How strong and powerful is your posterior chain? The posterior chain refers to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that make up the back of your body. These are the muscles you can’t see when you look in the mirror, yet they’re important for performance when you train and for avoiding injury.
Some of the muscles in your posterior chain include the trapezius muscles in your upper back, the posterior deltoids, the large latissimus dorsi muscles, the erector spinae muscle group, biceps femoris (part of your hamstrings), and the gluteus maximus. Why is it so important that these muscles be strong?
The muscles that make up the posterior chain help generate the power you need to run fast, jump high, and do it safely. These muscles also give your body stability you need to avoid injury. All the muscles, ligaments, and tendons work together to perform the function of stabilization and power generation. If one is weak, it can impact the entire chain and lead to mobility and stability problems.
The muscles that make up your posterior chain are also important postural muscles. For example, strong lats counter the tendency of your head and shoulders to fall forward. This syndrome, called hyperkyphosis creates a rounded back posture and, potentially, upper back and neck discomfort. One reason people develop this type of posture is that they sit too much with their head bent over and slouch in front of a computer or desk. Strong lats help counter this tendency and restore a healthier, more back and neck-friendly posture.
You work the muscles in your posterior chain when you do a variety of exercises, but certain exercises are particularly beneficial for strengthening a weak posterior chain. Here are some to include in your routine.
Few exercises work as many muscle groups simultaneously as deadlifts and the muscles they hit hardest are the ones that make up the posterior chain, particularly the glutes and hamstrings. Although any deadlift will activate these muscles, a single-leg deadlift is particularly effective for strengthening the posterior chain.
Although you can do a single-leg deadlift with a standard barbell, the movement is easier with a trap bar. Using a trap bar helps keep constant tension on the glutes and hamstrings throughout the movement since the bar makes it harder to relax the tension at the top. Include a variety of deadlift variations in your routine as they all work these important muscles.
This exercise is excellent for strengthening the posterior chain but approach it with caution if you have a history of back pain. This is a movement where you bend at the hips with a barbell on your shoulders until your torso is almost parallel to the floor. When you reach the bottom of the movement when your torso approaches parallel, it places stress on your back. That’s why it’s safest to stop short of parallel, about 15 to 20 degrees before your body is parallel to the floor. But if you do it correctly, starting with a light barbell, it will activate all the muscles in the posterior chain and over time, they will become stronger.
Make sure you’ve mastered basic compound exercises like deadlifts and squats before attempting good mornings. If you don’t have a barbell, hold a dumbbell in a horizontal position against your chest using a hand on each side to secure it. This is actually a safer approach for beginners.
Turkish Get-Ups is a tough exercise but with challenge comes change. It’s an exercise that works multiple muscles, including those in your posterior chain, in a functional manner. It’s a rather complex movement, so it’s best to watch a video to learn how to do the movement correctly. It’s a good exercise to master not only for building posterior strength but for developing greater coordination and balance. This movement has a long history. Supposedly, it was developed by ancient Turkish wrestlers as a way to get them ready for tough competitions!
Not everyone can do a pull-up, but everyone can work up to doing one. If you can’t execute a pull-up, start by doing assisted ones. There are few pulling exercises more effective at building strength in your shoulders and lats, two important muscle groups in the upper posterior chain. But your core muscles will also become stronger since they’re forced to stabilize when you pull your body up.
What if you can’t do a single pull-up yet? Doing assisted pull-ups is one alternative, but you can also start by doing body weight rows. This is an exercise where you lie underneath a bar and pull your chest up toward the bar. They’re an ideal exercise for training to do pull-ups because they work the same muscles that pull-ups do, only at a different angle. Once you’ve mastered a bodyweight row, start working toward doing your first unassisted pull-up.
Kettlebells swings are a dynamic movement that generates power via the hip hinge, a move we all should master. The explosiveness of a kettlebell swing is ideal for building strength and power in the glutes and hamstrings, both part of the posterior chain. Like the deadlift, a kettlebell swing works multiple muscle groups with each repetition. But your upper back, neck, and shoulder muscles stabilize the kettlebell at the top of the movement. So, they get a workout too. Plus, kettlebell swings are a good calorie burner due to the dynamic nature of the movement.
Start swinging with a lighter kettlebell until you’ve mastered the form. You can generate more velocity with a lighter bell. Gradually increase the weight of the kettlebell to strengthen the posterior chain more but do the movement judiciously without sacrificing form for weight. Work on mastering the hip hinge, as it will help you when you do other lower body exercises, like deadlifts and squats.
The Bottom Line
If you want a stronger posterior chain and the benefits that go with it, add these five exercises to your training routine. Keep those muscles strong, so you can train your best and do it safely.
· PeakFitness.com. “Turkish Get-Up: Secrets Revealed of Old-Time Strongmen”
· FCA Convention Speaker 2016. “Why You Should Properly Train the Posterior Chain”
Related Articles By Cathe: