Top Accessory Movements for Powerlifting

Written by the Boostcamp staff
Aug 7,2023 | 9 min read 431

Boost your compound numbers with better accessories

When it comes to powerlifting, many people only think of the big 3 lifts, which are the squat, the bench, and the deadlift. While those compound movements are the main pieces of the powerlifting puzzle, they are not all that a powerlifter focuses on when they are training. You cannot just peak for a competition or prepare yourself to hit a new one rep max with only ever hitting the big 3 lifts. This is where accessory movements for powerlifting come into play.

While accessory movements are often seen as something utilized more by bodybuilders, they are great for powerlifters. A true powerlifting program is not complete without accessories, as these are the movements that truly help to establish a mind-muscle connection, and build up the overall strength and size in the muscles that you need to help boost your numbers on the big 3. 

Let’s dive in.

What is an Accessory Movement?

The first thing to establish is what an accessory movement is, and why these things are not specifically for bodybuilders. These accessory movements are exercises that support and increase your performance in your main, primary lifts. They do this by targeting specific muscles to fix weak points in the physique or strength spots. 

For example, if your bench press is lacking, that could be because your front delts or your triceps are weaker than they should be. That being said, you would focus on doing accessory movements to target those muscle groups and bring them up, which would transfer over to your bench press. 

All that being said, what are the best accessory movements for powerlifting?

Pull-Ups and Chin Ups

Pull-ups and chin-ups, technically these are two exercises, but we are looping them into one category because of how similar they are, and they are one of the best accessory movements for powerlifters to throw into their training. Often referred to as the upper-body squat, because they help to develop so much of the back in terms of both size and strength. 

Pull-ups and chin-ups incorporate the lats, rhomboids, rear delts, mid traps, and even some biceps, and each of those muscles play a vital role in the big 3 power lifts, yes even the squat and the bench press. In each of those lifts, it is crucial to keep the upper body tight, which is nearly impossible without having those muscles developed. 


Dips are an old school exercise used by bodybuilders and powerlifters alike. If you can get a deep enough stretch, they are great for developing both aesthetics and strength in the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Dips also help to switch up your training to add a little variety. 

While most pressing exercises performed by powerlifters will not be on the vertical plane (bench press and overhead press being two great examples), it is still good to have developed strength in all planes, and dips help that, making them one of the best accessories for powerlifting.

Dumbbell or Barbell Shoulder Press

Strong, well developed shoulders can help you out in a variety of ways when it comes to powerlifting. Sure, strong shoulders will clearly help a powerlifter with their progress on the bench press, but believe it or not, strong shoulders will also help with squatting. This is because strong shoulders help to develop a shelf for the bar to sit on, and helps to lower the risk of injury in all 3 of the major power lifts.

Split Squats and Lunges

When it comes to the best powerlifting accessories, unilateral movements have to be included, and split squats or lunges are some of the best exercises to do. Unilateral movements are crucial for picking out imbalances between limbs and muscles, and they also help with stability, balance, and many times mobility. 

As a powerlifter, focusing on the big 3 power lifts can get the body used to certain movements and ranges of motion. Throwing unilateral movements into your accessory work helps to switch it up and shock the muscles, forcing them to develop and progress in different ways. 

Lunges and split squats are great for developing lower body strength and size. Split squats and lunges help to develop the legs and glutes, exposing weaknesses and correcting them. While they may not be the most fun exercise, they are a great accessory movement for powerlifting.

Hip Thrusts

This movement may seem like something just for women to build their glutes, but hip thrusts are such a great accessory movement for powerlifting for a variety of reasons. Hip thrusts transfer over largely to two of the big three lifts, squats and deadlifts. Hip thrusts build strength in the glutes, which are key muscles utilized in the squat and the deadlift. 

Hip thrusts also simulate the lockout portion of a squat or a deadlift. That being said, mastering the hip thrust helps you at the top part of your deadlifts and squats. 

When to Incorporate Powerlifting Accessories Into Training

Now, you do not need to do each of these exercises every time you are training, but you do not want to leave them out. The best option is to find a powerlifting program that incorporates accessories in with your big 3 lifts during training. A good program will also hold you accountable and help you to see your progress on your lifts, as you incorporate things like progressive overload into your routines and see your numbers going up. 

If you are not sure where to find a good program, feel free to check out the Boostcamp App! The Boostcamp App has over 50 free training programs from a variety of coaches. Programs are based around strength, hypertrophy, and so on. 

Powerlifting Accessories Wrap Up

Overall, accessories for powerlifting are movements that really help to develop weak points and fix imbalances. They are crucial for skyrocketing your progress and really helping to make your gains go forward. When it comes to incorporating them into your training, finding a good program to help with that is key. Do you agree with our list of the top powerlifting accessory movements?

Check out the Boostcamp App for some great programs. Also, be sure to follow Boostcamp on Instagram and subscribe on YouTube!