As CrossFitters, most of us enjoy doing the “big” lifts and complex gymnastic movements. And I don’t disagree! There’s nothing more fun than throwing around a heavy barbell or finally conquering kipping pull ups. BUT…it’s also really important to focus on accessory exercises to help you become even more successful in unlocking your athletic potential.
In CrossFit, we do a lot of bilateral movements (both arms/legs), which is great for building power and absolute strength, but it can cause muscular imbalances from one side of the body to the other over time. For this reason, it is important to incorporate uni-lateral work (single arm/leg), single joint movements (like curls!) and strict movements to bring up any muscular imbalances. In other words, accessory work helps to bring up the weakest link in your chain. For example, if you’ve been stuck at the same back squat max for a while now, maybe you are actually being limited by your hamstring or glute strength, for example. By utilizing exercises that focus solely on building up these lagging muscles, you can often bring up your big lifts, too.
If that weren’t enough, most accessory and assistance work can be done in high-volume with little to no risk of injury. On the flip side, doing something like back squatting heavy every single day in hopes of increasing your squat numbers does raise your risk of injury. Also, by doing accessory work in high volume, you will likely add muscle mass to your frame. (Ladies – this does not mean you’ll get “bulky!”) Increased muscle mass means you’ll look better at the beach, burn extra calories while resting, get stronger AND your risk of injury goes down even more!
Several days a week, we program “cash out” or accessory exercises with the goal of helping you to be a better at CrossFit. So please, if you can, spend a couple minutes doing the extra work and see how it can help you!