As we all know, CrossFit is a workout routine that aims to develop general physical preparedness. However CrossFit is not just about workouts, it is also about developing strength, gymnastics, coordination and other skills. Many people try to improve their weightlifting and aerobic capacity, but they often forget about accessory exercises that have the same importance for overall development and progress as correct clean or snatch technique.
This article is going to cover a few important, but many times ignored accessory exercises that people don’t like doing because they think that these exercises aren’t beneficial. Many times I hear claims like “I’m not going to do this, how is it going to help me in CrossFit?” In fact, accessory work can make you even better athlete and it of course will show in your performance in CrossFit workouts too.
Accessory work helps mainly with development of back muscles and muscles in your midline. Majority of training programs for competitive CrossFitters includes these exercises and even a hobby CrossFitter should be doing them.
So what accessory exercises should you be doing?
L-sit is not a very popular exercise because it’s pretty difficult:). This exercise engages stabilizing muscles of your whole body. There are different variations and scaling options for this exercise. The most difficult version is on the floor, when you use your arms to support yourself and you have your legs of the floor. Less difficult version is on the rings or hanging from the bar. It’s good to start with L-sit in between two boxes. It’s easier than on the rings because you support your body on two static boxes (and therefore you don’t need to use so many stabilizing muscles). You also don’t have to bring your legs all the way to 90° if you can’t. Beginners can start with one or both legs flexed in the knee.
As Coach Glassman says: “Athletes who have developed their L-sit to the point where they can hold it for three minutes subsequently find all other ab work easy.”
To begin with this exercise, try to accumulate 1-2 minutes in L-sit and progressively add time and try to hold it for as long as you can without a break.
GHD Sit up
GHD Sit-up is in my opinion the best exercise for strenghtening your midline. It’s a popular exercise among top athletes and therefore they often do GHD sit-ups in workouts. Even a simple combination of GHD Sit-up and butterfly pull ups can be a great workout. Big advantage of GHD Sit-up is its range of motion. To do GHD Sit-up correctly, you want to lean back, touch the floor with both hands and then make contact with your fingers with the padding at the top.
Beginners should start slowly with GHD Sit-ups. If you overdo it, next 2-3 days will hurt!
How often should you do GHD Sit-ups? 1-3x per week, 3×15-30 reps. Later on you can change it up with different variations like “75 GHD Sit-ups for time”, etc.
Hollow rock is one of basic accessory exercises for midline. Even stuff like tabata hollow rock 2-3x per week can help your core a lot. Again, there are a few varieties of this exercise, from Rx version with your arms extended behind your head and extended legs to scaled version where your legs are flexed in the knee and your arms alongside your body. Everyone can choose a version, that works the best for them. It’s good to start with the most challenging version for yourself and scale to easier version as you get tired.
GHD Back extensions
It is a really good exercise for strengthening your lower back. It’s also good in combination with GHD Sit-ups for strengthening both the front and back part of your core. You can do the same as with GHD Sit-ups -10-20 reps, 1-3x per week.
Landmine is one of the newest toys we have at the gym and it’s a great accessory exercise for strengthening your core. It also includes rotation that we miss in CrossFit. It is important to concentrate on executing this exercise correctly – straight arms, slow movement, concentrate on engaging your core and do not move the bar with your arms too much.
3 sets of 8-10 reps with 30 kg (10kg plate + 20 kg barbell) 2x per week will be good to start with.
Bent over row
Great exercise for strengthening your back. We could see this exercise in a workout perhaps for the first time ever the other week. You can do this exercise with a barbell or dumbbells. It’s important to keep your back tight and concentrate on not only using your arms, but also your back.
1-2x per week 3×10 reps AHAFA (As Heavy As Form Allows).
Any kind of overhead or handstand hold is a great exercise for strengthening your shoulders, back and core. You can approach it similarly to L-sit and try to accumulate 2-5 minutes with a barbell/dumbbells or in a handstand against the wall.
Other accessory work for CrossFitters includes various strongman equipment and exercises like yokes, sandbags, farmer carries, sled pushes/pulls/drags and so on. We’re starting to concentrate on these movements every Saturday in Joey’s Strongman session and if you want to work on complex strength, you should definitely start attending these classes.
To sum it up, if you want to try something new and move your fitness forward, add accessory work to your training and dedicate a few minutes after every wod to work on small details. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself in terms of long term progress.