Adding more mechanical tension with accessory exercises
This is a mistake I made a lot early in my training. Luckily, having a lower level of strength at the time it didn’t hurt me as badly as it could now. Basically, if you are training to add strength to the major lifts, 80% of your workload (if not more) will come from the large compound exercises. These exercises, due to the intensity they must be performed at in order to progress, help you grow bigger and stronger by placing a large amount of mechanical tension on the muscles.
This stress is necessary, but with great reward also comes great fatigue. We know that mechanical stress is not the only way to cause muscle growth. We also know that increased muscle size can have a potential for greater strength outputs from those muscles. Therefore, in order to minimize unneeded fatigue, while also adding a potential benefit to your training, it makes sense to use more of traditional body building approach to your accessory lifts. In other words, don’t chase personal bests in lifts like DB presses, raises, split squats, hamstring curls, and so on. Instead, use far more sub maximal loads and focus on longer duration sets that keep the muscles under tension longer.
Sure, over time as you get stronger; you should see the loads you use even on these lifts slowly increase. However, adding 10lbs to your lateral raise is not going to transfer to 10lbs on your bench press.
Lastly, remember that even accessory work causes an amount of fatigue. As you progress in training to higher intensities on the main lifts make sure to decrease the volume you use on the smaller stuff to optimize recovery.
For more on mechanical tension, and metabolic stress read this: Training for Maximum Muscle Growth Explained – Bret Contreras
Focusing on training aids and “swag”
Belts, wraps, and even specialty bars make lifting larger loads easier, and safer in many cases. However, there is no doubt they are too often utilized by trainees who simply want to boost their ego and/or make the days work a bit easier. The biggest offenders are those who still have yet to max their potential sans supportive equipment.
Furthermore, many lifters also are quick to focus on having the right shoes, compression shorts, sleeves, and so on. There is nothing wrong with any of these, but there is a lot wrong with any line of thinking that they are a limiting factor in your success; especially early on.
I have been around the weight room long enough to know that not a single one of these items above is the limiting factor in 90% of people’s progress.
Should you buy a belt, knee sleeves, squat shoes, etc.? Sure, they are all legal and useful pieces of equipment. However, don’t spend your paycheck on them thinking they will make more of a difference than a solid work ethic, consistency, and a firm understanding of basic training principles. A hundred bucks spent on learning, an extra 20 bucks per month to join a better facility, these will yield continual additions to your strength. The 50lbs you get out of your sleeves and belt will still be there, the question is what are you adding it on to?
For more information on how I approach training and coach the lifts grab one of the last few spots to our seminar September 19th in Philadelphia at War Horse Barbell. For more information, click the picture below: