Inside the Athlete Activation System (AAS), accessory work is performed after the main strength and power movements such as Olympic lifts, squats, presses, chin-ups, and more.

During accessory work within phases 1 through 3, we want the athletes to be moving as much weight as possible in the shortest period of time to build special strength-endurance capacity.

You’ll be losing gains for the athletes if you take it too easy here. Think of this as the 3rd period or 4th quarter or even over time. You’ll need to apply pressure, dig deep, little breaks, and create that grit mindset because they’ll need it in the playoffs.

P.K. Subban once told me that in the playoffs, the ice rink feels smaller, you only have inches of space versus meters, and the teams who have that grit typically prevail. This is what we are instilling in the athletes during this time.

Here are the 3 fundamentals of accessory work that will help your athlete get the most out of their training day.

Push the Pace

Special Strength-Endurance Capacity means “one’s ability to do a large volume of work at 70-90%+ in a short period of time with limited rest periods of no more than 120 seconds.”

I was in Kazan, Russia at the 2014 Junior World Weightlifting Championships. In the training hall I watched two Colombian female lifters, 69kg and 75kg Clean and Jerk 85%, 90%, and 92-95% of their maximum for 3 waves.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, they took the most 60-90 seconds rest between lifts and did this 4 to 5 days before they were going to compete.

It was load-and-lift, so close to competition.

This is one of many reasons we increase the pace on volume days with main lifts and accessory work in the Athlete Activation System.

Accessory work is by nature lighter with higher repetitions prescribed in a superset fashion. The athlete moves from one exercise to the next using as heavy as possible, weight squeezing out every rep with good technique.

Let the technique be the guide. If the technique breaks down, lower the weight, and keep going.

A coach’s tip: Assign 1-2 other athletes together in the same exercise at the same time. We love that because it applies pressure and the pace is intense. One goes then the next, then the next, building that competition mindset.

The rest between someone doing their set is all you get, so you have to push the pace of one another. This will build a tremendous Special Strength-Endurance Capacity.

And if they are having a conversation and laughing, they are not pushing the pace.

Repetition Method

Famous Russian Sports Scientist Vladamir Zatorisky in his research states that there are only two ways to activate high threshold motor units, and they are to do 1 rep for a maximum or reps at high intensity.

The Repetition Method brings the targeted exercise to failure as the last 2 or 3 reps are the ones that yield the biggest return by activating more motor units for size and strength.

For example, if the athlete can squeeze out a few more beyond a prescribed 12 reps of bicep curls in the last set, you can get them to squeeze out additional reps until they can’t, sometimes hitting 13-16.

As a coach, you must pay attention to the velocity of the movement as well as facial expressions. It is nonsense to do 12 reps of a given exercise when the athlete could have easily done another 10 more. You are throwing away gains and adaptation.

To capitalize on this method, the coach and the athlete must make sure they’re challenged in their last few reps. And because of the method’s intensity, we normally only prescribe this after Phase 1.

We must force the organism to adapt thus imposing the demand. If the demand is not enough to signal a response, there will be no adaptation, no gains, no results.

Volume for Weak Links

We prescribe volume work for accessories for gains and to address weak links found from constant observation of the athlete.

This is why it is important to make sure you or your athlete is recording the data. This data allows the coach to see the ratios and then program for optimal performance.

Most exercises prescribed for accessory work are unilateral exercises (single limb), we cue the athlete to start with their weaker side. This helps them build the balance, and bring up the weaker side.

Other weak links commonly include posterior chain work, rotator cuff work, upper back work, neck, grip, mobility, and flexibility work.

Over the last few years, I’ve seen more and more athletes looking to build more muscle mass (increase size), so a perfect place to create more hypertrophy is in the accessory work.

And if you leverage the first fundamental of Pushing the Pace, then you’ll also be able to solve their conditioning issue.

The array of which you can utilize accessory work volume is endless.

Building a Monsta

Athletes who can deal and deliver heavy loads as fast as possible are a threat on the field, on the ice, and on the court.

Let me make this crystal clear, athletes are applying pressure with high intensity again and again, over and over again, are going to wear their opponent down at a rate so fast, it will look like an adult competing against toddlers.

It harnesses a switch for the creation of greater physical and mental endurance to deliver this intensity repeatedly.

This type of conditioning is different from normal cardio conditioning some athletes may be accustomed to like boxing, treadmills, cycling, and so on.

Our system prepares the athlete in dealing (receiving and giving) heavy bodies, over and over again, for all 3 periods or 4 quarters.

Most importantly, being able to deal with and absorb heavy loads will prepare your body from breaking down. It will reduce the chances of injuries as the athlete will be less fatigued, sharper, and capable to withstand unexpected forces.

If you are only about speed, and you neglect the ability to deal with the loads… eventually, in any high speed, high contact sport, you’re going to get caught.

Why risk your career on that?

Push the pace, utilize the repetition method, and use volume to secure weak links. This will transform an athlete into a force to be reckoned with.