Do you know what your posterior chain is? Or why it’s important to train that group of muscles specifically for posture, performance, and yeah, we’ll say it – a great butt? We connected with trainer extraordinaire, Torrie Borland, to learn more.
Sit at a desk all day? It’s likely your body has become what is referred to as, “quad dominant,” due to the tightening of the hip flexors and quads while in the seated position. While these muscles tighten, the glutes and hamstrings on the opposite sides of our bodies start to become lazy. Our muscles become imbalanced and we begin to rely heavily on our quads for any exercise that involves the lower body.
If you want to gain strength, power, build a better butt and decrease pain associated with muscle imbalances, you have got to train your posterior chain.
The posterior chain refers to the muscles of the back of your body. Think hamstrings, glutes, back, calves.
Training the Posterior Chain
Below you’ll find a few compound exercises that will help you to develop a stronger, more balanced and lifted backside. If you are new to lifting, start with a weight that is comfortable for you and gradually increase the amount with each workout. The emphasis should be on form and then adding a greater workload.
Because we are trying to “wake up,” your posterior chain, you’ll want to use a range of 12-15 repetitions, a standard “anatomical adaptation” protocol for firing those muscles up. You may choose to incorporate any of these exercises into your training routine or use all four as a workout.
Muscles worked: Hamstrings, glutes, back, abs
Start from a standing position with a barbell, dumbbells or kettlebells. Hinging at the hips, lower the barbell as far as you can while maintaining a flat back (range of motion will differ for everyone depending on flexibility of the hamstrings). Ensure you keep your back flat, core tight and back engaged. Don’t let your knees cave in as you descend. Return to start position, squeezing your glutes.
Muscles worked: Back, abs
Hold a barbell with an overhand grip with a little wider than shoulder width apart. Lower your body to the starting position (your body will be slightly more than parallel to the ground by hinging your hips and keeping your core engaged). Without using momentum, and maintaining a flat back, pull the bar towards your body following a straight line just below your chest. Lower to starting position with control. Repeat. You should feel your upper back doing the work with a little bit of assistance from the biceps. If this exercise if new to you or your don’t train your back regularly, you may find it takes a couple of workouts to really feel it in your back, but stick with it! Your body will thank you!
Single-leg Kettlebell Romanian Deadlift
Muscles worked: Hamstrings, glutes, back
Start by placing two kettlebells on the floor by the front of the foot you are going to start with. From a standing position balancing on one foot, hinge from the hips, keeping your back flat to reach down and pick up the kettlebells. As you stand up, you should feel the glute of the leg you are standing on tighten and work to return to a standing position. If needed, at the top of the lift, place your foot down briefly for balance. As you return the kettlebells to the floor, you should feel a stretch in the back of your legs (hamstrings). One of the most common mistakes when doing this exercise is twisting at the waist. Use a mirror to ensure your hips are square the entire rep.
Cable Row “Sling”
Muscles worked: Glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, back, biceps
This is one of my favourites because it works the posterior “sling,” referring to one side of your lower body and the opposite side of your upper. Start with the cable pulley in your right hand. Step back with your right leg so that your left leg is doing the work. Lean slightly forward into the front leg as you lunge allowing the muscles of your hips to take most of the weight as opposed to your quads. As you stand up, row with your right arm. Perform all reps on one side and then switch.
Why Train Your Posterior Chain?
Appearance and Athleticism
Having a strong posterior chain, whether you are a professional athlete or just a frequent bootcamp attendee, will improve your overall athletic performance by improving power and speed. Train your backside and watch your body transform. Hello, booty gains!
Improved Posture and Pain Reduction
Muscles of the posterior chain that are not firing properly can contribute to poor posture. If you’re one of the many people who spin frequently, perform a lot of squats, or simply work at a sedentary desk job, you can benefit from working your posterior chain. The same applies if you are a regular lifter, but find your quads taking over the majority of your workout.
Training the posterior chain will lead to better posture especially for those who have a large curve in their lower back, anatomically known as lordosis. As your hip flexors and quads get tighter, your pelvis is pulled forward. Your butt will stick out at the expense of your lower belly protruding more than normal. The pressure that this puts on your lower back can lead to lower back pain.
By balancing the front and back of your body, lower back pain may be reduced. Knee pain is also common in those who have tightened quads. A combination of increasing hamstring and glute strength as well as stretching the quads and hip flexors can assist in reducing knee pain caused by muscle imbalances.