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What Variety, Accessory Work or Skill Work Would Be Recommended To Improve The Olympic Lifts?
Assistance work will make you very strong. In fact, it’s pretty clear that you won’t reach your full potential in the gym without it.
Point to any great lifter, or any great program, and you will see that a large portion of the total work is devoted to exercises that target specific weaknesses. A break will happen if there is a weakness along the chain. At best, it will cost you your potential. Of course, the whole trick with assistance work is matching it to your specific weakness. For that reason it’s a very good idea to start with an external assessment.
Get a coach or knowledgeable, honest buddy to watch you lift or train with you for awhile. Warm-up, take light lifts and heavy. If you can’t find a buddy, record yourself training and toss it up on social media for comment. Most people will give you honest feedback.
That’s what you’re after – Objectivity. If you’re on your own you will very likely do what you think you need to do. Maybe you’ll just do what you want. But that’s a pretty bad way to find and address weakness. If you stick to what you think or prefer you might end up waisting a lot of resource.
For example, many people pull endless reps off the ground in training, when in reality they almost always fail on the jerk. Maybe they fear getting under the bar. Maybe they are not being pushed in training, or they just love to deadlift. In any case, just know that you cannot make anything meaningful happen in the gym unless you commit fully. Put real time into what you need most.
The objective voice will point you towards what you cannot see for yourself. Yes, it sucks to feel weak, especially once you actually start working on deficits in training. However, nothing will make you stronger faster.
Find out where you’re weak. Be honest with yourself. Pay close attention to where you fail. Achieve balance in your programming and you’ll reap rapid reward.
You might start by accounting for the big, obvious things…
1. How strong is your back?
If you are new to lifting, or if you struggle keeping your shoulders over the barbell during a snatch, let’s say, then you must to spend more time bending over at the hip under load.
The very best thing you can do for yourself is tons of good mornings, back raises, stiff-legged deadlifts, reverse-hyperextensions, that sort of thing. A strong back will drive all of your lifts upwards.
2. Every one needs single-leg work.
We don’t have to debate the benefits of single versus double leg work in the gym. That debate is ridiculous. The obvious and best answer is to train both ways, balanced according to your specific goals.
Most people need a lot more single-leg work, but even strong and fit lifters need this in their assistance programming. It’s an amazing tool for keeping healthy hips and glutes.
3. Strong lifts doesn’t equal strong core.
If you want to maximize your strength, you simply must have a bulletproof midsection. If you don’t, all the arm and leg strength in the world won’t matter much. Every time you catch a record clean or snatch, you will fold over.
To paraphrase the great American poet, 50 Cent, a great weightlifter cannot afford to be like a pop-tart, soft in the middle.
Heavy barbells do a great job of it, but snatches, cleans and squats alone are not enough to train the core. If you believe that, just subject yourself to a tough session of V-ups, hollow body holds, or grappler twists. You will no doubt discover a different reality. Also, you will not be able to get out of bed the next day, or poop at all. So be careful.
4. Handstand holds are the shit!
Gymnastics and weightlifting go hand-in-hand because both are expressions of basic human movements. Mechanically, there are limited ways you can effectively bound, pull, lift a load overhead, etc. Physics makes it so, folks. So if you can spend more of your time practicing core moment skills, you’ll get transfer across the board.
An amazing example is the handstand. If you get into an inverted vertical position, congratulations! Your shoulders are very likely in great position. They have to be. If you cannot quite get there, work on it. Hard. Often. Nudge closer and closer to vertical. Maintain that hollow body position. As you improve, so will your jerk. The laws governing going overheard apply to both movements.
5. Pull horizontally WAY more often.
Pull-ups are generally over-programmed in fitness gyms. You might be great at them. Maybe you’re fighting desperately to earn your first dead-hang rep. But regardless, you’re probably pulling vertical way too often.
You need to achieve a balance in you programming between vertical and horizontal pulling. Adding in barbell, machine, cable or even banded rows can have a quick and amazing effect on performance. Pull with one hand and two, with heavy dumbbells or kettle bells.
Pull anything you want, really. The more ways you can make your arms and back strong, the better off you will be.
Need help figuring out your assistance work? Just leave a comment below the article. We’d be happy to help you out bust your weakness.
- Want to learn more about programming hollow body holds? Click HERE.
- Check out this article on incorporating handstand holds into your weightlifting training.
- Back in the day we talk about core training on Episode 33 of Barbell Shrugged. Don’t miss it.