Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
An accessory movement is a lift that targets muscles that provide vital assistance during the larger lifts that get you the most bang for your buck. For example, the lats are the primary movers in a chin-up, but they can’t perform without the assistance of the traps. Adding a kettlebell angled press to your workout to strengthen the lower and middle traps will enhance the performance of the lats, enabling you to do more chin-ups with better form in the long term.
Accessory moves help promote muscular balance and overall strength, and when programmed properly, they also help prevent injury. Add these moves into your workouts, scheduling them after your big movement patterns, and seal up those weak links in your movement chains once and for all.
- Accessory muscles worked: Adductors, obliques, quadratus umborum
- Muscles assisted: Quads, glutes
- Exercises enhanced: Squat, deadlift
Stand with your feet double shoulder-width apart with your toes turned slightly outward. Bend your right knee and shift your weight to the right, tracking your knee over your toes until your left leg is completely straight with your heel on the ground, foot flexed, chest lifted. Pause, then return to the start and continue, alternating sides.
Note: You can either touch your fingers lightly to the floor for balance — making sure your chest stays lifted — or if you have good balance, hold your hands in front of your chest.
- Accessory muscles worked: Core (rectus abdominis, erector spinae, transverse abdominis, intercostals)
- Muscles assisted: Total body
- Exercises enhanced: Overhead press, squat, deadlift, bent-over row
Adjust the straps on a TRX or suspension system to midshin level. Get into a forearm plank with your feet in the loops, head, hips and heels aligned and elbows underneath your shoulders. Engage your glutes to prevent your lower back from sagging. Using your forearms as leverage, push your body backward, straightening your arms until your ears come over your elbows. Pause, then slowly return to the start.
Note: This move should be done with control; don’t just swing back and forth as if at a playground.
Kettlebell Angled Press
- Accessory muscles worked: Lower and middle trapezius
- Muscles assisted: Deltoids, rhomboids, lats
- Exercises enhanced: Chin-up, pulldown, bench press
Hold the handle of a kettlebell with both hands in front of you with your elbows bent 90 degrees. Bend forward from the hips until your torso is at about a 45-degree angle to the ground. Keeping your torso steady, smoothly slide the kettlebell outward along the same plane as your torso until your arms are fully extended in line with your ears. Hold for a half-second, then slowly return to the start.
Note: Do this with a light kettlebell so you can maintain the proper pressing angle.
- Accessory muscles worked: Vastus medialis oblique (“teardrop” quadriceps muscle)
- Muscles assisted: Remaining three quadriceps muscles
- Exercises enhanced: Squat, plyometric jump, deadlift
Stand on top of a small box with one foot off the edge, foot flexed, leg straight. Bend your standing knee slowly, lowering your flexed heel toward the floor until it touches down lightly. Pause, then push through the standing foot to extend back to the start. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Note: It’s OK if the heel of your standing leg comes off the box.
- Accessory muscles worked: Rear deltoids, middle traps, rhomboids
- Muscles assisted: Medial deltoids, lats
- Exercises enhanced: One-arm row, pulldown, overhead press
Secure a light- to moderate-weight resistance band around a stable object such as a squat rack. Stand a few feet away from the base of the machine and hold the band at shoulder height, arms straight, and pack your shoulder blades. Drive your elbows out and back to pull the band apart and toward your forehead, attempting to get as much distance between your hands as possible. Slowly return to the start.
Note: Make sure you’re opening your arms as you’re pulling to best engage the proper muscles, especially the rear delts.
- Accessory muscles worked: Glutes, hamstrings
- Muscles assisted: Lower back, abdominals
- Exercises enhanced: Romanian deadlift, squat, good morning
Secure a resistance band low on a stable object and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, facing away from the anchor with the band between your feet. Keeping your back flat, hinge at the hips and grasp the band with both hands, arms long, and allow the band to pull your hands between your legs toward the anchor. Keeping your back flat, drive forward with your glutes and hips, pulling the band up and through your legs until you’re standing up completely. Slowly return to the start and repeat right away.
Note: Your arms are only an anchor for the band as your glutes and hips work, similar to a kettlebell swing, so do not pull with them when performing this exercise.