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Weightlifting Accessories Program | Exercises to Do with Your Accessories

Jan 15, 2019

As you begin the new year amp up your routine with the right weightlifting accessories program.

Explore the many exercises you can now do more safely and easily with the help of Dark Iron Fitness’s highly-rated weightlifting accessories.

These are just some of the most basic, tried and true exercises.

We will, however, in a 2 part series, showcase some unique exercises we’ve used (and customers have recommended).

Enjoy the programs listed, as the options can truly be endless.

But remember, always practice safe lifting and don’t start any program without consulting your general practitioner first!

Weightlifting Accessories Program: Barbell Neck Pads

Weightlifting Accessories Program - Dark Iron neck pads

We all know that squatting has many benefits and it should be included in any workout regimen.

But many people don’t squat for various reasons–more often than not it’s due to back and shoulder pain.

Slipping the right barbell pad around the heavy bar will easily solve this issue.

The 5-star Dark Iron Fitness barbell neck pad has enough padding to provide excellent cushioning but not so much that it prevents you from keeping the bar positioned close to your body.

It cushions the neck, shoulders , nd thighs against the Olympic bar during squats, lunges & hip thrusts.

Unlike other bulky barbell pads, these won’t push your head and neck forward.

These barbell neck pads are one weightlifting accessory that will allow you to focus on your form and forget about the pain.

Below are some of the exercises you can do with your weightlifting accessory, the barbell neck pad!


Weightlifting Accessories Program 1: The Barbell Hip Thrust with BenchWeightlifting Accessories Program - Barbell hip thrust

This exercise increases strength and power in the hamstrings and glutes.

It also improves stability throughout the core and lower back.

  1. Lie with your upper back supported on a bench, and your feet firmly on the floor in front of you.
  2. Hold a barbell, cushioned by a neck pad, across your hips.
  3. Slowly lower your hips so your glutes almost touch the floor.
  4. Press through your heels as you squeeze your glutes, return the barbell to the start position.

Remember to push through the heels, not the ball of the foot.

Squeeze the glutes as you pause for a second at the top.

Do not hyperextend your neck—hold your head in place.


Weightlifting Accessories Program 2: Barbell Lunges

Weightlifting Accessories Program - barbell lunge

For safety reasons, this exercise should be done inside a squat rack.

  1. Center the neck pad on the bar and set the loaded bar on a rack just below shoulder level.
  2. Step under the bar and place the back of your shoulders (slightly below the neck) underneath it.
  3. Firmly grasp the bar using both arms at each side and lift it off the rack as you push with your legs and straighten your torso.
  4. Step forward and away from the rack with your right leg and squat down through your hips.
  5. Keep the torso upright and maintain your balance. Inhale as you go down.
  6. Do not let your knee go forward past your toes as you come down. This will put stress your knee joint.
  7. With your weight placed on your heel, push up and go back to the starting position as you exhale.
  8. Repeat the movement for the recommended amount of repetitions and then do the same with the left leg.

Caution: This is a movement that requires a great deal of balance.

If you have problems balancing you may wish to either avoid it or just use your own bodyweight as you hold on to a fixed object.

Do not perform this lunge with a barbell on your back if you have balance issues.


Weightlifting Accessories Program 3: One Leg Barbell Squat

  1. Weightlifting Accessories Program - woman doing one leg barbell squatWith your feet shoulder width apart, stand 2 to 3 feet in front of a flat bench with your back facing the bench.
  2. Place a barbell, with a centered neck pad, in front of you on the floor.
  3. Bend the knees, and with your hands wider than shoulder width apart, lift the barbell up until you can rest it on your chest.
  4. Then lift the barbell over your head and rest it on the base of your neck.
  5. Move one foot back so that your toe is resting on the flat bench.
  6. The other foot should be placed firmly in front of you. Look straight ahead, keep your back straight and chest out.
  7. Breathe in as you slowly lower your leg until your thigh is parallel to the floor.
  8. Your knee should be over your toes and your chest directly above the middle of your thigh.
  9. Lead with the chest and hips as you contract the quadriceps.
  10. Elevate your leg back to the starting position as you exhale.
  11. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.
  12. Switch legs and repeat the movement.

It will be difficult to maintain your balance with this exercise.

This is an advanced move and should not be done unless you are an experienced weightlifter.

Related: Different Types of Barbells

Weightlifting Accessories Program: Knee Sleeves 

Weightlifting Accessories Program - Dark Iron knee sleeves

One of the advantages of knee sleeves is the prevention of injuries and a great addition to your weightlifting accessories program.

Knee sleeves help prevent injuries by offering sufficient compression and support.

Squats rely heavily on knee movement so wearing a knee sleeve can help decrease the trauma.

Even if you’re not working out, you can still use the knee sleeves to improve blood flow.

The best knee sleeve will combine compression, warmth, comfort, durability, and price into a package that looks goods and allows you to squat more weight safely.

For knee sleeves that do all of this, check out Dark Iron Fitness’ Weightlifting Knee Sleeves for Crossfit Powerlifting and Weight Training.

Made from breathable cotton spandex with enhanced stitching for long-lasting wear.

Side stabilizers, patella holder, and adjustable straps make it easy to tighten the knee sleeves for extra support and strength.

You will have enough support to lift over 600 pounds comfortably.

The strong material is thin enough to eliminate the annoying bunching of material behind your knees when you squat.


Weightlifting Accessories Program 4: Squats

How Often does a CrossFit Athlete Squat in a Week?

Remember the intense back squat session you had on Monday?

Then Thursday’s AMRAP with thrusters? 

And don’t forget Saturday’s air squat assault!

If you had to write a number down you probably did somewhere between 300-500 squats in one week’s time.

That’s a lot of work for your knees.

CrossFitters probably benefit the most from knee sleeves that are both supportive and versatile.

For WODs, you’ll want a pair that is strong enough to provide stabilization during heavy squats, but flexible enough so you can keep them on when running or rowing.

Related: The Rules of Safe Lifting | What to Keep in Mind

Weightlifting Accessories Program: Wrist Wraps

Weightlifting Accessories Program - Dark Iron wrist wraps

Wrist wraps are often used for powerlifting and when squatting, they can also help with deadlifts and bench presses.

Wearing wrist wraps during your strength training exercises will support your wrists and reduce muscle strain.

Wrist wraps offer varying degrees of support, from super firm to flexible.

Those made from leather, like the Dark Iron Fitness wrist wraps, can last longer than cotton wraps.

The suede provides a strong, non-slip grip—even for loads over 400 pounds.

Your improved grip strength will allow you to lift more weight.

You will also be able to hold that weight for longer periods of time without worrying about your hands slipping.

Wrist wraps are a great weightlifting accessory since they help reduce strain which lessens the chance of you becoming injured as you perform more reps.


Weightlifting Accessories Program Challenge: Pushing VS Pulling Movements

Weightlifting Accessories Program - lat pulldowns

Weight lifting can be broken down into two categories: they are either pushing movements or pulling movements.

Wrist wraps can be helpful in both types of movements.

For example, bench presses are a good example of a pushing movement.

Basically, any exercise where you are pushing weights away from your body is a pushing movement.

Exercises for shoulders, triceps, and chest are all considered to be pushing movements.

 A pulling movement is usually a type of exercise that pulls weight toward you.

Think of dead-lifts (for the lower back), seated rows (for the upper back), lat pulldowns for the lateral muscles and bicep curls.

If your wrists have ever felt sore or ached, or have forearm fatigue after performing certain movements, then a wrist wrap could really provide some relief for these conditions.


Weightlifting Accessories Program Tips: When Should You Use Wrist Wraps?

There’re really no set rules as to when you should use wrist wraps.

It depends on your training style and where you could make some good gains from using wrist wraps.

There are probably some weight training exercises where you might not have thought about using a wrist strap.

Squats are usually associated with the leg muscle groups, so your main concern is getting the leg movement right.

When squatting you would probably consider strapping on some knee support before thinking of using wrist straps.

But wrist wraps can play a big part in helping you keep good form, control and balance to steady that heavy load.

Another area where wrist wraps are useful but people don’t think of using them is during bicep curls and tricep exercises.

If you normally do these with heavy free weights then you might be able to make some gains by adding this weightlifting accessory.

Support your wrists with wraps while doing bicep curls and you’ll find yourself lifting heavier and using less of your shoulders when curling.

Wrist wraps bridge the gap between a weak wrist and a strong wrist.

Now you can max out your target muscle group without worrying about whether or not your wrists are going to give out first.

Some people find that wearing wrist straps help them get back to the gym sooner while recovering from wrist discomfort.

Related: Wrist Wrap Benefits: Unwrapping My Mind Through Wrapping My Wrists

Weightlifting Accessories Program: Weightlifting Gloves

Weightlifting Accessories Program - Dark Iron weightlifting glovesWeightlifting gloves can be significantly beneficial, they will give you a better bar grip when grasping barbells and dumbbells, and reduce friction.

They can even help compensate for structural deficiencies.

Weightlifting gloves will give you overall greater confidence as you bench press and build those chest muscles.


Is Wearing Gloves While Working Out Important?

If you’re someone who wants to protect your hands, or using exercise to fight the beginnings of hand arthritis, then gloves might be for you.

Gloves will keep your hands blister free and give you better support to maintain good bench-pressing form.

They will also eliminate the bar turning in your hands due to sweaty palms

For the most support consider workout gloves that can also wrap around the wrist like the Dark Iron Fitness Weightlifting Gloves.

These gloves have a hook and loop wrap-around strip that secures for a tight fit.

This is a great way to add grip strength while reducing friction and fatigue.

Well-made workout gloves act as additional ligament and tendons when you’re bending your wrists backward during certain exercises.

Wrist injuries are serious and should not be brushed off, especially carpal tunnel syndrome.

The same way good weightlifting belts will help prevent back injury; good weightlifting gloves will decrease the chances of sustaining a wrist injury.

Related: Bench Pressing with Gloves: The Good, Bad and Best

Weightlifting Accessories Program: Leather Ankle Straps

Weightlifting Accessories Program - Dark Iron leather weightlifting ankle straps

The extreme support of the Dark Iron Fitness leather ankle straps offers a tight supporting hold so your ankles are completely protected but still flexible enough for comfort and ease of use.

If you’re looking for tighter, toned legs and to work the hips, thighs, and glutes, then ankle strap exercises are one of the best ways to do that.


Weightlifting Accessories Program To-Do: Build a Strong Core

Rather than bouncing from machine to machine at the gym you can work your entire lower body with the cable machine’s low pulley and an ankle strap attachment.

Maintaining the proper form–which means keeping your head, back, and pelvis in alignment–requires a certain amount of core strength.

If you notice your back arching during these exercises, or feel any back pain after these movements, you need to strengthen your core.

You can do this by doing more crunches, crunch twists, and planks to your program.

These movements will eventually help you get and keep the proper form when adding the cable to your routine.


Weightlifting Accessories Program 5: Ankle Strap Exercises

Exercise for the Outer Thighs


  • Stand with your side to the pulley, about an arm’s distance from the machine.
  • Attach the cuff to the ankle farthest from the pulley and place that foot just in front of the other.
  • Keep your leg fully extended as you lift the cuffed leg directly out to the side as far as you can while resisting the tension.
  • Lift and lower your leg slowly and with control.
  • Return back to starting position.


Exercise for the Inner Thighs

  • To work the inner thigh, turn so that your cuffed leg is facing the pulley.
  • Stand about arms-length from the machine.
  • Start with your straight leg directly out to your side and pull against the resistance.
  • Stop when your foot is just slightly in front of the other.
  • Lift and lower your leg slowly and with control.
  • Return to the starting position.


Toning Your Glutes

Weightlifting Accessories Program - glute exercise

  • As you’re standing facing the pulley, tighten your glute muscles and tighten your core.
  • Keep your hands on your hips or, if the machine has a bar, hold onto it for support.
  • Step back with one foot and keep your other foot in a neutral position with your leg straight.
  • Lift your straight leg behind you as you squeeze your glutes against the resistance.
  • Return to the starting position.


Hamstring Curls

When working out your hamstrings you have two options.

Depending on whether your gym’s cable machine has a low or high bar you can stand straight up or bend over.

This exercise requires support so make sure you have something to hold on to.

Both of these exercises are done facing the cable machine.

 For the Standing Curl:

Weightlifting Accessories Program - bent over curl

  • This is done with a cable machine that has a high support bar.
  • Step back with one leg while keeping your arms straight out in front of you.
  • Extend your other leg, but don’t lock your knee.
  • Your heel should be slightly off the floor with your foot in a neutral position.
  • Pull back on the cable by fully flexing your knee.

 For the Bent Over Curl:

  • This option is done on a cable machine with a low support bar.
  • Flex forward at your hips and step back on one leg so that your arms are straight.
  • The foot of your other leg should be slightly off the floor when your leg is extended.
  • Bend your knee back against the resistance while bending at your hips to bring your thigh up in front of you.

Related: How Heavy Should Ankle Weights Be? The Answer Might Shock You

Weightlifting Accessories Program: Dip Belts

Weightlifting Accessories Program - Dark Iron Fitness Dip Belt

The dip belt is a great training tool and a useful squat accessory.

It’s ideal for those with back injuries and are unable to do a barbell squat or deadlift.

Using a dip belt for lifting involves very little spinal compression while still giving legs and hips a great workout.

 Dark Iron Fitness Leather Weightlifting Dip Belt— has pillow-like padding that won’t dig into your sides or hips.

The long weight strap will hold over 270 lbs, which means you can load over 6 Olympic weight plates quickly and easily.

The heavy-duty metal buckle and adjustment strap help it fit perfectly so it won’t fall off in the middle of a set.

This sturdy, well-made leather belt is light enough to leave on between sets.


Weightlifting Accessories Program 6: Dip Belt Upper Body Movements

Change Your Grip for Pull-Ups

Changing your grip is an easy way to make the most of your pull-ups when using a dip belt.

An overhand grip will train the upper back and lats.

An underhand grip will target the biceps and middle back.


Chest Dips vs. Triceps Dips

Weightlifting Accessories Program - using dip belt

Easily change the focus of the dip exercise from your chest to your triceps by making a slight variation in your body position,

While in position on the dip stand, lean your upper body slightly forward and flare the elbows.

This will force your chest muscles to work harder to move the body.

Keeping the upper body upright with the elbows drawn inward will focus the resistance back onto the triceps. 


Weightlifting Accessories Program 7: Dip Belt Lower Body Movements

You can also use a dip belt for building the lower body.

Many people with lower back issues find it very difficult to do traditional barbell squats.

Heavy dumbbells can be an alternative but then you have to worry about your grip strength.

Dip belts are a great help because you can load up your squats and not worry about hand strength or the risks that come with traditional barbell squats.


Hip Belt Squats

If you wear a dip belt around your waist when squatting, you unload the spine and put all of the stress on your legs.

This is great for people with back or upper-body injuries who still want to squat heavy.

Back-pain sufferers often have issues with the spinal compression and shear that comes from axial loading.

This weightlifting accessory also works well for anyone with an upper extremity injury to the shoulder, elbow, wrist, or hand.

It’s also easier for your body to recover from hip belt squats.

This movement is similar to a leg press or hack squat machine, only less stressful on the spine.

It still delivers all the functional stabilization and balance benefits of a free squat.

This is a great accessory move after performing heavy barbell squats or deadlifts.


 Get a Full Range of Motion with a Dip Belt

Weightlifting Accessories Program - hip belt squats

When using a dip belt for squats you can get a full range of motion if you stand on a couple of stable steps with the plates dangling between your legs.

Now you can break parallel and have a full range of motion in your dip belt squats.

Try doing 3 to 5 sets of 15 to 20 reps with a minute rest between sets as a great finisher on leg day.

You’ll get a tremendous quad pump and burn fat like crazy.

Cable Hip Belt Squats

You’ll need a cable station and a belt.

  1. Attach the belt to a low cable, walk back about ten feet, and begin squatting.
  2. Remember to consciously grip the floor with your toes and push back throughout the set so you don’t get pulled back in by the cable.

The cable keeps constant tension on the quads, even at the top of the rep.

The cable also helps maintain good squatting technique because you have to keep an upright torso with your weight on your heels otherwise, you’ll lose your balance and fall forward.

These are like reverse sled drags in the way they burned your quads from pushing backward.

You’re basically doing that throughout the movement, plus squatting.

This move can be done alone, there’s no need for risers, and you can choose the stance width that works best for you.

Remember that you won’t be able to use as much weight for this exercise as you would for other hip belt squat variations.


 “Straddle” Hip Belt Squats

Weightlifting Accessories Program - straddle hip belt squat

For this exercise, you will need a barbell, a dip belt, a carabineer, and something to secure one end of the barbell.

You can also just jam one end of the barbell into a corner and put a heavy dumbbell on top of it, or have someone stand on it.

The setup is very similar to old-school T-bar rows, only you’re squatting instead of rowing.

With one end of a barbell securely held down, attach a belt to the other end of the barbell and start squatting.

Use 25-pound plates for a greater range of motion.

This method works the same as a loading pin and risers in that you can use bigger loads.

You just don’t have the hassle of getting in and out of position.

The use of the barbell is much more comfortable since you don’t have the weight dangling between your legs.

This also allows you to sit back farther and keep your torso more upright.

The arc of the barbell makes you push back slightly on each rep, which really works the quads like the cable version.

Related: Unique Ways to Use Your Dip Belt

Final Thoughts for a Proper Weightlifting Accessories Program

If adding wrist wraps, ankle straps, or a dip belt to your gym bag can help you achieve some PRs and make that time you spend at the gym more worthwhile, then isn’t it time to invest in some quality accessories of your own?

Lastly, to learn more about our most important weightlifting accessory, check out our weightlifting belt HERE.

See it in action, below!

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