What is accessory work? and why is it important?
Accessory work in summary is the small, tedious movements that most athletes do not like to take the time to do but are extremely important for complex movements. Online definitions in the athletic world suggest that accessory work is defined as exercises that compliment larger, more complex movements like a squat.
Within the therapy world accessory work means a couple different things including “accessory movement” which relates to the specific joint mechanics and also accessory exercises that compliment the larger movements as well. I often call accessory work also “prehab”
Why is it important?
It is important to “activate”/ warm up the muscle tissues correctly before you work out. I use the term activate in quotes because the muscles are only truly fully inactive in someone with a spinal cord injury or neurological damage. So really with are warming up the specific muscles and increasing blood flow to them.
It’s not just about everything feeling “warm” but your about your brain connecting with the specific muscles you are asking to work through movements. It’s about creating more neural pathways to those muscles to help you better recruit them.
The accessory work along with prehab exercises can be done on days of working out as well as on days of rest depending on how heavy you are doing loaded accessory work.
For example, your program might call for accessory work of single arm dumbbell overhead press building to heavier weight. As a Physical Therapist, I break that down even more for someone with hx of or current elbow pain and they might do light weight skull crushers to “activate” the tricep muscle as prehab/accessory work before the heavier accessory work.
For the lower body, a great “accessory exercise” is doing single leg deadlifts to improve blood flow to the hamstrings and glutes while the brain is connecting with these muscles knowing it should utilize them more when doing squats or deadlifts. This also helps improve motor control and balance. You could also do them heavier to build strength as well.
The goal is that your choice of exercise compliments your other movements planned.
Train Smarter. Train specific
If you want to HEAR me talk a little bit about this. Head over to the Ultimate Athlete Podcast. Straight about it. Episode 10. “Train Smart and avoid injuries”
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