However, there are situations when some of the fluff stuff can be useful: weakness in a muscle or a muscle group; wrong firing patterns within specific muscle groups, need to flush lots of blood through specific muscles and joints, need for local hypertrophy, need for variations, especially for some lifters who do not like doing the same all the time. Still when choosing the fluff stuff, choose what you really need, not what you like. And rule No.2, the fluff stuff can NEVER take away from your main work. Remember, it is just the remaining 10-15%, the 85-90% is still the main lifts and their variations.
I like doing concentration curls but they do nothing for my main lifts.
I like drinking beer while watching movies but it does nothing for my lifting as well.
Ok, enough of the preaching, below is what I think are Top 5 useful fluff exercises worth doing:
No. 5 – FLAT DB PRESSES
I think you get enough of pec work from all the benching and floor pressing but if you think you need extra pec mass and/or flushing some blood through your shoulders, they have their place in training. Go moderately heavy or even very light. If you want to build some pecs, I’d suggest 5 sets of 8, if you want to speed up recovery, I’d go something like 3 sets of 20 or even 2 sets of 30. My favourite is the hammer flat DB press as I feel it hits the triceps very hard and still builds some pecs.
No. 4 – TRICEPS EXTENSIONS aka SKULLS
You should get enough triceps work form benching and overhead pressing but again, if you feel your triceps need some more strength and mass or you need to flush some blood through elbows, do some DB extensions. Go for volume and short rest periods. 8 sets of 12 or 6 sets of 15. Do not go heavy. Go for the pump. On a sidenote, my triceps grew the most when I did sets of 15-20 close-grip floor presses 😉
No. 3 – LEG CURLS
This is a no brainer. Strong hams are necessary for both heavy squats and pulls. And while I do think Romanian deadlift is a better hams builder, machine leg curls are a very nice addition. Do low reps, hams for some reason, respond better to heavy weights and lower reps than high reps and lower weights. 5 sets of 5 heavy or 6 sets of 3. Yes, that low. Do one or two sets of 100 reps from time to time to rehab tendons. do machine leg curls or band curls. If you have an access to a GHR machine, you are a lucky bastard, use it and be awesome.
No. 2 – ABS
Any kind. Here you can go crazy with variations. Incline sit-ups, leg raises, hanging leg raises, side bends, heavy hammer on the tire, all kinds of leg lifts. Vary the reps as well from session to session. One session do incline sit-ups 6 sets of 8 with a heavy plate on your chest, next session do 3 sets of 50 of hanging leg raises. Go hard. I have yet to see a lifter who’d say: my abs are so strong that they hurt my lifts. Any idea why Konstatinovs pulls in the 850-900+ range in a competition beltless? Guess what, his abs are made of steel.
… and the winner is … No.1 – HYPERS
Probably the best assistance exercise you can do. All the Russian powerlifting superstars do them, or weightlifters do them and you can find them in pretty much all Eastern Bloc templates. The volume is usually quite high, 5 sets of 10 or 6 sets of 8 or 8 sets of 6 and very heavy or 3 sets of 12 lighter. This is an awesome exercise, it hits your glutes, hams and lower back. Do them correctly, put the pad on your thighs, not your groin. The rotation axis should be in your hip joint not lower back. Most people put the pad too high and then they bend at their waist and complain they have low back pain. The low back never moves, it is static through the whole ROM. Rotate in your hips, pause a second at the top and squeeze you glutes like hell.
But remember, next time when you are about to analyze your routine again and debate whether you should do 3 sets of 12 of hypers or maybe 5 sets of 5 of leg curls, ask yourself: “How much did I improve on front squats over past 6 months?”