Missing Ingredients: Four Accessory Exercises to Unlock Bigger Totals and Muscle Growth

October 7, 2015 8:24 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

By Joe Giandonato, MBA, MS, CSCS
Manager of Health Promotion
Drexel Recreation Center

In an ideal world, the selection and subsequent inclusion of accessory exercises would serve as the pieces to a grand puzzle, ascribing to outcome based programming.

However, many, including the zombie cross-training inspired brethren, fail to conceptualize the importance of selecting movements based upon need. The mere thought of stratifying needs and incorporating concerted approaches to streamline the intrinsic underpinnings of movement are apt to be sloshing in a bucket of rhabdo puke — conveniently located between the creaky ergometer and the bar dedicated to high rep muscle-ups, referred to as the “dentist”, for how many teeth it has extricated with the blunt forces from face plants — than to be implemented within programming.

Random training equals random results. And while “going by feel” (layman terms for autoregulatory programming) has merit, it cannot be sustained, especially among those doggedly in pursuit of strength gains.

If anything, take it from me. A seasoned strength and conditioning coach and formerly an aspirant full meet lifter, who once made a rookie mistake by “going by feel” only to end up in a purgatory of near PRs and of physical therapy copayments. Remember, there’s a reason for progressive overload and log books.

Strength athletes, whether experienced or aspirant, should analyze their lifts painstakingly. Tendo units are great, but a properly angled camera will suffice.

From this video, they, along with their partner, or coach, will discern shortcomings and fittingly program accessory movements to address them.

In no particular order and in no correlation were the following exercises selected. These exercises have helped me and many of my clients (who range from desk jockeys to NBA players) achieve improved performance on “money lifts” which at the very least, warrant consideration for inclusion in your programming, either now or in the future.

Build Your Lower Back with the Hatfield Back Raise

Legendary strength coach once said something to the effect of strong lower back muscles equaling increased athletic ability and reduced injury risk. I can attest to the sentiment shared by the Strength Sensei as often times, the lower back serves as the figurative “Achilles heel” of the kinetic chain.

Hatfield Back Raises

Unlike traditional back raise variations, which are commonly performed on a 45 or 90 degree hyperextension bench, the Hatfield Back Raise, involves little hip extension, therefore shifting the emphasis of stress among the three layers of the erector spinae muscles — superficial, intermediate, and deep, which work in concert to stabilize the lumbar spine to overcome flexion and extension. The Hatfield Back Raise encourages a safe end range (neutral) — in the manner the erector spinae is intended to function versus traditional back raises which conflictingly promote hyperextension, which largely results in lumbosacral extension and counternutation of the sacrum — aka skipping squats and deadlifts for a couple of weeks while drying your welling eyes on a La-Z-Boy.

Hise Shrug

Birthed by JC Hise, who was dubbed as the “Father of American Weight Training” and introduced flat-footed deep squatting to the masses, this shrug variation entails placing a barbell with a load of considerable heft across the shoulders, as if you are setting up for a squat. Keep the neck neutral and proceed to adduct (bring together) and shrug the shoulders up (while inhaling) and down (while exhaling). These can be performed within a Smith Machine or with a safety squat bar, provided the neck and spine remain neutral. Initially, use a load which is the equivalent to your overhead press one rep maximum and perform a couple of sets at 20-25 repetitions.

In addition to building the traps and rhomboids, this movement will teach people to establish the necessary upper back tightness (i.e. intra thoracic pressure) necessary to buttress heavily loads throughout a squat of heavy ass squats.

Kaz Press

Considered the Michael Jordan of strength sports, Bill Kazmaier, an accomplished powerlifter and strongman, who also starred at the University of Wisconsin at fullback, was the first person to surpass 300 kg on the bench press. He notched a personal best 661.4 lb bench press which was largely attributable to specific exercises, including the Kaz Press among other things.

A hybrid between the close grip bench press and skull crusher, the Kaz Press, like the strength exercise equivalent of a Libra Scale, evenly distributes the stresses between the shoulder and elbow joints.

And since the Kaz Press involves a Smith Machine (yes, I said the “S-word”), stabilizer recruitment is eliminated, thus emphasizing the stress imposed on the triceps.

Tate Press

Named after Dave Tate, founder of EliteFTS, and one of the most accomplished powerlifters of the modern era, Tate Presses are a key exercise in improving lockout performance while encompassing far greater specificity to well…the bench press, than traditional single joint, isolation movements such as triceps press downs and kickbacks, and other cable or dumbbell oriented movements.


Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS, hails from a working class section of Philadelphia and is a formerly a manual laborer himself, working in warehouse and landscaping during college to pay his tuition. Joe is an avid Craigslist dater, “swag surfer”, and coupon clipper. He prefers deadlifting and finding money on the ground. He is an extremely private person and does not keep a blog, website, or push products, because he’s not an “expert”, instead he does what he loves – writing, training people, and deadlifting.

Brian Rugghia contributed to this article.

Check out the best-selling book that contains these unique exercises.

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