Lets face it, if you want to be stronger in the big compound movements, you have to do more than just those movements. If you want to bench more weight, you're going to have to be doing more than just bench pressing. In this article, I have outlined accessory movements you should be using to help you get stronger in the main lifts. These accessory movements have helped tons of people get over their training hump.
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Movement #1 Standing Barbell Overhead Press
This movement is my secret weapon for improving my bench press. The key to a strong bench press is strong shoulders. Even though your shoulders are a secondary muscle in the lift, they play an important role in getting the bar off your chest. A common sticking point for the bench press is off the chest. A strict Barbell Overhead Press will strengthen up your upper back and shoulders. They will also allow your shoulder stability to increase as well. I typically do these twice per week after my main bench movement for the day. I like to keep the reps around 5-8 and around 2-5 sets.
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Movement #2 Barbell Glute Bridges
Barbell Glute Bridges are an excellent tool to help improve your squat. Glutes and hamstrings are usually the weakest link in the chain for most people's squat. When I squat heavy weight I always think about performing a glute bridge out of the bottom of a squat. I like to overload this movement with a lot of weight. The only drawback to this lift is that it can be extremely painful on your hips and legs (after all, you're putting a barbell loaded with heavy weights on your hips). Using a squat pad will help alleviate pain.
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Movement #3 Dumbbell Lunges
This movement can also be used as a warm up and an accessory movement. Lunges, especially with dumbbells, help to stretch out and strengthen the hips. When squatting or deadlifting, the hips can be a weak link. In addition to strengthening the hips, dumbbell lunges can also help to improve grip strength for deadlifts. Dumbbell lunges engage the core so you will be building up overall core strength as well. As you can see, dumbbell lunges can serve as a great strength builder.
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Movement #4 Barbell Rows
Barbell rows have been a king for building mass in the upper back. In addition to building up the lats and the middle back, performing barbell rows will help to improve your deadlifts. Focus on the contraction on the top portion of the movement. I like to keep barbell rows in the 5-8-rep range. It’s important to keep the volume higher with this movement, so do 3-5 sets.
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Movement #5 Close-Grip Bench Press
Close grip bench press is the king mass builder for the triceps. No tricep routine is complete without it. A strong bench press usually means strong triceps. However, I see way too many people miss a bench press because they failed to lock the movement out. Close grip bench press helps to shift the emphasis more on the triceps. I recommend performing close grip bench presses after your main pressing lifts. A quick tip keeps your hands about shoulder width apart. When people hear close grip, they take that literally and place their hands too close together. The closer your hands are, the more the wrists are effective. For close grip, your hands should be placed at about shoulder level for optimal performance.
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Movement #6 Front Squats
If you want to make some gains in the squat department, look no further! Similar to back squats, front squats will train your legs like no other machine could. Front squats place more emphasis on the quads and the core. Back squats work the glutes hamstrings, lower back, and quads. Front squats hit the quads and the core. When you squat in the front squat position, you are more upright and more of the core will get worked. This makes front squats a great accessory movement. I recommend utilizing front squats as the prime movement for your second leg day each week. The first leg session should be back squat dominant, while the second session should be front squat focused. Doing so will help to round out overall strength in the squat position.
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