Stop Maintaining Your Sucky Physique
Workout frequency – how often you train – might just be the big secret to taking your physique from average to awesome. As coach Paul Carter says, if you want to look like a guy or gal who lifts weights a lot, you have to lift weights a lot.
But there's a balance here. Train too frequently and you'll burn out, either physically or mentally. Train too infrequently and you won't get optimal results. You might even find yourself in a perpetual maintenance phase, which sucks if you're only maintaining a kinda pudgy, kinda small, or kinda weak body.
Who wants to hit the gym three times a week just to maintain a physique or level of performance that you're not happy with?
So what do you do? Proper programming, adjusting volume and intensity, and good nutrition will help. But here's something else you can do: a booster workout, also called an ancillary training day.
The Ancillary Training Day
An ancillary day is where you go to the gym on a day you'd otherwise have off, like a Saturday or Sunday, and train ancillary or supplementary lifts or muscle groups. These are important muscles or movements, but they're also the ones you're likely to leave out of your normal workouts.
Maybe you're just too tired from hitting the major lifts, or maybe you just run out of time because you have to get to work or take Junior to soccer practice. No problem, you just do all that extra or secondary work on your ancillary day. Let's break it down.
Ancillary Muscle Groups
Most lifters tend to "throw in" some work for these muscle groups at the end of their normal workouts. But how effective is your calf training when you toss it in at the end of a squat, deadlift, and leg press day? If you hit your primary lifts hard, chances are you're just going through the motions when it comes to calf work. Or you just skip calf work entirely because you're as pooped as yesterday's oatmeal.
So don't worry about it. Just nail your calves on your ancillary day when you have more time and more energy to punish those stubborn bastards. The same can be done for abs, direct forearm work, rotator cuff exercises, neck training, grip work, etc.
Just ask yourself this: "What do I NEED to be doing that I just don't make time for during my regular workouts?" Do that on ancillary day.
Other Ancillary Work
- Cardio or metcon
Maybe you need to dedicate some time to the foam roller. Maybe you really need to boost your conditioning, but you just don't have time to do 20 minutes of metcon during your lunch hour workout. Do all that stuff on ancillary day and really focus on it.
The "Try New Stuff" Day
This is another way of thinking about ancillary days. Read T Nation every day and you're bound to find a dozen new things you'd like to try. But when? You don't want to mess up your current training program by tossing in too much. And you don't want to "waste" a workout learning a new pull-up variation or experimenting with a new hip flexor stretch.
So use your ancillary day to try new stuff. Don't think of it as a workout. Think of it as practice, or just a dedicated time to try out a few new things. Maybe you've always been interested in learning how to do a hip thrust, a sternum chin-up, a kettlebell swing, or an anti-extension core exercise. Play with them on ancillary day.
Learn the form, figure out how to set it up and what weight works best for your goals. Later, add it to your "real" program. Just get all the figuring-it-out part over with during your booster workout. As a bonus, you'll work up a light sweat and burn some extra calories.
Sample Booster Day
It's Sunday. You want to do something in the gym, but it's a scheduled rest day. Try something like this. It won't interfere with your regular workout. In fact, it'll boost the progress you're already making.
- A1. Ab exercise of choice
- A2. Forearm exercise of choice
- Repeat the superset above 3-4 times.
- B. Experiment with a new thing. See our Tip archives for over 600 cool ideas.
- C. Incline treadmill walk, 20 minutes. (Try it like THIS.)
- D. Foam rolling technique or stretch you've been neglecting
Remember, the goal isn't to smash yourself. The goal is to get better, and there is a difference.