Building Posterior Chain Strength

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So what exactly is the posterior chain? Its only one of the most important sets of muscles you have and run right up the back of your body including the lower back, the glutes, the hamstrings, and also the calves. Unfortunately the Posterior Chain is all to often neglected, why? Simply because none of them are mirror muscles. This is not only a shame but it can lead to various aches and pains plus a poor posture. Once you start stregthening the Posterior Chain you can expect:

  • Faster Running Times
  • Lower Back Pain Banished
  • Improved Posture
  • Easier to Stand for long periods

I first came across the posterior chain a few years back when getting into crossfit as a lot of their workouts are based around strengthening the rear set of muscles as they correlate directly with improved athletic performance. So lets have a look at some of the best Posterior Chain Movements.

KettleBell Swings

KettleBell swings are awesome they not only work the front muscles like shoulders, chest and biceps but give your lower back, hamstrings and hips a really good workout.

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Lance Armstrong was using KettleBell swings as preparation for his recent 3rd place in the Tour De France and it seemed to do him pretty well, improving his rear body strength and endurance. When doing KettleBell swings I would suggest going lighter with good form for about 20-30 reps per set this is the best way to train the lower back as they can be a delicate set of muscles when first trained so take it easy, nail the form and don’t strain.

Deadlifts

The grand daddy of exercises and probably the most effective thing you can do at the gym. They are not only the best muscle building exercise but are superb for strengthening the hamstrings and lower back plus improving posture by enforcing your rear delts and traps.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0PwBezUj9A]

As with all exercises start light and nail the form. A few sets of 8-12 rep deadlifts and you will have a superb workout and really feel the soreness the next day. Its a shame that deadlifts are often neglected in the gym these days when they should be a cornerstone of weightlifting.

Glute Ham Raises

These are by no means an easy exercise and can be subbed for simple lower back extensions if you can’t so them yet. If you can though they are amazing at building your hamstrings, hips and lower back.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0oqLDZ8JcI

Again do these in fairly high reps with a light or no added weight due to your posterior chain being fairly delicate to start this will avoid any injury.

No Equipment No Problem

If you don’t have any equipment not to worry training your posterior chain can still be done easily and effectively. Check out some of these…..

  • Sprinting – This is the best natural one as it trains not only the whole body but focuses on the hamstrings and hips to propel you.
  • Swings With Anything – Basically pick something heavy instead of a Kettlebell this maybe a Log on a run or a bottle of water, just use it in place of the kettlebell.
  • Body Weight Good Mornings – As Featured Here…. Just do them with your hands clenched behind your back and keep reps high

Strengthening the Posterior Chain will not only make you feel better it will improve your performance in any sports you may participate in thanks to its role in supporting muscles. Whatever you do stay away from too much running on treadmills as they disengage and weaken the posterior chain as they allow your hanstrings, thighs and buttocks to relax while running which is very unnatural. If your going to do cardio in a gym go for the bike, cross-trainer or the stepper machine all good alternatives to outdoor running/sprinting.

Comments

  1. Greg at Live Fit says

    I call them “vanity exercises,” and its amazing how many people focus only on muscle groups they think look good in the mirror, only to miss the ones they should really be working.

    Great reminder.

    PS. Love the “posterior chain.” Never heard that one before…

  2. Craig - FatBlastZone says

    It’s a shame that so many people underestimate the power of a Deadlift – it provides so many performance enhancing benefits. I really love this post because people truly do tend to neglect this area. Thanks for sharing the videos.

  3. Rafi Bar-Lev says

    Yeah, the “rear” muscles are definitely too often neglected and a big cause of why people have aches and pains.

    A couple of other good body weight exercises are leg raises where you lay on your stomach and lift your leg backwards for 10 seconds, and of course superman’s for the lower back. Great article Chris.

    -Rafi

  4. Liam | EverythingZing says

    Before getting into personal training I had over-developed pecs, anterior deltoids and biceps – aka the “mirror muscles”. I was classically “folded in” with a weak back and poor posture. I was introduced to one exercise that changed everything – the deadlift! Couldn’t live without it in my routine now.

  5. Jeremy says

    Thanks for the ideas for working the Posterior Chain without the equipment as I do not have readily available access to this. Do you suggest doing these once a week or more often?

    Jeremy

  6. Michael says

    Great post. The posterior chain is highly under-rated. But I have one minor qualm with the recommendation about dead-lifting. You recommend sets of 8-12. Obviously form is extremely important on a lift like the dead lift but even when starting out with light-ish weights I don’t think high reps on the dead lift is commonly practiced. I’m no expert but I have always heard from credible sources that dead lifts are a low rep exercise. I don’t know the science or reasoning behind it so I can’t say definitively or confidently why but maybe that bit of advice should be re-examined.

    The back squat is also a posterior chain staple. DL and squat are the money makers.

    @ Michael> Good point with the Deadlifts I personally find them most effective when doing a few sets of 8/12 reps and then finishing with a set of heavy lifts. Thats just me though in the past I have also found 8 sets of 3 reps a great DL workout!

  7. DR says

    Awesome pic of Lance – I will be using that to motivate my cardio addicted gym buddies to come over to the dark side of the gym

    BTW, if you don’t have access to a proper Glute-Ham bench, you can do them on a pulldown machine.

    Kneel on the bench – facing backwards – lock your calves into place with the adjustable pad and get to work

    I have a video of the exercise here – http://healthhabits.wordpress.com/2008/10/01/fusion-workout-exercise-descriptions/

    You have to scroll down a little bit

  8. Rosa Coelho says

    Great post! Nice to see that you included swings.

    I completed a marathon last year in my best time dedicating only 3 days/ week to actual running. The following 2 days I had a swing and skipping routine. The swings were definitely key to keeping a strong posterior chain and maintain a strong core. While others dropped out of training due to injury of fatigue, I felt stronger than every.

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