Brian started off competing in bench press competitions 'raw,' then, shortly into the journey, he gravitated toward equipped lifting as there were no "raw" categories then. You only had to choose from single-ply (USPF) and Multi-ply (APF/WPC). Brian went on to total 2730 at 275 and 2651 at 242 with more than ten times his body weight in three different classes (220, 242, 275), and both bench pressed and deadlifted over 800 pounds in two other weight classes. He's totaled 2600 over 20 times in 2 different weight classes in his career. With 60 squats of 1000lbs or more officially, this is the most in powerlifting history, regardless of weight class or federation, by anyone not named David Hoff. Brian realized many ups and downs during his 20+ years competing. After ten years of high-level powerlifting competition and an all-time World Record squat at 220 with 1030, in 2009, Brian was competing for a Police academy scholarship. On a hot and humid July morning, Brian, hurdling over a barricade at 275lbs, landed on, fell, and hurt his back. After years of back pain and failed therapy, Brian met with world-renowned back specialist Prof McGill in 2013, which changed his trajectory more than he could have imagined. In 2017, Brian Carroll and Prof McGill authored the best-selling book about Brian's triumphant comeback to powerlifting in Gift of Injury. Most recently (10.3.20) -Brian set the highest squat of all time (regardless of weight class) with 1306 lbs – being the first man to break the 1300lb squat barrier at a bodyweight of 303 lbs.
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