Let's get the elephant in the room out of the way. Yes, accessory work is a fancier way of saying body building exercises. Somehow accessory work sounds less like bro science and more like studied performance training. In reality, it's the same thing. Get over it. Arnold obviously had something right. If you don't know who I mean when I say Arnold, look at the picture up top. Safe to say he knows a little bit about building muscle and getting strong.
Accessory work does a variety of things to improve your performance in the gym. For one thing, it balances out strength imbalances brought on through normal training. In CrossFit, most exercises are done in the saggital plane. This means up and down. Think of front squats, deadlifts, clean and jerks, snatches, wall balls, etc. They are all done in an up and down motion. While these exercises elicit results we are after, training only this plane of movement can cause strength imbalances which eventually lead to injury. However, accessory work keeps this from happening. Simply adding in exercises such as the single leg lunge, or rotational med ball throws can be enough to keep you healthy.
Additionally, this extra work will improve your strength. I've been following a program which happily posts about it including body building principles, and I've seen all of my big three lifts increase. After a day of teaching class, and holding a seminar, I still hit a 10 pound squat personal best, a 10 pound bench PR, and finally a 20 pound deadlift PR. That was in just 5 weeks, and really the only thing that changed was I found myself doing exercises like barbell curls, narrow grip bench, lateral raises for my shoulders, and single leg work. Incredible how taking the page out of a different workout program can have a huge effect.
Seeing this sort of improvement and knowing the benefits of accessory work has led me to include this into our programming at Summit Strength & CrossFit SSP in our CrossFit group classes. It doesn't take a long time, and I fully believe it will have a positive impact on our athletes, both in terms of health and also in terms of performance. Plus, I don't think anyone will be complaining about a day without dying from conditioning. Until next time, Rise Up!