Accessory work…why?

Hey guys,

We have been hard at work over the past couple of weeks in our big 3 strength cycle and you may have noticed all the accessory work coming along with it!

Here is why YOU NEED TO BE DOING IT!!!!!!


First lets talk about the definition of accessory work.

Accessory work- is the little exercises that contribute to the bigger exercises. Any movement that compliments the bilateral and full-body movements that are done in CrossFit, Olympic lifting, Power lifting etc. Accessory work may involve isolation exercises (targeting one muscle or muscle group) or unilateral movements (using one side of the body), with the intended goal of improving overall performance.

Now I know what you are asking….coach what are Bi-lateral movements? Wellllllll let me tell you!!!

Bi-lateral Movements-are exercises that work both sides of your body, as both limbs share the stress of the exercise. Think of movements such as squats, presses, deadlifts, cleans, thrusters, pullups, pushups, snatches – the list goes on.

So back to the accessory work!  We get the definition but again WHY do we do it?

Lets take the human body :

human body

Your body does an amazing job at protecting itself (YOU) whenever it feels like something is out of whack or not right..maybe a little too good of a job.  In basic terms homeostasis and compensation.  If a muscle is not strong enough or not firing the way it needs to be, then this is where your incredibly efficient body comes into play.  Your body is going to focus on using your strongest movers (muscles or muscle groups) to operate.  This will result in underdeveloped muscles or muscle groups, which can limit your potential, increase stress on your joints, develop muscular imbalances or, even worse, lead to injuries!  So knowing this….lets bring it back to Crossfit!

As stated before …. in Crossfit pretty much all we do are Bi-Lateral movements.  Bi-Lateral movements are great when it comes to just overall health and strength BUT…knowing what we know about the human body and compensation…over time, doing only bilateral and full-body movements will result in an imbalance!  Imbalance leads to injury!  So this is where the accessory movements come into play!  They help build the little things and counteract imbalance and compensation!

It’s doing the little movements and exercises.  Here are some common ones that you may have seen recently in class:

  • Rows: Help build your back strength to finally get your first pull-up or muscle-up and build a strong upper back to pull heavy deadlifts and keep your elbows up in your front squats.
  • Push Downs / Kick-Backs / Skull-Crushers: Help build your pushing and lockout strength for overhead movements (press, push press, jerks, overhead squat), dips, HSPUs and handstand holds.
  • Core Work (Planks / Carries / L-Sits / Supermans / Hollow Holds): Help create awareness of what your body should feel like under tension and how to properly breathe while continuing to hold that tension, which will translate to better movement quality in most exercises.
  • Leg Curls: Help build up your unilateral hamstring strength so that when you combine both of your legs together, you will crush deadlifts, cleans and snatches.
  • Split Squats: Help you increase unilateral leg and glute strength for squatting, wall balls, rowing and high level movements, like pistols.
  • RDLs:  Help improve your hamstring, glute and lower back strength which can lead to an increase in your squat and deadlift numbers and make pulling cleans or snatches off the ground a bit easier.

We do these movements for a number of reasons:

  • To develop a more well-rounded body.
  • To build a strong foundation of fitness.
  • To overcome weaknesses (these are your areas of opportunity).
  • They are less taxing on your central nervous system and joints.
  • They help prevent injuries.
  • They can improve current irritations in the body before they become worse.
  • They promote muscle growth (hypertrophy).

Here are some tips to help you get the most benefit out of these exercises:

  • Concentrate on movement quality, not the amount of weight you are doing.  These are not exercises that you should be trying to PR.
  • Attack these exercises with the same focus that you have during the strength and metcon portions of the WOD.
  • If you don’t know why the exercise is beneficial, ask your coach to explain to you the benefits, so you are able to the execute with a purpose.


Accessory work is amazing if you utilize it!  WHICH YOU SHOULD BE! It will help you get stronger all around and feel better and does a great job at pin pointing what you should be working on!  The more consistently you do accessory work, the quicker you will see the benefits.  Make a commitment to always do the accessory work and over time you will start to see your fitness improve, your body will feel better and you will continue to set new PR’s.  Go crush it guys!