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When should I be doing accessory work? Does the timing largely depend on me, or is there a conventional/preferred time to do them?

Should I stick it at the end of a workout day after the core lifts are completed?

Can I do some of it at the beginning and some of it the end and then do the core lifts in the middle?

Should I be doing them on a separate day?

Does it matter that much?

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All in all, I'd say it doesn't matter too much, as long as you get them done.

If you place them before your compound movements, they will provide a good warmup so that when you jump into the squat rack, you're properly warmed up, and there is less risk of injury. However if you went hard on the accessories, you might have to sacrifice some plates. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Squatting on already tired quads and glutes is beneficial in its own right.

If you place them after the compound movements, you will help further break down muscle fibre, and that is what we want, after all.

If you place them on a different day, you get a chance to have two anabolic states per week, which is also worth keeping in mind.

It all boils down to preference, and when in doubt, vary! Try each method for, say, 3 months and track your progress and general feeling, and see what you prefer.

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I'm not saying I can back this up with strong direct evidence, but doing things in any order other than

  1. Primary heavy compound core lifts
  2. Accessory work

...feels insane and wrong to me. So yes, I feel there's a convention, and that is to put the important stuff first (after a general warm-up and specific warm-up, of course) and the accessory stuff after.

If you do accessory work first, then it kind of stops being accessory work. The first (non-warm-up) exercise you do in a workout is generally what you spend the most focus and energy on, and it's what improves fastest during recovery, so you're making that your core lift. As the saying goes, "don't major in the minors". Do the core lifts then the accessories, unless you really want to try focusing on, say, pull-ups rather than barbell squats. Which you can do!

(Caveat: it's also possible to do separate workouts, often made to be less intense, to get accessory work in. These can be morning workouts that are part stretching and warm-up but also part calisthenics, or it could be a calisthenics-only workout at your regular workout time but not using the heavy lifts, and so on. A circuit format is best to avoid making the first exercise your core movement, unless that's what you want.)

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