The Best Accessory Exercises That Will  Make You Better at CrossFit

While the main exercises used in CrossFit workouts are crucial for building strength and power, they may not address all the areas that CrossFit athletes need to focus on. That's where accessory exercises come in. Accessory exercises are exercises that are performed to supplement and complement the main movements used in a CrossFit workout. They are important for improving strength, mobility, and stability, and can help athletes avoid injuries and perform better in their workouts.

These exercises target specific muscle groups and movement patterns, providing additional benefits that can improve overall fitness and performance. In this article, we will discuss some essential accessory exercises that CrossFit athletes should consider adding to their training regimen.

Top 6 Accessory Exercises for CrossFit Athletes 

There are many accessory exercises that CrossFit athletes can benefit from, depending on their individual needs and goals. Here are some essential accessory exercises that every CrossFit athlete should consider incorporating into their training:

  1. Pull-ups and Chin-ups: These exercises are excellent for developing upper body strength, especially in the back, shoulders, and arms. They are also crucial for improving grip strength, which is important for many CrossFit movements. Pull-ups and chin-ups are the building blocks for kipping, butterfly pull-ups, chest-to-bar pull-ups, and muscle ups. If you want to improve those skills, you’ll make serious gains by increasing your capacity in strict pulling.

Aim for 3-5 sets of 5-15 reps, depending on your strength level. For example, if you are a beginner, you may start with 3 sets of 5 reps and gradually increase the reps and sets as you get stronger.

  1. Planks and Side Planks: Planks are a great way to build core strength and stability, which is essential for almost all CrossFit exercises. Side planks can help to develop oblique strength and stability, which can improve overall core strength.ç

Aim for 2-3 sets of 30-60 seconds for each exercise. You can increase the time or add variations such as weighted planks or plank variations (such as tall plank, single-arm plank, or side plank raises) to make the exercise more challenging

  1. Glute Bridges and Hip Thrusts: These exercises target the glutes, which are important for many CrossFit movements, such as squats, deadlifts, and box jumps. Strong glutes can also help to improve running and jumping performance. If you want to lift big, and be explosive, a powerful hip is a must.

Aim for 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps, using a weight that is challenging but allows you to maintain proper form. You can increase the weight or reps as you get stronger.

  1. Single-leg Deadlifts: This exercise helps to improve balance, stability, and single-leg strength, which can be beneficial for movements such as pistols, lunges, and running. Unilateral exercises in general are good for evening out imbalances and drawing attention to weaknesses.

Aim for 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps on each leg. Start with a light weight or bodyweight and gradually increase the weight and reps as you get stronger.

  1. Rotator Cuff Exercises: These exercises target the muscles that stabilize the shoulder joint, which is important for overhead movements, such as snatches and overhead presses. Weak rotator cuff muscles can lead to shoulder injuries, so it's essential to include these exercises in your training.

Aim for 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps for each exercise. You can use light dumbbells or resistance bands to perform exercises such as external rotations or shoulder rotations.

  1. Calf Raises: Probably one of the most underrated exercises out there! Strong calves are important for running and jumping performance. Adding calf raises to your training can help to improve calf strength and endurance which in turn can promote more explosiveness in lifts and sprinting.

Aim for 3-5 sets of 15-20 reps, using a weight or resistance that challenges you but allows you to maintain proper form.

How often should I train accessories?

The frequency of accessory training can vary depending on individual goals, training volume, and recovery capacity. However, as a general guideline, it is recommended to include accessory exercises in your training program at least 2-3 times per week.

It's important to note that accessory exercises should not be the main focus of your training, but rather a supplement to your main CrossFit workouts. Therefore, it's important to prioritize your primary CrossFit exercises and adjust your accessory training accordingly. If you find that your accessory training is interfering with your main CrossFit workouts, you may need to reduce the frequency or volume of your accessory training. 

Also keep in mind that when adding accessory exercises to your CrossFit training routine, you’re also adding more training volume. Even though accessories are intended to complement your main training, you should prioritize recovery and allow for adequate rest between workouts. Overtraining can lead to injury and hinder progress, so it's important to listen to your body and adjust your training frequency and volume accordingly.

When should I train accessories?

Performing accessory exercises after your primary CrossFit workouts can be an effective way to target specific muscle groups that may not be adequately addressed in the main workout. For example, if you did a CrossFit workout that focused on lower body movements such as squats and lunges, you could include accessory exercises such as glute bridges or calf raises to target specific muscle groups in the lower body.

Alternatively, you can also schedule dedicated accessory training sessions on separate days from your main CrossFit workouts. This can be particularly beneficial if you have specific strength or mobility goals that require additional training outside of your main CrossFit workouts.  Additionally, one advantage that accessory work has over most other CrossFit type workouts is that it can be easily performed in a conventional or home gym.

Keep in mind that accessory work should be done for quality. If you don’t have much time, stick with just two or three exercises that you can do with good form and sufficient rest between sets. You can also try a superset or an EMOM after your regular workout to get some extra volume in.

Conclusion

In summary, adding these accessory exercises to your CrossFit training can help you to build strength, stability, and endurance in areas that may not be targeted by the main CrossFit exercises. By incorporating these exercises into your routine, you can improve your overall fitness and performance, while reducing the risk of injury.