Today I want to highlight two of my favorite “assistance” lifts, both of which happen to be among the best lifts to supplement the Big Four. Now, before I get started if you’re scratching your head wondering what the Big Four are, allow me to direct you to Getting Started because dips and good mornings are the least of your worries.
Last week I mentioned various ways to break through your plateaus, all of which have been certified Grade-A awesome by yours truly. In that post, I specifically mentioned the addition of a few lifts that compliment the Big Four to help erase plateaus, two of those lifts being dips and good mornings. Both of these lifts are a)
grueling fun as hell and b) damn effective at boosting your big boy lifts. Regarding b), the reason I called them “assistance” lifts earlier is that it is my belief, and the belief of many who could swallow me whole and effortlessly squeeze me out of their colon, that these lifts are best seen as enhancers. The reason you do these is because they greatly strengthen some of the primary muscles involved in the Big Four and just as, if not more importantly, boost many of the secondary and tertiary muscles involved. You can use these to break through plateaus, as stated earlier, or… you can add them in regardless of whether you’re plateauing or not because you want to be awesome. Your choice.
The idea behind adding these is that your goal isn’t necessarily to become the baddest mofo at good mornings in the gym (though that can be a side effect, especially since you might be the only one doing good mornings), but rather to add a good volume of these in after you’re done working a big lift to build upon your foundation. Thus, ego and form checks are a requirement if you really want to harness their additive capabilities. To reiterate: You want to strengthen the support muscles, not be the best at weighted dips/good mornings. They’re not mutually exclusive, but one mindset is more effective than the other. This means a lot more volume and a lot less showing off.
Let’s start with the weighted dip. It’s heavy on the triceps, pretty much all the deltoids, the chest, and even gets the upper back working. Having good form should also involve your core, like any good lift, since your core will be holding your torso rigid while you work the movement. All of those muscles are critical for bench and overhead press, so don’t be surprised when those numbers start going up after you incorporate weighted dips.
For those of you not in the know, I can’t really attempt to explain how to do it without sounding like an idiot because it is really simple. You go up to the dip bars, add weights to a chain belt/straight up add chains/put a dumbbell between your feet/do as many bodyweight dips as you can until you can do the aforementioned weight additions, and go to town. The main focus should be on keeping your forearms straight up and down the whole time while lowering and raising your body using your triceps for power and your elbows as a hinge- not folding your elbows back. While keeping your torso rigid and legs tucked back- your body should be diagonal to the ground. Observe:
Ok so while I couldn’t resist throwing that first pic in because dude looks like a chud (he’s using the seat belt!) in addition to the fact that he’s doing pansy machine dips, his elbow bend/arm fold is exactly how some people erroneously do real dips. So don’t do that. I recommend at least 5 sets of 10+.
Now, onto good mornings. Good mornings are straight up awesome for working your lower back, your glutes, and most especially, your hamstrings. Not only are these very important muscles for deadlifts and squats, they are also the quickest (in my experience) to atrophy in an office setting thanks to all that sitting around. Adding good mornings in is the best thing I’ve ever done for my squat and deadlift other than actually squatting and deadlifting. Now, before anyone screams and shits their pants about Bruce Lee’s good morning injury let’s face the facts- he did it attempting more weight than he should have been doing. Warm up properly (preferably by being warm already after deadlifting/squatting), and be smart. Adding this as an assistance lift is to make your big lifts better, not to be the most badass good morningerer (sp? whatever).
Moving on, the form is similar to a Romanian Deadlift for those of you familiar with that. With the bar on your back, stick your stomach out, keep a straight back, and lower your body by pushing your hips and ass backwards- not bending your knees any more than they have to. You go down and stop before your back rounds while keeping your skull in line with your spine, and bring your torso up by moving your hips forward instead of using your back. This is not a 1/8th bro-squat nor is it a back extension. Focus on the hammies, they should be burning. This one is a bit more easier to explain with a picture I ripped of from Google, to be honest:
I can’t stress how important it is you start really light on this lift to avoid Bruce Lee-ing. Hell, I’m only doing 5×15 for 80 at the moment because my hamstrings apparently sucked more than I thought and I’m not trying to impress anyone. Nonetheless, doing these for some serious volume has translated really well to my squat and deadlift.
I’ll be sure to highlight some other assistance lifts in the future, but these two are the best in my book for boosting the Big Four. Just remember, like I’ve said a hundred times, nobody in the gym cares about how much you lift. Build strength with these using high reps, good form, and as light as you need to do it right.