As the name suggests, the posterior chain is made up muscles found on the posterior side of our body, mainly the gluteals, hamstrings and lower back but also the calfs, erector spinae and latissimus dorsi muscles. Although a lot of people train these muscles for aesthetic reasons, and why not, their function is by far a much bigger reason as to why you need to get them strong.
The muscles of the posterior chain are very important both in carrying out day to day activities such as walking, sitting and going up the stairs but also in the sporting environment such as running, sprinting and jumping as well as lifting heavy. Furthermore, since the glutes and hamstring groups are some of the largest muscle groups in our body, they will have a big effect on how well and efficiently we move and perform certain activities.
Thus, having a strong posterior chain will not only make you perform better but also make you less prone to injury especially in the lower back, hip and knee areas. As we have discussed in previous blogs, a sedentary lifestyle or job make all of the muscles mentioned above weaker and deactivated further increasing the chance of pains and aches.
So how should we train the posterior chain? There are a number of exercises that one can use to strengthen the muscles of the posterior chain mainly primary exercises in which you are using multiple joints and muscle groups and assistant or accessory exercises where you are isolating one muscle group of muscles.
The main primary exercises that we need to train are squats, deadlifts, romanian deadlifts and barbell hip thrust. All of these movements use a hip hinge (some more than others) which is probably one of the most important movements that somebody is able to do.
This is because when you learn how to hinge there is less chance of putting unnecessary load and forces through the knee joint. Accessory exercises to include in your programme include single leg romanian deadlifts, hamstring curls, single leg hip thrust, back extensions and Bulgarian split squats. You can perform all of these exercises with various equipment such as dumbbells, kettlebells and barbells and there are also loads of different variations that one can use.
Start by learning how to do these exercises and when you are comfortable, start loading these movement patterns to increase your strength and resilience. You can learn how to do most of these exercises in the same block of training but make sure that there is always a squat, deadlift, hinge, hamstring as well as a spinal exercise and if possible and split leg exercise as well while mixing it up between bilateral and unilateral exercises.