Why is the Posterior Chain Important?
The 7 Best Posterior Chain Exercises You Can Do
I have seen so many guys working out in gyms over the years and they all do the same things….
They work out the muscles they can see, the mirror muscles.
Now thats all well and good, but if you are going to do that you are gonna miss out on some big ass size and strength gains and probably cripple yourself with muscle imbalances and injuries.
You gotta work the posterior chain!
The posterior chain are the muscles that cover the back of your body – Upper, mid and lower back, glutes, hamstrings and calves.
They make up some of the largest muscle groups on your body and any exercise that works them will give you a huge advantage in strength and power.
Because they are overlooked they stay small and it shows. Strengthening these muscles not only gives you a bigger overall size and better strength development, but it also brings up lifts such as the squat and bench press.
Lets just say there are far too many guys n gals who skip a leg day because it is too damn hard!
Lets just see why this is important shall we?
Firstly in this modern world we live increasing sedentary lives, we sit down way too much, in front of the TV, to eat, to drive to work, then sit behind a desk at work. Damn basically most of the day!
Our posture becomes poor, we hunch forwards all day in these positions then we head to the gym to train the very same mirror muscles, the Chest, shoulders and arms, the very things that are tight and what puts the posterior muscles in an even weaker position.
This will eventually lead to imbalances, weaknesses and injuries.
The key to all of this is balance, with even more emphasis on the posterior muscles, in fact to redress the balance you should look at doing 2 posterior chain exercises to each anterior chain muscle.
So strengthening your posterior chain will improve your strength and all of your lifts, reduce the risk of injuries and will create a rock hard set of glutes.
Sounds like a win/win to me!
So here are my favourite top 7 exercises for the posterior Chain
1) Dead lifts
You cannot get away from the fact the the deadlift is probably THE best posterior chain exercise, it simply rocks! I love it and it kicks my ass regularly. There is simply nothing better than lifting a big weight off the floor especially with correct form. It nails so main muscles including the entire back, hamstrings and glutes as well as hitting the core muscles hard. Make sure you perform this correctly. Best way to tell is if those muscles aren’t hurting you with DOMS the next day, you are either doing it wrong or you already have imbalances that need addressing!
2) Hip Thrusts
This is a glute exercise and is excellent for improving strength, speed and power. Remember the glutes are key in many sports and they cannot be neglected. The Hip thrust hits them perfectly. If your glutes are underdeveloped, your speed, power and strength are all compromised.
You can improve, strength, size and appearance of you butt, increase sports performance such as speed and acceleration of your sprints. Increase squat and deadlifts and improve overall movement as weak glutes can influence mobility in your ankle, knee, hip, pelvis and lower back.
3) Glute Ham Raise
I GHR machine is something you rarely see in commercial gyms. In my opinion they are highly underrated and are a brilliant piece of kit and a great way to hit the glutes and hamstrings as well as your calves and lower back. you can even look at making your own and utilising your own body weight. This exercise will definitely increase your squat, deadlift allowing you to run faster and jump higher.
4) Hill Sprinting
Sprinting has always developed great glutes and hamstrings, assuming your glutes are switched on and working that is. Sitting on your butt all day is a sure fired way to tell your body to switch them off due to lack of use. This can result in other muscles taking on the the role, which can lead to imbalances and dysfunction. if in doubt, see a good physical therapist to make sure your body is firing on all cylinders.
Anyway I digress. Sprinting up a hill places great emphasis on your glutes and hamstrings, but unlike flat sprints lessens the chance of hamstring pulls as you cannot go all out up a hill. For more info on how to set up a hill sprinting session, see my post here
5) Kettlebell swings
Kettlebells are a fantastic tool for increased strength and conditioning and also happen to be great at hitting the posterior chain. The swing is a perfect example of this. Done with correct form they hit the glutes hard. You soon know if you are doing them right as your lower back will let you know if you don’t. It is important to know that the swing is instigated by a thrust from the hips, literally driving the arms forwards with the thighs. Lifting before the thrust will place the emphasis on the lower back. The other important thing is not to squat, you hip hinge backwards, slightly bending the legs then use the glutes to drive forwards and lock out with a squeeze.
6) Romanian Deadlifts
Ok its a dead lift, but I think it is different enough to be mentioned separately to the traditional version. Why? Because it hits parts of the posterior chain differently, by that I mean it places more emphasis on the hamstrings. What is key here is the execution, which can easily be screwed up. You also start this lift fully erect off a rack instead of from the floor. Other critical factors are proper alignment of the head and neck, chin tucked in and neck in neutral alignment, chest out, lower back in slight lordosis, knees bent at 15-20 degrees from the start and feet pointing forward but no more that 15 degrees out.
7) Bulgarian Split Squats
Man I love to hate these. I hate them when I do them, but love the results they give and since it is all about the results, they get a mention here. Bulgarian split squats are an excellent exercise. The key to these is the set up position and determining how far you need to stand from the bench/box or whatever you are using to balance your rear foot on. Too far forwards or back can cause pain in the knee or groin. It takes some trial and error to get it right.
Starting out I would recommend body weight and from the bottom position to help develop the correct movement pattern. From there you can use a dumbbell in a goblet hold, then a dumbbell in each hand. You can even use kettlebells, weight vest, chains or even a barbell. The options are many, but progress sensibly 🙂
So there you have it. The posterior chain is immense in strength development, but it is also important to remember that you have to train all muscles to prevent imbalances and injury. It should never be neglected, in fact it should be embraced. So next time you are at the gym make sure you stick some of these posterior chain exercises in 🙂
For help on any aspect of your training feel free to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. we run personalised training programs online and would love to help you.
to your strength and health