How to Choose Auxiliary Lifts


While your weight-training workout should be grounded in core exercises, like squats, bench presses and pull-ups that work major muscle groups, ideally it also features an array of auxiliary exercises to specifically target an individual or a small group of muscles. Auxiliary exercises act as a supplement to the basic core exercises by placing emphasis on and thus building strength in specific muscle groups. Select auxiliary lifts to strengthen your weak areas, to develop areas you feel are more susceptible to injury, to improve your sports performance or to build muscle definition.

Strengthen Your Weak Areas

  • If you struggle at certain core lifts, select auxiliary lifts that can help you build strength in the weaker muscles that are causing limitations. To improve your ability to squat, perform step-up and leg-thrust auxiliary exercises. For bench press developments, the auxiliary lifts incline presses and dips can help build additional strength in your shoulders and triceps. The stiff-leg deadlift and partial-deadlift auxiliary exercises prove complimentary to the traditional deadlift exercise. If you’re looking to boost your performance in cleans, add in the hang clean and power snatch to serve as auxiliary lifts.

Prevent Injuries

  • For certain athletes, auxiliary exercises can develop susceptible areas to help them reduce their risk of injuries. For example, if you play baseball, volleyball or tennis, incorporate rotator-cuff exercises and front and lateral raises as auxiliary lifts to strengthen the muscles in and surrounding your shoulder joints. If you play football, basketball, baseball, soccer or track and field and must sprint in your sport, you're more susceptible to hamstring strains and can add in glute-ham raises; single-leg, physioball hamstring curls; and rear-foot-elevated split squats as auxiliary lifts to build glute and hamstring strength and improve flexibility in your hips.

Improve Sport Performance

  • If you participate in a sport, choose auxiliary lifts that will help you improve your athleticism. The jerk-press and push-press exercises can be employed to develop explosive power in your hips and legs. Lunges -- including forward, backward, walking and sideways lunges -- help to build strength in your hips and legs and improve your balance. The straight-leg deadlift is an auxiliary exercise that when done quickly and with a light weight can improve the strength and speed of your hamstrings. Jump squats and bounds are two explosive auxiliary lifts that can help an athlete jump higher and sprint faster.

Build Muscle Definition

  • Auxiliary lifts are extremely beneficial to those who are lifting strictly to develop muscular definition. If you’re hoping to develop mass and definition in your arms, add in to your workout the auxiliary lifts of dumbbell biceps curls, barbell biceps curls, cable curls, dumbbell triceps extensions, dumbbell triceps kickbacks and cable pulldowns. For shoulder definition, front and lateral raises are auxiliary lifts that can help shape your deltoids. To build mass in our lower body, leg extensions are an auxiliary lift that targets your quadriceps, while calf raises isolate the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles of your calves. Those looking to build six-pack abs can use crunches, knee raises and side crunches as auxiliary lifts.


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