Let’s start off with a description of what the difference between assistance and accessory exercises are.
This is easily confused and may be semantics, but go with me here.

Assistance exercises for one of the main lifts are those that build the lift and add strength in 3 planes of movement. They are big, compound exercises.

Good mornings are a great example. They build your squat and deadlift.

Accessory exercises are less taxing movements on your skeletal system and nervous system. Think of them a little like bodybuilding movements. They use lots of muscle but not lots of the nervous system.

A good example would be doing pushups to build your bench press, or Glute/Ham raises to build your squat and deadlift.
Get the idea?

OK, with that out of the way, let’s go over my top 5 choices for assistance/accessory lifts to build the squat.


I am dealing with primarily RAW lifters these days, but these lifts will carry over to geared lifters too; especially those using the best gear on Earth, Metal.

These are in no particular order, and may or may not work for you. The exercises you choose need to be ones that have carryover for you and address a specific weakness that you have.

1. Box Squats:


Box Squats, Top 5 Assistance/Accessory Exercises for the Squat, Glute Ham Raise
Box squats are tremendous for building your squat. A lot of coaches say they have no carry over to a RAW squat but I disagree. They work the shit out of the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, lower back) when done properly and they allow you to overload specific ranges.

A high box is great when used sparingly. We never want to use just the high box as this gets into ego because you can use a lot of weight. I like these for people who have trouble at the mid-range of the squat.

A low box is awesome for everyone. It makes you strong out of the hole, and who doesn’t need to be stronger out of the hole?

Box squats also allow the lifter to get confidence especially the low box. Many are afraid of going into the hole and the box allows them to get there better.
Always remember the box squat has different form than a squat. I will NEVER say back squat. You need to watch your shin angle. When on the box, the angle of the shin should be at least straight up and down or even slightly back. Never allow the knees to pitch forward.

2. Safety Squat Bar Good Mornings:

elitefts ss yoke bar, Box Squats, Top 5 Assistance/Accessory Exercises for the Squat, Glute Ham Raise


This is another one many will say is crap and many will swear by.

I love them. I read an old article by Louie many years ago that said if you can Good Morning close to your squat you’ll never miss if you mis-groove it. Maybe that’s not what he said but it’s what I heard.

You can do these an almost unlimited number of ways and my favorites are chain suspended and off the pins in a power rack.

They can also be done HEAVY for 3-5 or lighter for high reps. If you go lighter for high reps, toss the belt away and feel the flame in your abs the next day.
Good Mornings work the posterior chain and if you work on forcing your abs out as you would in the squat, you’ll see they hit them hard too.

3. Glute Ham Raise: (watch the video)


Box Squats, Top 5 Assistance/Accessory Exercises for the Squat, Glute Ham Raise

This has to be one of the KINGS of accessory lifts. They can be done two ways primarily.

The first is a full Glute Ham Raise. This is basically a back raise followed by the leg curl portion. Doing them this way gives you, in the words of Dr. Fred Hatfield, a unilateral co-contraction of the hamstrings at the origin and insertion. That’s a $5.00 way of saying it is the most complete hamstring exercise you can do.

You can also do only the top portion, or the leg curl portion to fry your hamstrings and get the glutes out of it.

I like giving my lifters a total number to hit. EG: 50 reps one week, 60 the next and so on. You perform as many as you can with perfect form, and rest. Do another set and rest. If you hit 15 on your first set, and 12 on the second you are at 27. You have 23 to go for 50. Do as many sets as it takes to complete. Try to get a rep or two more each week in the initial sets.
Doing them this way sucks if you can only do two reps.

They can also be loaded with a band or weight. I prefer a plate behind the head.

Before loading, try doing them with your arms extended straight out in front of you. This makes them pretty tough and you won’t need to add weight yet.

4. Walking Lunges:

Yup, you think they are for girls but give them a shot.

5. HEAVY Prowler Pushes:

prowler girl

Load it up and do 10-15 yards with a hard push each stride. I mean heavy. I have girls doing these with 500 plus pounds. Do lots of sets with a decent amount of rest.
I have a bunch more ideas on this topic but these are go to exercises.

Will they work for you?


They key is to identify where you are weak and address it.

On to my training:

So as I have said when things are going good and I am following the plan, I change it.
Why would this program be any different?

My hip has been feeling great, almost no pain and my leg hasn’t dropped out from under me in a few weeks.

What do I do?


I squatted last week and this week.

I decided to give it a try after doing Safety Bar Squats with no pain a few weeks ago.

I started with 135 for sets of 5. Two sets in and zero pain.

185 for 3. No pain.

225 for 1. No pain.

275 for 1. No pain.

315 for a really fast and easy single. No pain.

I decided to shut it down there.

This week I worked up to 325 for a really fast and easy single.

I have had less pain the past two weeks than I have had in years, so next week, I should back off and go to the Belt Squat again.

We’ll see.

I’ll keep you all posted on what goes on.

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Vincere vel mori


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