Friday, August 24, 2012

Assistance Work - Magical Pixie Dust

Hey Paul,

I've asked a question about your rotational upperback split ( before, and I'm afraid I'm gonna do it again.

Is there any sort of exercise selection you'd abide by? Right now I'm running it 4 days a week and using 50 total reps instead of 100 (using 5x10 actually, yeah probably Wendler's fault that I like that rep range for assistance stuff). But would you prefer any type of set up in particular? For instance, keeping heavier upperback shit like rows and chins on bench and overhead days, lighter stuff like face pulls and rear delts on squat/dead days (sort of an upper/lower thing I guess). Or does it just not matter?

Keep in mind I'm an intermediate type lifter so recovery is less of an issue with me than it is with you.

I'm absolutely loving the split though, hopefully it'll pay dividends to my upper back as well in a few months.

Thanks in advance Paul, keep fighting the good fight


Assistance work is one of the most talked about topics in all of training.  I'm not sure why.  You pick a few for particular reasons, you do some reps, you go home.  It's not like pixie dust, where you sprinkle some of it in your programming and "BAM!" magical shit happens.

Because of the preaching of some very stupid methodologies, people have forgotten what assistance, or support work, is for.  

Support work is key for -

1.  Build the musculature involved in the main lifts (mass)
2.  Strengthen the muscles that help the support pillars (elbows, knees, ankles, etc)
3.  Prehab or Rehab

You train the lift, to build the lift.  

You use assistance to build the muscles involved in the lift.  If they get bigger/stronger, that should help the lift.  

It's not "weak point training" (don't get me started), it's just "bodybuilding" for the most part.  

For the rotational split, you can do the upperback specialization one or, Jim and I have kind of narrowed it down to some really handy ones.  Namely.......

1.  Front raises
2.  Lunges/1-Legged Squats
3.  Leg Curls
4.  Kirk Shrugs
5.  Curls
6.  Band Pushdowns
7.  Face Pulls
8.  Sit-ups

8 total movements.  Cool thing about that is, there are 4 workouts in the rotational split, so you just do the big movement for the day, then pick 2 of the small movements.  That's exactly how my split is going to be carried out now.  

As far as sets and reps, right now I'm playing with this "100's" idea.  I like it.  It's fun, challenging, and I don't get beat the fuck up from it.  I see assistance as something I use to "grow", and the main movements as something I use to get stronger.  I know, it's deep and complicated stuff, but I promise it works.  

You can use 5x10, but keep the rest periods short.  However I personally think 5x20-25 is better, and pays bigger dividends.

Mainly however, the biggest thing is to make the muscle WORK in your support movements.  I have no idea why someone wants to use 100 pound dumbbells for curls or skull crushers.  Makes no god damn sense.  If you are trying to build particular muscular areas, you need to make that area do the work....when you get too heavy, you sacrifice form to move the weight through space.  Now, who the hell knows what your prime mover is for that movement.

The one thing I really like about the sets of 100, is that it FORCES you to go incredibly light, and you will have no doubt the next day what muscle did all of the work.

If you want to do 5x10 or 5x100 or 1x100, it's all fine.  Just make sure you use support/assistance work in the right way for the correct reasons.  


  1. 100 reps challenge...sounds great

  2. question: if going for 100 reps, could it be done in "as few sets as possible" type scheme, either adding weight the next week or doing the 100 reps in less sets? Have you ever done it like this, or do you find it best to keep a set rep/set scheme?
    Thanks man!

    1. Either way is fine. I've done 5x20, 4x25, and then also don't AMAP in each set until 100 as well.

  3. As far as the 8 assistance exercises, I read 7 and 8 as "Face Sits". My girlfriend was about to be thrilled!

  4. So with the 5x20-25 you wouldn't have short rest periods as you do on 5x10?

    1. No I would always keep them short. A minute or less.

  5. Would you recommend doing 100 rep assistance whilst on a cut? Because it's not like you'll be growing anything in a caloric deficit.

    1. Yeah I think it's fine. One thing you'll notice for sure, if it's low carb, that lack of "go" for getting the reps in.

      People don't want to talk about how important carbs are for fueling through workouts, but when it comes to reps they are king.

  6. Wow Paul, wasn't expecting such an in depth response but thanks a lot! You set my overanalyzing ass straight.

  7. Paul,

    How would incorporate rows/chins into something like this? Do them after your big pressing movement (ie press or bench)?

    1. I do rows. I will give the outline to my routine for this later.

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  9. Sorry. The format between the days must have pushed together when I sent it. They were originally spaced out. Day 1 is push, Day 2 is pull after the first exercise in each row. Same for day 3 and 4.