Simply put the posterior chain is all the muscles that run along the back of you and up your spine. The calves, hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors, and to a lesser extent the traps and rear deltoids can be included to make up this muscle group.
The function of the posterior chain is to keep you upright and standing in your natural state – as comfy as it is, lying in bed isn’t your natural state! This means it has a pivotal role in everyday tasks and shows how strong functioning of it should be of utmost importance. Walking, running, carrying the shopping, picking up the remote, all these daily tasks involve a good strong functioning of the posterior chain and we haven’t even mentioned its benefits for lifting.
These muscles keep us up and moving around by transferring force from the feet and upwards, therefore these are crucial for speed and ability. Minus their everyday practical functions, anyone involved in sport, weight lifting or anything performance related (which let’s face it, you are if you’re reading this) will benefit from being stronger, faster and more agile in every plane of motion (forwards, backwards, sideways and every way in between). Stands to reason then everyone can benefit from a stronger posterior chain, whether you’re a soccer player, a MMA fighter, a tennis player or a stay-at-home mom you will benefit from specific posterior chain training.
Posterior Chain Development
If you are more concerned with your “mad aesthetics” and taking hundreds of selfies in the gym the posterior chain will no doubt have bored you. However, if you want to look bigger, broader and have an overall more powerful, thick look to your physique then you should put just as much importance into training your posterior chain as your “show muscles”. Not only can training just the front side of your body – think of those who are always training their chest and biceps – make you look smaller but it can also lead to lots of postural problems.
This leads us onto the most important benefit of training the posterior chain, and that is injury prevention. A well-developed body gives stability and along with it resistance to external forces: be that a collision in football or a being hit by a car. Muscles keep the integrity of your joints and in the case of the posterior chain think of spinal injuries and artificial hips. Yep. Serious stuff. This is why it is imperative to train your posterior chain.
Posterior Chain Exercises
Now we know why training the posterior chain is important to anyone from a regular gym goer, a sportsman or even for someone who’s definition of a workout is carrying the groceries from the store to the car. Which exercises should we look to include in our workouts to help strengthen and develop the posterior chain. Here’s just some of them
1. Dumbbell or band leg curls
2. Barbell hip thrust
3. Deadlift or trap bar deadlift
4. (Banded-) Good morning
5. Romanian deadlift (RDL)
6. (Band/cable) explosive pull-through
7. Bent-over barbell row
8. Bulgarian split squat with dumbbells
9. Prowler drags and pushes
10. Kettlebell (KB) snatches (and/or lunges)
11. KB deadlifts/KB RDL
12. KB swings
13. Straight leg incline hip thrusts
14. Glute-ham raise
15. Stability ball leg curl
16. Pull ups
18. (Reverse-) hyperextensions/back raises
19. One-legged squats (pistol squats)
Posterior Chain Workout
- Deadlift or Trap Deadlift: 6 sets of 2 reps
- Explosive Pull Through: 6 sets of 2 reps
- Bent Over Row: 5 sets of 8 reps
- Barbell Hip Thrust: 4 sets of 5 reps
- Straight-Leg Incline Hip Thrust: 3 sets of 15-20 reps
Big compound lifts are the ones that are going to create strength, improve athletic performance, and the amount you can squat/deadlift the most. Because of this we have the sets high and reps low. The more accessory/hypertrophy-based exercises are, the more reps/less sets are required.
An important note to make with this workout is it merely serves as a guide of what a posterior chain-based workout COULD look like. This is why it is important to go with exercises that suit you and your body type.
Now you’re armed with the exercises and a workout to go with it, give your chest and biceps a rest, become bigger, stronger, faster and less vulnerable to injury by training your posterior chain. Your body will thank you for it.