Prioritizing Your Posterior Chain

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The posterior chain is the group of muscles on the posterior (back) side of the body. This group of muscles consists of the biggest and strongest muscles in the body and together they are responsible for basic moves – like sitting, standing, and picking things up – as well as explosive movements like running and jumping.  Many of our daily activities actually work against us and create weakness and imbalance in the posterior chain: driving, sitting at a computer, standing with poor posture, looking down at a cell phone, etc. Maintaining a strong posterior chain is integral to helping prevent injury to the back, protecting the knees, and undoing the imbalance that can be created by “sitting on our rears” all day.

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Below you’ll find a list of exercises and different variations of each exercise that you can incorporate into your workout to target and strengthen some of your most critical muscles for daily function.

The Squat

Squats are commonly known to work the quads, but they really emphasize the glutes and, if done correctly, activates the hamstrings. If done with heavy weight, squats can also be one of the best core exercises you can do.  

Variations: Back-weighted, front-weighted sumo, bodyweight, sit-to-stands

Daily benefits: You’ll find more ease doing things like walking, running, transitioning from sitting to standing, and climbing stairs.

The Deadlift

This exercise primarily works the glutes and muscles of the lower back, but really it hits the entire posterior chain and core.

Variations: Mid stance or sumo stance barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell “suitcase” deadlifts

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Daily benefits: You’ll have an easier time picking things up as well as activating the glutes and core first in all movements.

Stiff-Leg Deadlift or Good Mornings

Stiff-leg deadlifts work the hamstrings, glutes and muscles of the lower back. Form is key on this move, so you should aim to perfect your form before attempting to add weight to the exercise.

Variations: Bodyweight, barbell, kettlebell, 1-leg

Lat Pulldown or Pull up

Primarily works the latissimus dorsi and rear delt muscles.

Variations: Cable, machine, or resistance bands

Daily benefits:  This exercise results in improved posture, improved ability to pull and lift, and the look of a smaller waistline.

Rear Delt Pull or Fly

Primarily works the posterior deltoid muscles (which are found in the back of the shoulder).

Variations: Dumbbell, machine, resistance bands

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Hip Bridge

The hip bridge is among the most simple of moves you can use to strengthen your glutes and hamstrings.

Variations: Bodyweight, plate loaded, barbell loaded (hip thrust)

Daily benefits: This exercise really trains you to be able to activate the glute muscles. It also improves your ability to extend (or open) the hips, which is beneficial for any activity involving walking or running.


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