This article by Jonathan Byrd from the MAB forum.
I have said countless times that there are thousands of ways to get strong, but some ways are just more efficient than others. In my opinion a lot of progress is stalled by the lack of appropriate assistance work. During assistance work you are able to focus on weak points or areas that may be causing you to miss lifts.
Often this is the area where most lifters get off track. Typically assistance work is just not as fun, not as heavy, and is often just skipped by lifters. This is a mistake that even I am guilty of. For the purpose of this article we are going to discuss appropriate assistance work for the squat.
The squat is a very technical lift, and of course the first step is always making sure you have sound form. We are making the assumption here that form is in check, and the weak points in the lift are just that, weak.
Your first assistance exercise should typically be a variation of the main movement, in this case the squat. These movements should be done in a similar rep range as that of your main squat program.
First assistance lift – Weak hamstrings
If you have identified your hamstrings as the weak mover in your squat, there are two movements I would suggest. The first would be paused squats, with a small two second count just below parallel. This will really attack the posterior chain, and take the stretch rebound effect out of your squat. You should make every effort to drive the weight straight back up, and to not let it sink after the pause.
Another option for weak hamstrings would be a low box squat. Again, done correctly this will target your posterior chain, and help improve that weaken area. Of course there are countless other movements that can focus on these areas, but in general these are the two I would suggest for most lifters.
First assistance lift – Weak quads
Now if you feel that your quads are the weak area, I typically select either front squats or an olympic style squat. The key to both of these movements would be to focus on a narrower stance and really make depth an issue. Force yourself down deeper than you normally squat.
Next up, target weak points
After completion of your squat workout, and a squat variation similar to the ones discussed above, I suggest that you pick a movement that directly focuses on your weak point. This exercise should not be as taxing.
Examples of these would be hamstring curls, single leg good mornings, leg extensions, reverse sled drags, sled drags, goblet squats, or Bulgarian squats. These exercises should be done in a higher rep fashion as a finisher for your day.
Overall picking accessory work to fit your needs is the key to improving your squat. Don’t be the average gym rat who only does their main work and leaves. It is the secondary movements that will take you to the next level.
If you are still having trouble identifying what your weaknesses are, or what movements to fix them, I would suggest checking out Brain Carroll’s 10/20/Life. The book goes into detail on specifics of where you are missing lifts and how to fix them.