Strength & Conditioning

6 Best Posterior Chain Exercises To Boost Explosive Strength

posterior chain exercises

Neglecting your posterior chain muscles when you workout can be a common oversight, leading to muscle and strength imbalances and even puts you at a greater risk of injury.

A weak posterior chain typically affects those who lead a more sedentary lifestyle and spend a lot of their day sitting.  When you do this for long periods, this can cause the muscles to weaken and become inactive.

However, by engaging in dedicated posterior chain exercises you can target and strengthen this crucial muscle group.

What Is The Posterior Chain?

The posterior chain is a large group of muscles that extend down the back of your body, spanning both the upper and lower regions.

posterior-chain-muscles

The primary posterior chain muscles consist of your calves, glutes, hamstrings and spinal erectors but also include several muscles of your upper back; namely your latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and rhomboids.

Collectively, these muscles are very powerful and it’s important to keep them strong and well developed.

What Are The Benefits Of A Strong Posterior Chain?

By working to strengthen your posterior chain muscles, you could enjoy the following benefits:

1. Better Posture

A strong posterior chain can help to maintain proper alignment of your spine. This can prevent you from slouching or rounding your shoulders, leading to better overall posture and minimizing the chance of developing lower back pain

2. Improved Stability & Balance

Your posterior chain muscles play an important role in providing stability and balance, especially during movements that involve shifting your weight. When they’re strong this can enhance your overall bodily coordination, reducing the risk of falls or accidents.

3. Increased Power & Speed

When your posterior chain is strong this contributes to greater force production, allowing you to generate more power and speed in movements such as running, jumping, and lifting weights. This translates to improved athletic performance and functional abilities.

4. Reduced Risk Of Injury

Strengthening the muscles of the posterior chain, particularly your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back, can help to stabilize your spine and pelvis, reducing the risk of common injuries such as strains, sprains, and lower back pain, especially during dynamic movements and heavy lifting.

What Are The Best Posterior Chain Exercises?

There are many different exercises that you can do to target your posterior chain but below are some of the most effective for isolating this big groups of muscles.

Squatting is an excellent compound movement which targets much of the lower body and, in respect of the posterior chain, can effectively work the glutes and hamstrings. 

squat posterior chain exercise

What’s more, the lower back muscles, including your spinal erectors, engage to stabilize the spine and maintain proper posture throughout the squatting motion.

The squat’s emphasis on hip extension and knee flexion places significant demand on these posterior chain muscles, making it an effective exercise for strengthening and developing this muscle group.

Different Squat Variations

Bodyweight Squats – start with these if you’re a beginner as this can help you perfect your squat form before adding resistance.

Front Squats – this is a good variation to try if you find your lower back rounding as you descend into the squat. By holding a barbell in front of your upper chest will encourage you to remain more upright therefore putting more emphasis onto your quads.

Back Squats – this is by far the most technically demanding and challenging of the squat variations. Get your form right before you attempt doing squat with a loaded barbell.

2. Deadlift

Deadlifts are a compound exercise that recruits multiple muscles simultaneously, with a particular emphasis on your posterior chain.

deadlift posterior chain exercise

As you pull the barbell from the ground, your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles work together to extend the hips and straighten your upper body. Your glutes play a big part in driving the movement, while the hamstrings provide assistance in hip extension. Your lower back muscles come into play to stabilize the spine throughout the lift.

Different Deadlift Variations

Romanian Deadlift – this variation, sometimes called the RDL, involves a close together foot position with toes pointing forwards. You don’t need to lower the barbell all the way to the ground making it a great way of firing up your glute muscles. It’s usually performed with a lighter weight and to a higher rep range.

Sumo Deadlift – the sumo deadlift requires you to position your feet as wide as possible with toes pointing out. This targets more of your inner thigh muscles. Because it involves a smaller range of motion, it can be easier to do.

Conventional Deadlift – this variation is the most common among powerlifters. It’s all about lifting as heavy as possible, with the emphasis being on power and strength. As with the squat, it’s a technical exercise that requires good form before moving to a heavy barbell.

3. Barbell Hip Thrusts

Hip thrusts are a great way of targeting your glutes, with secondary involvement of the hamstrings and lower back. As you lift your hips towards the ceiling, the glutes contract concentrically to extend the hips, while the hamstrings provide assistance in hip extension.

hip thrust posterior chain exercise

The lower back muscles stabilize the spine and pelvis throughout the movement, ensuring proper alignment and minimizing stress on the lumbar region.

Different Hip Thrust Variations

Glute Bridge – while it’s technically not a hip thrust, it involves a very similar movement pattern without resting your upper back against a bench. This makes it a great choice for home workouts as you don’t need any equipment. It’s also perfect for beginners as is easy to perform with little risk of injury.

B Stance Hip Thrust – a great progression from the barbell hip thrust, the b stance hip thrust involves a staggered stance foot placement which puts more emphasis on one side of your body, great if you want to work on any muscle imbalances. If you’d like to find out more about this exercise check out our article; b stance hip thrust for strong glutes.

4. Seated Rows

The seated row will work the bulk of your back muscles while focusing more on your lats, rear delts, and biceps. At the end of the movement when your shoulder blades are squeezed together, it’s also going to engage your traps and rhomboids making it a great exercise for working the posterior chain muscles of your upper body.

seated row posterior chain exercise

You can play around with grip variations too. An underhand grip will isolate more of your lower traps whereas an overhand grip will work more of the middle traps and rear delts.

Different Row Variation

Wide Grip Seated Row – In a wide grip seated row, you use a wider grip on the bar, often past shoulder width. The wider grip requires you to pull your elbows out to the sides, engaging the upper back and rear shoulder muscles more effectively and helping you develop a wider back.

5. Barbell Good Mornings

The good morning exercise is one of my personal favorites and is a fantastic way of working the hamstrings and lower back muscles.

good morning posterior chain exercise

As you hinge at the hips and lower your torso forward, the hamstrings lengthen under tension to control the descent. The lower back muscles contract isometrically to help you maintain a neutral spine and stabilize your back throughout the movement. Additionally, the glutes are activated to a lesser extent to assist in hip extension.

Good Morning Variation

Banded Good Morning – instead of a barbell, this variation uses a resistance band. You step on one end of the band and loop the other end around your neck or shoulders. The tension of the bands increases as you hinge forward, providing a different resistance curve compared to the barbell. It’s ideal for beginners before progressing to using a barbell.

6. Glute Ham Raise

The glute ham raise makes our list of best posterior chain exercises due to the unique movement pattern which involves knee flexion and hip extension. It’s renowned for its effectiveness by specifically emphasizing the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles.

glute ham raise posterior chain exercise

It’s a very challenging exercise which is typically performed on a glute ham developer (GHD).

Glute Ham Raise Variation

Nordic Curl – this variation is very similar to the glute ham raise with less range of motion. It’s a floor-based exercise making it a good home workout option. All you need is a spotter to secure you by the ankles.

Final Thoughts

Your posterior chain muscles are important for so many simple things, such as posture, balance, running, and injury prevention.

While it’s easy to overlook them in favor of muscles you can actually see, it’s important to incorporate our recommended posterior chain exercises into your strength training to properly engage and develop these muscles.

Leave a Reply