5 Weightlifting Accessory Exercises to Improve Overhead Performance

As weightlifters, our programming is pretty straight forward. Snatches here, clean & jerk variations there, and a steady diet of squatting and pulling. Accessory training is the term given to performance enhancing supplemental movements that are secondary and/or tertiary within a weightlifting hierarchy. Accessory training has many benefits, and can allow lifters to increase muscle mass, improve and correct movement imbalances, and increase general physical preparedness.

Over time, those movements can create highly adaptive muscle tissues that are capable of being trained to produce higher degrees of force and power, potentially resulting in enhanced performance (provided the accessory lifts are not conflicting with the ability to consistently train snatches, cleans, and jerks).

A photo posted by Mike Dewar (@mikejdewar) on

Below, we will discuss five accessory exercises to help lifters increase strength, stabilization, and power to potentially improve weightlifting performance. Note, that the below accessory exercises have been selected based upon three important factors:

  1. Ability to mimic and transfer as close as possible to either the snatch or jerk.
  2. Ability to promote muscular development, shoulder stabilization, and/or enhance total body awareness while pressing/stabilizing.
  3. Ability to train large muscle groups at once safely, and effectively using moderate-heavy loading and volume.

Push Presses

  • Similar timing phase in jerk
  • Vertical dip and drive as jerk

The push press is a staple for upper body power and strength. The push press promotes shoulder, upper back, and tricep strength. Additionally, the push press allows lifters to integrate similiar dip and drive mechanics and timing to better carry over to power, push, and split jerks.

Behind the Neck Strict Press and Push Press

  • Practical patterning for snatch movements
  • Ability to train the posterior shoulder, upper back, and traps
  • Ability to open the chest and shoulders from behind the neck positioning

The behind the neck strict press and push press variations (either perfomed with snatch or jerk grip) are great exercises to add additonal overhead volume into ones program while balanceing out the majority of front loaded pressing in weightlifting. Behind the neck movements can promote muscular development in the posterior shoulder, upper back, and traps. Additionally, behind the neck pressing variations are highly transfereable to both the jerk and snatch, while further developing sound barbell patterning and shoulder range of motion.

Strict Handstand Push Ups

  • Mimics front rack and pressing positions
  • Total body awareness and tension
  • Balance in the press

Strict handstand push ups are a great exercise to develop upper body strength, coordination, and total body tension. While in the strict hand stand push up, lifters must create a stable rack position similiar to that of the push press and jerking movements. The balanacing aspect of the movement also enforces sound movement mechanics and forces lifters to stay tight throughout the entire range of motion.


  • Tricep strength
  • Upper body mass development

This coveted upper body mass developing exercise is ideal for increasing lockout strength and mass. Promoting musclular hypertrophy allows for the body to further enhance connective tissue health and strength capacities as training continues, making dips a great way to add some extra volume to ones training.

It is important to note, however, that when done incorectly, dips may aggrivate shoulder pain/tightness, so often weightlifters will be seen performing slow, smooth, repetitions.

Turkish Get Up

  • Shoudler stabilization
  • Mobility
  • Time under tension

The Turkish get up is a great exercise to promote stabilitization and proprioception of the shoulder complex. Additionally, hip and shoulder mobilty are trained throughout this exercise to further enhance joint integrity of weightlifters (who tend to be very sagittal, meaning, joints rarely move in the transverse or frontal planes). Additioanlly, the turkish get up promotes stabilization under loading for prolonged peroids of time, which can be highly useful when saving a snatch and/or finishing a lift.

Final Words

Accessory exercises play an important role in the overall developemnt and health of a lifter. Coaches and atheltes should integrate certain exercise into training regimens to address imbalances, muscluar weaknesses, and or enhance current abilities. However, the addition of these lifts should not hinder an athlete’s ability to train the snatch, clean, jerk, and lower body strength movements (squats and pulls).

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Featured Image: @mikejdewar on Instagram