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Lift Big: The Best Assistance Exercises

Our experts share their top assistance exercises to help you break plateaus and hit new personal records.

There comes a time in every weightlifter's lifespan when they hit a plateau with their primary big lifts. The deadlift, bench press, squat and overhead press are notorious for causing frustration among lifters - stuck on their current PRs. That doesn’t mean, however, that gym-rats should just pack it in and wave the white flag. Sometimes your muscles just need additional work in areas you might not realize and could result in boosting those “big lift” numbers.

So if you’re currently suffering from being stuck at a certain weight, listen up because we’ve contacted two top trainers to give us some of their favorite tips on the "assistance exercises" that can help you break through the plateaus. Implement these into your training and you'll be well on your way to new PRs in no-time.

BIG LIFT ONE: Deadlift

> Exercise One: Trap-3 Raises

"Hits the much neglected lower traps, and it doesn't take much weight when performed correctly. Strong lower traps can act against rounding (kyphosis) of the mid back, and raise the ribcage for a much more desirable pulling position. Better positioning always results in a stronger performance."

> Exercise Two: Barbell Glute Bridges

"Works the mechanics for the ending phase of the deadlift to ensure that the glutes and hamstrings are working and have full control of the pelvis - Not only the lower back!"

- Lee Boyce, CPT and owner of Lee Boyce Training Systems

> Exercise Three: Rack Lock Outs 

"Set the bar just below knee level and pull from there, using 50 – 100 lbs over regular deadlift weight. This conditions the body to handle heavier weights by improving joint and tendon strength as well as muscular strength."

> Exercise Four: Board Deadlifts

"While standing on a 5/8 sheet of plywood where the weights would be touching the floor and you would be standing 5/8" higher than usual. 1-3 sheets of plywood gets the bar lower to the floor and provides a deeper deadlift. If plywood is not available use either a bunch of 25 or 35lb plates on the bar instead of 45lb plates. These smaller plates keep the bar lower to the floor so you have to work harder in the bottom position of the deadlift to get it up."

- Mike Duffy, CPT and owner of Mike Duffy's Personal Training

Go to page two for tips on Big Lift Two: Bench Press >>>

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