3 Criteria to Consider When Programming Accessory Work
Written by Kirsten Ahrendt

“Coach, what should I do for accessory work?”

I hear some format of this question frequently from many member-athletes. Whether you’re an athlete programming for yourself or a coach looking to fill some holes in your client’s capabilities, consider these three things:

#1: Let’s be clear, doing MORE is not always BETTER. But often, a low dose of targeted, and aptly applied accessory work can powerfully address weaknesses and increase skill.

#2: There is no cookie-cutter answer that is right for everyone. Accessory work should be selectively and specifically prescribed depending on the client’s injury history, goals and weaknesses.

#3: Meet one or all of the following stimuli:
– Loaded carry
– Unilateral
– Isometric contraction
– “Rotational” was a really close #4, but I tend to program those movements heavily in my warm-ups, so for those of you about to yell about lack of transverse plane…

Loaded Carries

Without fail, loaded carries are the #1 thing I increase in volume for clients. I’m willing to bet 90% of the general population that works out is NOT doing enough loaded carries (although if you follow InVictus Fitness program, you’d know differently). I think it’s due to carries being a seemingly-simple movement and because members don’t understand the carryover to other skills.

First off, if CrossFit has taught you one thing, it should be that simple ≠ easy. Some coaches have suggested that to have a well balanced athlete, you should be doing carries as frequently as you squat/per week. Also, if you’re an OG fitness-er, you know Dan John preached about the value of carries. If Dan John does it, you should too.

Why Carry?

– Maximum bang-for-your-buck. Want to get stronger? Carry heavy. Want to increase your capacity? Carry long distance. Want your back to stop hurting? Sandbag carry.

– Low skill movement. Decreased chances of injury. No crazy elite coaching required. Pick up object A. Carry object A to point B. Ta-da! You just did strength work, capacity work, unilateral work, and isometric work all at once!

Why Unilateral?

If you’re training for a sport, most of your activity during that sport will likely be performed unilaterally. If you’re training for life, same thing applies. Walking, running, kicking, throwing, going upstairs, getting out of a car – these are all unilateral. Train to be strong and stable using one leg, one arm, one side, and you will be well-balanced and stronger when you can use both sides together.

Why Isometric?

Especially in the world of CrossFit, athletes move a lot of weight and do a lot of reps. But how often do we spend time holding one position (think beyond a plank hold)? Can you hold weight overhead for 1 minute without crumbling? How about two minutes? Can you hold the top of your chin-up for :60? What about the top of a ring support? Isometric is your friend – it shows you if you really “own” a position, or if you just pass through it while counting reps. Also, it’s a great way to get strong without getting crazy sore or causing a lot of muscle damage from repeated eccentric movements.

Sample Accessory Sessions

Here’s some examples of accessory combos I might put together – you can use these or any combination of them and similar movements to address your weaknesses. For the greatest improvement, work your picks into your program a couple times a week for the next two months and reap the benefits!

Accessory Session A:
400m bearhug sandbag carry, performed with as few breaks as possible. Walk slow.

Accessory Session B
3 sets of:
Single leg RDL (db/kb) x 8-10 ea @3011
Single arm superset: push press x 8 + OH carry x 50m (ea)

Accessory Session C
3 sets of:
:30 Top of Chin-Up Hold / :30 rest
:30 Hollow Hold / :30 rest
:30 Handstand Hold / :30 rest

Accessory Session D
3 sets:
Max effort top of ring support hold
Reverse sled drag x 75m (heavy)
Rest :60

Accessory Session E
3 sets of:
Single leg lateral step-down from box (kb in goblet hold) x 8-10 ea @31A1
Sorenson Hold on GHD x :60

Accessory Session F
Accumulate 2-3:00 in OH barbell hold with 80-100% of 1RM strict press
Every “break”, perform 15 x V-Up/Tuck Up or L-Seated Pike Pulses

Accessory Session G
3 sets of:
Parallette L-sit/Tuck hold x :30-:60
Heavy Farmer’s or Suitcase Carry x 75-100m


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Candy Olkey
Candy Olkey
September 27, 2022 4:15 am

This is the bomb!! 💣💥💯 Thank you Coach Kirsten!!!

Guilherme Souza
Guilherme Souza
March 31, 2020 3:28 pm

Nice nice nice =)

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