The Case for Accessory Work

Accessory work; you have probably heard the term thrown around at the box. Maybe you’ve even done it, but you wondered why it was worth doing or thought it was boring and not as beneficial as high intensity WOD. I’ll let you in on a secret: doing accessory work is actually highly beneficial for your health, fitness, and CrossFit performance. If you aren’t doing accessory work, you’re selling yourself short!

So, what is accessory work?

Accessory work is any small exercise that compliments the bilateral and full-body movements done in CrossFit. It includes unilateral exercises and exercises that work small isolated muscle groups. Additionally, it includes altered movements that resemble or benefit compound barbell exercises (such as doing Romanian deadlifts instead of traditional deadlifts).

Why should you do accessory work?

First, performing only bilateral (both legs) and full-body movements leads to imbalance. See, smaller muscles are neglected in these movements. This leads them to stay underdeveloped and weaker than larger, more utilized muscles. Imbalances not only limit your potential as an athlete, but they can also lead to pain and injury.

Below is a comprehensive list of the benefits of accessory work:

  • Builds a strong fitness foundation
  • Creates a more well-rounded body
  • Utilize to overcome weaknesses
  • Help prevent pain and injuries
  • Promotes muscle growth (hypertrophy)

Examples of accessory work:

  • Unilateral- split squats, suitcase deadlifts, single arm rows
  • Isolated- hammer curls (biceps), skull crushers (triceps), front raises (anterior shoulder), calf raises
  • Altered movements- Romanian deadlifts, double dumbbell squats, muscle cleans/snatches
  • Core work- hollow holds, plank variations, farmer’s carries