During a cycle or even just a single training session, a question that often get’s asked is “What else should I be doing”? This question can come up when an athlete notices they have a sticking point in their squat, a weakness in their snatch, or a technical error on their deadlift.
This is where supplementation with assistance exercises can be beneficial to athletes. Assistance exercises are critical in training because of their ability to target the weak links in the chain of your successful lift.
There will come a point in your training when your initial progress plateaus, whether it takes months or years depends on the athlete. Implementing assistance exercises into your training will help to keep these plateaus from occurring.
Let’s take a look at eight assistance exercises to help improve your lifts.
1. Romanian Deadlift
The Romanian Deadlift (RDL) is one of the best exercises to increase glute and hamstring strength, as well as flexibility. The girl in the video is performing it slightly quicker than I would like to see, but is good practice for increasing speed on the 2nd pull of the snatch. She is using snatch grip instead of standard clean grip. It can be done both ways, the snatch grip will have a larger ROM than the clean grip.
To perform the RDL, inflate the chest and set the back. Slightly unlock the knees and move only the hips with no change in the knee angle. Then, lower the barbell to approximately mid-shin, or until you feel a near-max pull on the hamstrings. Distribute the body weight on the heels and keep the back tight and flat for the entire rep. Don’t breathe until each rep is completed.
2-3 sets of 10 reps after speed lifts have been completed should be sufficient for the RDL. Start with a moderate weight until you find a weight that can be completed for 10 reps with a fair degree of pull on the hamstrings.
2. Curtis P’s
The Curtis P’s sounds simple enough on paper: 1 power clean, 1 stationary lunge with each leg, 1 push jerk. I assure you it is anything but simple in execution.
The Curtis P is an excellent tool for increasing the strength of your front rack position because of the difficulty of keeping the elbows up while one leg is in the forward lunge position. The strength of the split jerk position will also benefit from Curtis P’s because of the similar postural position of the legs.
After main lifts have been completed in the workout, load the bar up with as much weight as you can do for 5 sets of 3 reps (1 rep = 1 power clean, 1 stationary lunge each leg, 1 push jerk). The bar must be returned to the ground after each rep.
Expect great difficulty in climbing stairs the day after Curtis P’s.
3. JM Press
I don’t need to say too much for this one, Dave Tate outlines it pretty well. One IMPORTANT thing to remember: keep your thumbs wrapped around the bar, unlike Dave in the video. 90% chance you are nowhere near his skill level, and and I have had 2 people drop the bar on their face/neck from not having thumbs around the bar, luckily one walked away only losing 14 of his teeth.
JM press will target weak triceps, which can fix weak or sticking points on the bench press. Find a weight that you can barely finish for 3 sets of 10 reps after main bench press movements have been completed.
4. Good Morning
If you look at the positioning of the Good Morning, it is nearly identical to the position of the RDL as discussed earlier. The main difference being that the bar is across the neck or back, while the RDL is held in a deadlift position. This difference adds the benefit of keeping the chest up with a heavy weight across the back, mimicking a weak point on the squat.
Use a lighter weight than with RDL’s for 3-4 sets of 10 reps, after main lifts have been completed.
5. Turkish Get-up
The Turkish Get-up is one of the oldest strength building movements in our current arsenal. You may have seen this performed with a kettlebell, but performing the movement with a barbell will give you the most benefit. The strength it takes to keep the loaded barbell from twisting in your hands is no small feat, and will carry over into all lifts that require a strong grip. This link will give you a quick rundown of how to perform the movement.
After all lifts are completed, perform 10 Turkish Get-Ups with each arm, progressively moving up in weight with each rep.
These 5 examples are just a small piece of a much larger pie of assistance exercises. By implementing these movements, along with things like Glute-Ham Developers, Glute Bridges, 1 1/4 squats, split squats, etc… you will see the benefits carry over to your main lifts and see your PR’s increase.