Exercise Selection and Workload

Posted on 30 Nov 2012 19:03

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By Ashiem Matthn

Practical training involves balancing exercises and how much of your workload is dedicated to training them. If you look at most of the powerlifting, strength training or other such routines floating around the web, you’re going to notice all of them focusing on the big compound movements, but then listing a ton of supplementary, assistance, or accessory lifts after them. Typically, you'll see someone recommending a few sets of heavy Bench Press followed by a total of 15-20 sets of other pressing work, pull-ups, rows, and other exercises for reps. You meet someone at the gym and you ask them what they’re training that day and they’ll tell you that they’re doing 2-3 sets of Squats followed by 10 sets of other leg exercises. Does this seem reasonable? I mean, if you’re doing 2-3 sets of Squats and then 10 sets of some other leg exercises that doesn’t make it a “squat” day, does it? The bulk of the workload is utilized on these supplementary exercises.

This over-indulgence on supplementary exercises gives the impression that the more you do of these “like” movements and supplementary exercises the stronger your big compound lifts are going to be. It doesn’t work that way. When you’re designing your training you should be focusing on the lifts you want to improve and not making secondary exercises an absolute priority. If you want to get a bigger bench press you have to bench press. Doing different lockouts, floor presses, flat presses, heavy shoulder work, triceps work, rows, pull-ups, lat-pulldowns, etc is not going to get you that huge Bench Press unless you’re spending the majority of your workload on the Bench Press exercise itself. Therefore, you’re going to have to pick and choose and in doing so you should opt to train the lift itself the hardest with the most intensity.


So, while I do think that doing assistance or supplementary work is important and plays a certain part in getting stronger, we should not over-indulge in this. You may have been led to believe that all these other exercises will directly add weight to your main lifts, but they probably will not. Much of the time you spend working on other exercises can actually be used to directly train the big lifts and you can directly observe the results of this work, rather than to simply go forward on blind faith, with no direct evidence linking training to results. So don’t hold yourself back; try to dedicate a major portion of your workload to training your main lifts. This is what will get you to the next level.

snatch grip deadlift


This page created 30 Nov 2012 19:03
Last updated 25 Feb 2015 22:46

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