Accessory Work

Written by: Kevin Cann


One of the PPS lifters asked a fantastic question last night and I think this is a good topic to discuss today.  He asked about adding in more accessory work.  This being bodybuilding type exercises at the end of a training session.


First, we take a lot of singles.  However, we are not Westside and we differ from them very much.  Our day 1 will be max effort squats, followed by some light backdowns, and ending with some goodmornings.


Day 2 will be max effort bench, followed by some lighter backdowns, and finishing with some ohp, floor press, or occasionally JM press and barbell rows.  Day 3 will be rep bench work between 70% and 85% of 1RM, followed by max effort pulls.  These max effort lifts are rotated weekly with rep work.  We do some lighter backdowns and some straight knee variation along with reverse hypers.


Day 4 is rep squat work followed by rep deadlift work.  These percentages are relatively low, but still a bit higher than what you would see by Westside.  Westside uses a lot of accessories and the dogma that being a shitty bodybuilder will make you a better powerlifter still exists.


We need to look at the hierarchy of specificity.  Comp singles at or near maximal are the most specific.  This is followed by max or near max singles of the comp lift variations.  Following this may be higher rep sets (where this line is drawn who fucking knows.  Is a set of 30 deadlifts more specific than a max set of 5 barbell rows?).  I would say heavy goodmornings, floor press, and maybe even ohp are more specific than light and higher rep comp lift work.


All of the way at the end of this spectrum is bodybuilding work.  Bodybuilding is better than nothing, but so far removed from the specificity of powerlifting.  Now, if there are injured areas that need to be addressed, these exercises should be added in here.  That is how we take a generality and then target it for an individual.


Bodybuilding can also fill in the gaps in training.  Sometimes I want my lifters to do absolutely nothing and recover.  Other times I want them to move around.  I will sometimes make a day 4 “Bro shit” instead of the compound lifts.  This is one way we take a break and recover.


Training is about doing the most in the gym and being able to recover.  I agree with that statement, but we want to do the most of the things that will carry over to the largest totals.  The lifters at Westside lift far greater weights than we do.


This changes their recovery curve quite a bit.  They do not do backdown sets and their dynamic effort days are far lighter than ours.  We also max out deadlifts every other week.  They do not do this part.  They alternate squats and deadlifts for max effort work in the same spot.

They have more spots to add in the bodybuilding stuff than we do.  Again, this is better than nothing, but falls pretty far down on the spectrum of specificity.  However, that is what is best for the program that they run at Westside.  It makes a ton of sense for them to be doing that stuff.  It does not for us.


Coaches and lifters need to be careful of picking pieces from different programs and trying to put them together.  This is why understanding the general principles of training is so important.  This allows you to look at what other successful coaches are doing and decide which pieces will work for you and how you can manipulate them to meet your lifter’s individual needs within the structure of your own program design.


If you want to run Westside, run Westside.  If you want to run a Sheiko template, run a Sheiko template.  Do not try to turn that template into a hybrid Sheiko Westside program.  It will not work.


I am going to begin to make these blogs much shorter as I will be discussing all of these topics in greater detail on my Patreon page. If interested visit

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About precisionpowerlifting 33 Articles
Precision Powerlifting Systems is based out of Boston, Mass. Head Coach Kevin Cann leads the raw and single ply powerlifting team through individualized programming leading up to local, regional, national, and international level USA Powerlifting meets. Coach Kevin has worked as a nutritionist and strength coach for several facilities in the greater Boston area including Harvard University and Total Performance Sports. He holds a master’s degree in kinesiology from A.T. Still University and a bachelor’s degree in health and wellness from Kaplan University. Currently, Coach Kevin competes in the 105kg class in USA Powerlifting as both a raw and equipped open lifter and was under the tutelage of former team Russia powerlifting coach and coaching legend, Boris Sheiko, from 2015-2018. Kevin utilizes many of Sheiko’s legendary methods in his programs. This includes the belief that technique is the most important aspect of training. Not only has Kevin been a long term student of Sheiko’s, he also possesses his Master’s Degree in Kinesiology, the science of human movement. The combination of his Master’s degree and time spent working with the legendary coach has awarded him with the skills to thoroughly analyze your lifts and utilize the right variations, weights, and repetitions to improve your technique and continue to steadily progress over time. Through Kevin’s experiences coaching, he has made many adjustments to the program to allow for the success of his lifters. PPS has had an Arnold qualifier every year in its existence, a top 5 national total, 2 top 10 totals, and many top 20 totals nationally. Kevin combined what he learned from Sheiko with a conjugate trining style. He learned that nothing builds 1RM strength like practicing singles. He uses a constraints-led approach with the singles. The variation allows for the athlete to continually take max singles without seeing a decrease in performance. Kevin will use variations that punish technical inefficiency and only leaves room to complete the task with a more technically efficient strategy. Heavy singles also works the psychological components of the sport. Oftentimes this goes untrained and is the largest weakness in a lifter. Along with the max effort work, PPS lifters perform sub maximal work to continue to increase technical proficiency within the lifts. Some of this technique work utilizes special exercises that Kevin learned from Boris Sheiko himself. PPS supports raw, drug free powerlifting. Kevin has coached numerous athletes that have qualified for USAPL Nationals as well as the USAPL competitions at the Arnold Sports Festival. Cost for coaching is tiered and ranges from $125 to $200 per month depending on the services required. This includes an individualized program based around your needs as an athlete as well as feedback on your lifts from videos. Text support as you are training, weekly voice memos explaining details about the upcoming week, and bi-weekly training meetings with the team to discuss training concepts is part of the tier 1 service. For more information email Kevin directly at