Top 10 Exercises to Train Your Posterior Chain and Back.

Today, we often neglect our posterior chain as we focus on the muscles that other people can see such as our abs, biceps, and chest. Also, as a society, we have shifted to a more dormant lifestyle where we remain sedentary for extended periods of time.  Sedentary behaviours include sitting in a variety of settings, for example watching television at home, looking at a laptop, driving a car etc.  These behaviour characteristic can lead to an inadequately developed posterior chain.

Unfortunately, by neglecting to develop your posterior chain (back and hamstring) it can slow down your work-out results as well as cause injuries further down the road. Your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) is largely regulated by your body muscular mass, and since your posterior chain is one of the largest muscles in your body, it can significantly increase your BMR. This will allow you to stimulate the after-burn effect.  In addition, studies have shown that by strengthening an individual’s lower back, it can prevent long term lower back pains (Elline MD De Ridder, 2013).

What is Your Posterior Chain?

Your posterior chain is composed of all the muscle in the backside (posterior) side of your body. This includes your glutes, hamstrings, calves, spinal erectors, all the muscles in your back (Lower and Upper). Essentially, it’s all the muscles in your backside that people may not see.

What is it’s Role

Your posterior chain is responsible for the stabilization of your body, hip extension and is critical for the well-being of your body. Although these muscles are hidden from the eye, they play an essential role in your body. First, they are responsible for maintaining a proper spinal position, which is how your body is being supported. A strong back helps maintain posture when you walk, run, sit and do every day activities. Your back is like a suspension bridge, the main structure is your spine but what holds it in place are your muscles and tendons (posterior chain). If you lack the proper muscular system to support your back then you can risk damaging it when you perform day to day activities.

Why is it Important?

Your posterior chain is important because it helps brace your trunk as well as help maintain a healthy posture. Your posterior chain can help in injury prevention of your back. Certain individuals who experience back pains wrongfully associate physical activity with increased pain and therefore demobilize themselves, only to further their problem. Decreased joint mobilization is associated with a decrease in muscular strength/endurance and cardiovascular fitness (David M. Carpenter, 1998). A strong back will encourage you to maintain a neutral posture. When you sit, and you slouch forward, that is a sign of an imbalance of your anterior and posterior chain. Your back helps also prevent rounded shoulders.

In addition, your back side is the biggest muscle in your body therefore, if you want to be strong and build muscle, your backside is the easiest way for you to put on muscle mass as it is the biggest muscle in your body. Exercises such as bent over row, and deadlift are essential to help you put on muscle mass.

On the other hand, if you perform certain exercises without properly activating your glute, you may end up compensating with other parts of your body that may result in other parts being overworked often resulting in injuries and a lack of performance.

What Happens if You have a Weak Posterior chain?

If you have a weak posterior chain, you may notice that you are more susceptible to lower back pains as well as other injuries that may be indirectly related to your glute activation. This can include knee injuries due to an overactive quadriceps muscle. You will also be at a higher risk or lower back and back related pains. In addition, you may notice that when you sit and/or walk your posture is more slouched forward, showing that you may have an imbalance between your anterior and posterior muscles.

What are the 10 best exercises to strengthen my posterior chain?

Body Weight Exercises

Back Extensions

Muscles Worked:

Lower back

How to Perform:

1.     Start by laying down on the floor on your stomach.

2.     Lift your arms and legs up so that they are off the floor. Hold each rep for 3 seconds then relax.

Bird dog

Muscles Worked:

Lower/Upper back

How to Perform:

1.     Start on your hands and knees with a focus on maintaining a neutral spine by squeezing your shoulder blades back, pushing your chest out and engaging your abs.

2.     Extend one arm and one leg (opposites) out while focusing on maintaining your body rigid and not moving.

3.     Bring your arm and leg back and repeat on the other side.

Pull-Ups
 

Muscles Worked:

Lower back

How to Perform:

1.     Find a chin up bar or a stationary object that can hold your body weight.

2.    Pull yourself up, envisioning bringing your chest up to the bar with as small swing as possible.

3.     Slowly lower yourself back down to your starting position.

Good Mornings
 

RDL(weighted-1).jpg
RDL-(Weighted-2).jpg

Muscles Worked:

Full Posterior Chain

How to Perform:

1.     Start by standing feet shoulder width apart. 

2.    Hinge back at the hips as you maintain a neutral spine.

3.    Bring your body back up.

Reverse Rows

Inverted_Row_F_WorkoutLabs.png

Muscles Worked:

Upper Back

How to Perform:

1.     Find a stationary object that can support you.

2.    Grab the bar facing upward and squeeze your shoulder blades back.

3.    Engaging. your core, as you pull yourself up trying to touch the bar with your chest. 

5 Resistance Posterior Chain Exercises

Single Arm Barbell Row

Muscles Worked:

Lower back

How to Perform:

1.     Start by placing one knee up on a bench while holding the weight in the other hand.

2.     Keeping your back neutral (slight arch) and ridged, pull the weight so that your elbow travels right by your side.

Deadlift

Muscles Worked

Lower back

How to Perform:

1.     This technique can be performed with dumb-bells or a bar.

2.     Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, hinge back at your hips and slowly lower down to pick up the weight.

3.     Keeping your back flat (neutral without rounding) pull the weight up.

Romanian Deadlift

Muscles Worked

Full Posterior Chain

How to Perform:

1.     Start by standing in your neutral stance (Feet shoulder width apart, back slightly arched, chest up, shoulder blades back).

2.     Hold the weight in your hand.

3.     Hinge back at the hips while keeping your back neutral.

4.     Hinge back to a point where you feel a stretch in your back, stop at this point. The difference between this movement and the deadlift is that your legs can remain a bit more straight.

Lying Overhead Dumbbell Pullover

Muscles Worked:

Lower back

How to Perform:

1.     Start by laying down on a bench. Arch your back so that it’s in a neutral position and making contact on your upper-back.

2.      Lift the dumbbell up in front of your and extend it so that its over your head.

3.     When you bring it up, focus on squeezing your latissimus dorsi muscle.

Kettle Bell Swing

Muscles Worked:

Full Posterior Chain

How to Perform:

1.     Start by picking up the kettle bell off the ground.

2.     Hinge back at your hips as you bring the kettle bell under you, just behind you between your legs.

3.     Keeping your back neutral, squeeze your glute muscle and use your glute to swing the kettle up to about your waist level.

 
References  
Chantal A. Vella, P. L. (2004, Nov 1). Exercise After-Burn: A Research Update. Retrieved July 6, 2017, from Idea Fit: http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/exercise-after-burn-0?
David M. Carpenter, B. W. (1998, May). Low Back Strengthening for Prevention and Treatment of Low Back Pain. Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, 18-24.
Elline MD De Ridder, J. O. (2013). Posterior muscle chain activity during various extension exercises: an observational study. Biomed Central, 1 - 11.
Nico Pronk, P. (2010). The Problem with Too Much Sitting. Health & Fitness Journal, 15(1), 41-43.

 

 

Mike Zhang is the founder of the FSK-12, the 12-week breakthrough program that has changed the lives of thousands of his clients using the FSK-Method. He is the 2011 TBA-SA B-Class North American Muay Thai Champion and the 2014 USMTO (National) Open Class silver medalist as well as a personal trainer with over 10 years of experience. He was team Captain at York Muay Thai in Toronto, Ontario where he helped lead and coach a team of fighters to numerous provincial and national tournaments. He was also on his college varsity track team where he represented his college at numerous national track meets. He specializes in boxing/kickboxing based work-outs to help his clients lose weight and reach their fitness goals.