are accessory lifts a waste of time

Stop Focusing On Accessory Exercises (Here's Why)

Starting Strength Coach Grant Broggi explains how you should think about accessory exercises like bicep curls, tricep extensions, etc. Do you really need them to build strength and muscle?

During my Reserve Marine Drill this past weekend we conducted something we call a “field exercise.”

A field exercise is simply a training event. It is gathering all of your troops, preparing all of your weapons, packing all of your gear, and heading out to a
training area to work on your profession (in my case, Field Artillery). 

howitzer at sunset

Whether in the Reserves or on Active Duty, you would think that this process would be rather simple. I mean we are professionals after all, right? 

But like a lot of things in life, the seemingly simple task can very quickly become overly complicated and very difficult (especially if you have not done it in a while).

This weekend as we went out for our exercise, I was reminded of a term General Mattis coined during Operation Iraqi Freedom: "Brilliance in the Basics.”

The idea is rather than focus on the complex and difficult, master the basics.  If you master the basics, not only can you "whip anybody,” but also the complex will become more simple. 

It dawned on me this weekend how similar this idea is for barbell training. Just as in the Marine Corps, people in the gym want to focus on the complex, the complicated, and the "cool new thing.”

Marines teaching the deadlift

They'd rather buy a bunch of "high speed" gear than just add 5 pounds to the bar.

Rather than focus on the basics of getting their squat and deadlift up, they try to master all of these more complex things. They're trying to do an amphibious assault before they've even learned how to tie their boots. 

It is for this reason I usually steer people away from "assistance exercises.” It’s not because they are bad, difficult, or really even all that complex (although they can be).

The fact of the matter is, if people would simply focus on gaining strength in the big exercises, then they too would be able to "whip anybody" and thus make the seemingly complex... simple.

We talked about accessory exercises in this week's YouTube video. Hope you find it helpful and that you master the basics.

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