Articles  >  Weightlifting Program Design
Bodybuilding Accessory Work for Weightlifters
Greg Everett
July 11 2016

Pretty commonly we get questions about incorporating bodybuilding work into weightlifting training programs—whether or not it’s necessary or beneficial, and if so, how to do it. Around here we call it beach work (like my coach Mike Burgener did) or flexercise, and I do incorporate it into some of my lifters’ programs at times. Following are my rationale and some guidelines.
When & Why
There are a few reasons to use beach work for lifters. The most obvious is when a lifter needs to gain some weight—this is a way to get some more volume in that encourages hypertrophy from the additional food instead of chub. Earlier in a training cycle (during the preparation phase, far out from competition), a little bodybuilding work is good for pretty much every lifter as long as they can manage the additional work in terms of energy and time. In these cases, it’s for general “fitness”—body composition, joint conditioning and stabilization (higher-reps and lower weight improve tendon strength), and yes, aesthetics for some (like has been said many times, if you look good, you feel good, and if you feel good, you play well). Bodybuilding work is reduced considerably as a lifter approaches a competition, and I’ll usually eliminate it completely at least 1-2 weeks out.
First of all, remember that you’re a weightlifter, not a bodybuilder, and train accordingly. If you’re a bodybuilder who wants to do some snatches and clean & jerks, it’s a totally different game.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that this is accessory work—it is not even close to the most important training you’re doing. This means making sure you have a sensible training program to begin with that you can then add beach work to with minimal modifications if any. If you have to completely reconstruct your weightlifting program, you’re going overboard.

One day per week for each bodypart or type of movement (e.g. upper body pressing or pulling) is plenty. Again, we’re not going for our pro cards and a Mr. Olympia invitation, just to not look like a runner.

Schedule movements or body parts that coincide with what you’re doing on a given day in your weightlifting work. For example, a training session with jerks is a good day to do upper body pressing beach work. Along the same lines, be careful about scheduling beach work in a way that conflicts with upcoming weightlifting training—for example, if you have a tough snatch workout on Wednesday, don’t completely blast your delts and tris on Tuesday before so you’re unable to snatch well or even get hurt

Form & Function
Of course because you’re a weightlifter, function is your top priority—specifically, your ability to snatch and clean & jerk as much as possible. Don’t lose track of this when you’re gazing into a mirror watching your guns swell. Choose your beach exercises wisely—avoid ones that have the potential to interfere with mobility or weightlifting-specific function, and as much as possible select ones that reinforce your weightlifting performance.

Range of Motion
Often bodybuilders will work through limited ranges of motion to maintain tension on the working muscles throughout the set and do more damage and incur more #gainz. However, as a weightlifter, this creates a few problems. First, you need to be able to lock out your joints well—in terms of mobility, stability and strength. Second, limited range of motion reduces the tendon strengthening benefits of such higher-rep, lower-intensity training. And finally, limited ranges of motion can encourage tendinitis. Train a strong, complete lockout

Bodybuilders will often also use slow tempos to create more tension and time under said tension. Slow eccentrics are fine, and can be beneficial for growth, but always perform your concentric movements with maximal speed. This is especially true when it comes to pressing movements (doing curls slowly won’t make much of a difference) and leg work.

Rest Periods
Just like with normal bodybuilding, use short rest periods—usually 60-90 seconds or so. Incomplete recovery will help create more damage, which means more growth.

Stick with higher reps—usually in the 8-15 range.

Use 3-5 sets of 1-3 exercises per movement group per day—something around 50-150 total reps or so. Start on the lower end and work up over time.

Vary your exercises frequently. Remember that beach work has little to do with gaining strength, which can benefit from continued exposure to the same or similar lifts over longer periods of time, and more to do with causing damage to the muscles—changing exercises is a good way to accomplish this. You should also be varying rep numbers, and of course increasing weights with any given exercise over time.
Finally, keep in mind that if you’re someone who is able to get really muscular… you probably already are. If you’re not, don’t expect to throw in a little beach work a few days a week along with some protein powder and look like Ronnie Coleman by the time beach season rolls around. Work with what you’ve got, and if someone gives you shit about how you look, remind them you’re a weightlifter and it doesn’t matter.

See this for sample training
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Gary Echternacht
July 11 2016
Excellent article. I call them remedial exercises, taking about 15 minutes at the end of training. Did them as a young man, middle age man, and now as an old man. In my old age I've also found light bodybuilding a great rehab and recovery method, in no way to be confused with real bodybuilding
July 12 2016
Great article! I learned this the hard way, with a shoulder injury. After going through the Bulletproff Shouler program I've targeted weak areas and now backing to snatching close to my max! Yay! I'll keep them in my programing for now.
July 14 2016
I consider myself a Weightlifter/Power lifter /Body builder, again you are wrong !! Doing body building exercise will make you very strong if you use heavy weight , at a body weight of 155 in 1975 I could curl 210 X3 from my body building exercises ands help from Bob Hoffman and John Grimek and I did a lot of one arm pullups just the other day at the age of 62 I curled 100 lbs for 20 reps then did 340 pushups , I don't know about you guys but I think I am little strong and mildly fit !!! My goal is 500 pushups in one work out and I am pretty sure I can accomplish that in todays workout , yep those body building and power lifting exercises really make you wimpy!! Just ask Jack Lalane if he was still alive !!!
First, the article doesn't say you can't get strong with bodybuilding exercises. That said, strength is very specific to movements. You can curl a house, but that doesn't mean you can squat or clean & jerk a toothpick. Competitive weightlifters have no need for a huge curl--that exercise serves a different purpose. You clearly have different goals.

Second, are you really going to argue that you can get just as strong (in a general, whole-body, athletic sense) with bodybuilding exercises like curls and dumbbell flyes as you can with squats, presses and pulls? You might as well tell us the earth is flat.

Third, strength is the ability to produce force... doing 340-500 push-ups is so far outside the realm of high force production that to call it a demonstration of strength is categorically nonsensical. Even strength-endurance would be a stretch of terminology in that case.

Finally, yes, it sounds to me like you're in great shape and that you love curls and push-ups... and none of those things is making you a great weightlifter, and apparently not helping your mood, personality or reading comprehension much either. I'm not sure if you hate us specifically for some unknown reason, or are just generally an angry guy, but please continue training in whatever manner you enjoy and stop by here with your comments any time you'd like to provide a little comedy for the rest of us.

Greg Everett
July 14 2016
It's been a while since I've read BB articles but isn't the notion that damage = growth at the least misleading?
Thanks for the article regardless.
Daniel Hewitt
July 14 2016
Love this article. As someone who started in bodybuilding and found weightlifting later, I found combining the two worked very well as long as you pick mostly accessories that transfer to weightlifting.
A great split Mon, Wed, Fri do weightlifting.
Other Days Bodybuilding
3 sets of 8-10 (once you can do ten, add weight)

Only putting this here cause someone asked (this is what *I* do)
Tues Push (Barbell Bench, Barbell Incline Bench, Dumbbell Incline Press, Skull Crusher and Overhead Triceps Press)

Thurs (Conventional Deadlift, Weighted Wide Grip Pullup, Pendlay Rows, Barbell Curls, Preacher Curls)

Weekends of or a Saturday Weightlifting session. I NEVER do bodybuilding for leg day. We get plenty of Legs and Butt from weightlifting.
Good example of a routine. Thanks. I'll be following up with some samples in another article.

Greg Everett
July 14 2019
What is beach work? Don’t know if that’s a west coast term but it’s not something you can look up lol
David - Beack work or "beack body work" basically refers exercises such as curls; presses; Bench press; incline Bench press; DB/BB rows. etc.

Alyssa Sulay