Let's start with a Wendler quote:

On max effort work, you display strength.

On accessory work, you build strength.

Okay, that may not be an actual quote, but it’s pretty close. Jim said this years ago at a Force Production seminar at Total Performance Sports and it still rings true.

So what does he mean?

Is he saying that you don’t build strength on the main exercise? Is he saying that only accessory work is needed to get strong and that you don’t need to do anything heavy where you strain?


I’m going to try to explain this concept, as it is something I am seeing a lot of lately. Maybe you've seen it, too. But first, let me digress for a moment.

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I can tell you from personal experience that if you kill yourself on the main movement and hardly ever do accessory work, you won’t build a lot of strength. You see, a while ago, I trained with a really good crew and it took a long time. I had to wrap knees, set up bench shirts, and so on for the main lifts. With a crew of 6-8 people, it took us about 90 minutes or more to get through the first lift.

Due to time restraints, I frequently had to shorten or skip accessory work. This did not work out well, as it led to stagnation and injuries popping up. Muscles that were not as strong as they needed to be got no stronger, and possibly got weaker. Imbalances got worse and things started to snap.

Okay, now back on track: Jim is saying that you display strength on the heavy singles, doubles and triples in the big lifts. This is where we see what all of our hard work has done. When we move on to our assistance/accessory work, that is where the real strength gains begin.


Let’s look at the squat as an example.

If we are doing box squats for a max double, or say 3x2 at an RPE 9, we are truly showing how strong we are. This will also show us where we are weak. For example, you hit 585 for 2 reps off the box, and then add a quarter (because we only use plates and quarters, right?) and bring the bar to 635. But on this set you shake on the way down and can’t get off the box. You have found a weakness. It’s probably hamstrings in this case.

Sure, the sets you did will make you stronger, but what if you address the hamstrings really hard for a few weeks? Add in a metric shit-ton of GHRs, Pull-Throughs and RDL’s to build them up.
There is a pretty solid chance that you’ll hit more weight on your next 3x3 at an RPE 9 on the box.

Let’s shoot to the bench now.

The training calls for 4x3 at an RPE 9, or a max triple. You hit a solid 495 for three reps and move to 515 on your next set. Whoa. You squeak the first one out and then barely get the second and on the third your back flattens out and the elbows go crazy.

Now, you have two options for how you might respond to this. Two different scenarios:

1. You decide to call it a day and do this for a few weeks. Think there will be any change next time?

2. You decide to look at why you broke down and think tactically.

Let's go with option two. It sounds like the upper back and triceps are the culprit here so you decide to:

  • Do 10 sets of 10 Tate Presses
  • Do Close Grip Inclines for a metric-shit on of volume
  • Do Face Pulls every bench day
  • Add in 50 Pull-Ups every session

Does it sound like the extra work will address these issues next time you hit the bench? I sure hope so.

If you are a lifter and you get on the platform, isn’t your goal to smash as much weight as humanly possible on three attempts at three lifts for the biggest total? I believe that statement to be correct. If that is your goal, then why the hell would you not do everything in your power to reach it?

Skipping your accessory work, or doing it half-assed, is just saying to your training partners, your coach, and yourself that you just don’t care enough to do the work that is necessary to get the job done.

Now you may not think that to be true, but I’ll tell you that any coach worth a nickel will see that like it was being broadcast on a 500-foot digital sign in Times Square.


Is this you?

If you said yes, fix yourself or quit the sport and do something you will give 100% to. Really, why are you doing this if not to be the absolute best that you can be? Not everyone is going to shatter world records, but everyone can bust their arse and get stronger.

Even if you are not the strongest lifter in your group, they will all respect you for putting in work, just like they will have no respect for the ones who don’t do the work.

Is this one of your training partners?

Pull them aside and straighten them out. One bad apple can spoil a whole bunch and a shitty training partner will ruin a group.
If they don’t listen, dump them.

Like I said in the paragraph above, if you are the one who is talking, Facebook profile updating, and fooling around during training, you are the one who is bringing the whole group down. You are athletes and this is practice. It is not social hour. You are here to get better at your sport.

Take this to heart.

Give 100% to your accessory work and watch your lifts go up and watch your training partners follow your lead. They’ll get stronger too.

If you don’t want to, quit and join Planet Fitness or take up stamp collecting.