Lifting heavy isn’t just about looking good or winning competitions. It’s also about building a functional, strong and healthy body for life. Compound movements like squats, deadlifts and bench presses are known to be great exercises as they recruit multiple muscles to complete the motion, and these movements are commonly used by many people in daily life.
If you want to build strength and increase the numbers on these fundamental lifts, adding accessory exercises to your program could benefit you. You don’t have to do it all at the gym, either – retailers like Fitness Market offer a variety of quality fitness equipment that will help you get the job done no matter where you want to train.
Squats are an amazing exercise that target the glutes, hamstrings and quads as well as engaging the core and back. Mobility, technique and strength work together equally to produce a strong, correct lift that won’t result in injury.
To build a more powerful squat, you have to strengthen all the key players as well as the peripheral muscle groups.
Try exercises like sumo squats, front squats, weighted jump squats, Bulgarian split squats or pause squats – these help with aspects like explosive power, mobility, core strength and technique which will all combine to help you lift heavier.
Have you ever seen one of those ‘safe lifting’ diagrams on a flat-pack box or in a health and safety course? That’s what the deadlift is all about – flat back, bent knees, lift with the legs. To train this very functional movement, you need to have a strong lower back, tight core and power in your glutes and hamstrings.
Try exercises like good mornings, Romanian deadlifts, back extensions, rack pulls, hip thrusts and glute ham raises; all of these movements train the important muscle groups and allow you to perfect your form.
The bench press is a favourite lift for many people. It primarily utilises the chest, and the secondary helper muscles include those found in the shoulders and upper arms. You also have to rely on your core to stabilise and brace your body, and your lower back joins in to that end as well.
There are many accessory movements to help cultivate a stronger bench press. Incline bench presses, paused presses, board bench presses, close grip bench presses and various types of push-ups can all contribute to a solid lift.
Many of the accessory exercises for all three of these lifts focus on specific muscles or ranges of motion. The key is to use them strategically – if you already have strong hamstrings, but your lower back needs work, then choose a movement that will help you develop that. If you’re having trouble getting the weight off the ground or rack, select something that trains the initial explosive power you need.
Of course, to get better at these movements you need to train them frequently, but adding in accessory tools can help you work your body in new ways, helping you build strength and keep your program interesting and engaging. Do you incorporate any of these into your workouts? What are your best lifts to date?