You’re dutifully hitting the gym four times a week, but how do you train your posterior chain?
The posterior chain muscles include the lower back, glutes, hamstrings and calves. Developing and strengthening this area will not only improve your strength and speed, but help balance out the generally overly dominant quadriceps muscle.
When your quads are too strong, the muscles on the front of your body tighten, stretching the opposite muscles–your glutes and hamstrings–making them longer and relatively weaker (Quad Dominance and Neck Pain in Women). And sitting at a desk all day further shortens your hip flexors.
But there are several exercises you can incorporate into your workouts to strengthen your posterior chain muscles. These include good-mornings, Romanian deadlifts, deadlifts, hip-dominant lunges, step-ups, reverse hypers and back extensions.
Back extensions are often overlooked at the gym. Try adding a medicine ball to make the exercise more challenging:
- Position your thighs prone on a 45 degree back extension machine, with your ankles secured under the padded brace and your hips (and not your abs) resting on upper pad.
- Hold a medicine ball overhead with your elbows extended.
- Lower your torso by bending at your waist until fully flexed, still holding the medicine ball overhead, elbows straight.
- Rise back to the start position so your torso is parallel to your legs, always holding the medicine ball overhead, elbows straight.
You can also hold a small weight plate (5 or 10 lbs) behind the neck to give added resistance. If you don’t have access to equipment or a gym, you can perform back extensions on a Swiss ball.
Remember power comes from the hips! In fact, three-quarters of your lower body training should be devoted to these exercises, including single-leg variations.
Why does this matter to you? Besides improving your overall strength and speed, a strong posterior chain can help stave off injuries such as hamstring and hip flexor strains as well as chronic low back pain. A well-developed posterior chain will also improve your posture–and your backside!