You should really stick around for the accessory work.
It’s the end of the workout, you’re tired, and the last thing you want to do is put your equipment away, much less get up and do MORE work. Matt talked about the importance of warm-ups last week and a lot of that information correlates to the importance of accessory work.
Accessory movements can help prevent injury, help to fix imbalances and weaknesses, and aid in strengthening your major functional movements. And just like the warm-up, a lot of people don’t take it seriously and avoid putting the work in. I get it, accessory work is more or less boring. Your heart rate isn’t going to be bouncing out of your chest and you probably won’t be doing something that’s very “cool”. However...taking the time to put in the work on these things is what will keep your body sound enough to hit those PRs and master the gymnastic movements.
What first comes to mind when we hear “accessory work” is usually something involving dumbbells and unilateral, or single-sided, work. The big thing we benefit from here is that we can’t rely on favoring one side to pick up the slack for the other. Heavy front squats are fun, but if our weight is shifted slightly one way because one leg is a little weaker than the other it’s going to lead to big issues down our back, hips, knees, and ankles. Putting in the work on things like step ups, lunges, and glute bridges will help to ensure we are bilaterally, meaning left and right side, symmetrical so that we refrain from favoring one side over the other.
Another big accessory focus is core work. Most people actually don’t mind the abmats and leg lifts because they think they’ll get their “6 pack” for the summer (you won’t, abs are made in the kitchen), but I want to focus more on things like planks and isometric holds. Now, these movements might not be as fun or sexy, but they’re hard and also very beneficial! Obviously planks are a given, but also things like ring supports at the top or bottom, handstand holds, supermans, hollow holds, and chin over bar hangs. Holding in these positions isn’t going to give you a huge bicep pump, but the structural stability gains you will acquire are amazing. While holding the specific positions of a movement the tendons and little muscles around a joint work much harder, and help us gain control of our movement.
These unilateral and isometric movements are the most common concept of accessories, but it can have a much broader definition than that. I think of it more as any specific, thoughtful, or purposeful work done to help another specific thing. This could be doing a toes to bar EMOM of 10-15 reps even though you can do 20 UB without much trouble. Doing this gives you time to focus on body position, grip, and breathing that you normally couldn’t when you’re just trying to move as fast as possible in a workout. It could, also, be doing things like bicep curls to help strengthen your tendons in order to increase your ability to do pull-ups.
Accessories help with all kinds of things. Fixing structural imbalances, keeping our body strong at the joints to support the big fun lifts, and refining skills we already have to make us more efficient. All of those things come from taking the time to do accessory work, so don’t rush out the door after your workout, save time to work on your accessories.