“There was an idea, … The idea was to bring together a group of remarkable people, see if they could become something more. See if they could work together when we needed them to fight the battles we never could.” Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Nick Fury, made that statement in the first Avengers movie. It became a rallying point for the individuals to began acting as a team. What was the point? That the individuals brought together as a team form something greater than the sum total of their members. Together, they could do things that no one else could and things that they, as individuals, could not do either. You might initially think that this is an article on the power of community within the gym, and though the statement from the movie would certainly apply, I want to address the matter of why we use ancillary exercises in programming and their purpose.
First, let me define what is meant by ancillary exercises. Ancillary is something that provides support to the primary activities or operations of an organization. In this case, using the term in relation to fitness, these are exercises, lifts, or movements that support our primary exercises, lifts, and movements. An example of a primary movement might be a pull-up. Thus, ancillary movements, in our example, would be any movements, lifts, or exercises that would support the pull-up. In other words, these are exercises that make the pull-up better. They are exercises that support the pull-up. In keeping with our pull-up example, exercises that might be considered ancillary are barbell or dumbell rows and tricep pull-downs.
So why train with ancillary movements? Part of the answer is found in the definition of the word itself. These are support exercises. Thus, the ancillary movements, help to develop the muscle groups used in the primary exercises, lifts, and movements. We train the individual parts so that when we bring them together to perform a primary movement, we are stronger and better at the primary movement and thus we become more fit. The second reason we train ancillary movements is to overcome compensations that we make in primary movements. Take, for example, a squat. In a regular squat, we are employing both legs to accomplish the lift. However, it is entirely probably that we have one leg that is weaker than the other and thus the stronger leg compensates for the weaker. In order to become stronger with the traditional squat, we need to be able to train each leg in isolation from the other in order to develop strength equally in both legs, thus eliminating the compensation. We might employ pistol squats or one-leg step downs in order to train each leg. These are ancillary movements to support the primary. When we train the parts in support of the whole and work to eliminate those compensations, we become stronger and more fit.
Primary movements are the backbone of becoming stronger and more fit. They are the foundation. However, we can strengthen that foundation more and more by incorporating ancillary movements into our daily fitness regiment. We want to be strong, we want to move well, and we want to live well. Train the ancillary to support the primary and you will begin to see improvements in your overall fitness and strength.