The Art of Strength

Question: I am desperately trying to get stronger in my main lifts (squat, deadlift, overhead press). I am trying to use heavier weight, but my progress is slow. Any ideas?
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CrossFit Jesse Burdick

Question: I am desperately trying to get stronger in my main lifts (squat, deadlift, overhead press). I am trying to use heavier weight, but my progress is slow. Any ideas?

Answer: I think accessory movements are a bigger piece of the pie than people like to admit. It’s weak-point development. If your hamstrings are weak, and you hope that they magically grow and get stronger just by doing the main lifts, it’s not going to happen. If you have problems locking out the bar overhead, it’s because your triceps are weak. If you have problems getting the bar off the floor in a deadlift or if you get killed at the bottom of a squat, it’s your hips and hamstrings.

Think about it this way: If your lats are weak and you can’t do pull-ups, you don’t just keep trying to do pull-ups in hopes you’ll get one. You scale it back and do accessory movement by adding a band to the pull-up rig. That is practice. That is activating musculature. That is adding volume to training.

Pick your weakness and pick an accessory exercise to do for it. Then make sure you do it every day outside of a met-con and outside of the Workout of the Day. If your hamstrings are weak, do some banded leg curls, heavy Russian-style kettlebell swings or some Bulgarian split squats. If your triceps are weak, you can do a floor press, an overhead press or banded pushdowns. It’s as simple as three sets of eight to 15 reps. You can work the reps up or work the weight up. A good plan is to do one lower-body exercise to build up your hamstrings and then one upper-body exercise to build up your triceps. Monday, Wednesday and Friday do hamstrings. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday do triceps. You can keep it the same for the next week, or you can change it up. You have to do something to build up your weaknesses every day.

Jesse Burdick is an elite-level powerlifter and the creator of PowerWOD.com. He coaches out of the CrossFit Combat Sports Academy in Dublin, Calif. Several weekends a year, he travels the country administering the CrossFit Powerlifting seminar.