Posterior chain muscles may be a source of confusion for those who don’t spend a lot of time in the gym. They make up a large group of muscles that run all the way down your back, both in your upper body and your lower body.
The most common reason for weak posterior chain muscles is due to little or no exercise of this area. It typically affects those who lead sedentary lifestyles and spend much of their day sitting. Prolonged sitting forces the posterior chain muscles to become inactive and eventually weaken.
For that reason, these muscles are more important to strengthen in those who spend much of their days sitting down. There are a lot of benefits to having a strong posterior chain, including improving posture, which has a positive effect in many other aspects.
What muscles make up the posterior chain?
Your posterior chain muscles consist of your calves, glutes, hamstrings, external obliques, spine muscles, latissimus dorsi, traps (trapezius), and posterior deltoids. This extensive muscle group often doesn’t receive the attention they deserve, maybe you’ve heard of the saying ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
Now that you know which muscles make up the posterior chain, you know what to focus on. They’re some of the hardest muscles to work because they are all counterintuitive to the way your mind likes to work.
All of your limbs, muscles and skeletal structure are at their most efficient when it comes to forward movement. However, working your posterior chain muscles requires you to retain the same kind of explosive physical and mental capacity you do with bench presses, curls, and crunches.
Why is it Important to Train the Posterior Chain?
There are a lot of benefits to training your posterior chain. Most of them are entirely unrealized. If you’re experiencing back problems, weakness, posture issues, or problems working your core, a weakened posterior chain could easily be the culprit.
By working to strengthen your posterior chain muscles, you could enjoy the following benefits:
- Improvement to your posture
- Boosts your metabolism helping to burn more fat
- Reduces pain from overcompensating muscles
- Has good carryover to exercises such as running and jumping
- Reduces the risk of injuries
- Helps you lift heavier in combination with your other muscles
Your posterior chain muscles are primarily responsible for your posture, especially since sitting starts in your hip flexors and works its way up into your spinal column. A strengthened posterior makes it easier to sit correctly and exercise good posture.
If you are exploring the idea of weightlifting, your posterior chain is the structural support you need to lift properly and increase the weight resistance as you progress. It also reduces the risk of injuries, especially when a strengthened posterior can supply your body with adequate support.
When you have a weakened posterior chain, it forces your other muscles to compensate for regular day-to-day movements where posterior muscles could and probably should play a role, such as picking up groceries. Not only can this potentially lead to injuries but it also exacerbates the off-balance nature of your muscles.
While building the posterior chain muscles itself doesn’t increase metabolism, having more muscles actively going through a series of damage and repair improves your overall metabolism. With more muscles to support, your body can more efficiently burn energy and, in turn, more body fat, even when the body is at rest.
It will also better utilize the energy from carbs and the repair boost from protein, rather than those supplements being converted to fat and stored around places such as your love handles.
Also, you might be surprised at how effective your posterior chain is when you run. If you are really into jogging, wind sprints, or a mixture of the two, improving your glutes, hamstrings, and calf muscles is a must.
What Exercises Target the Posterior Chain?
Fortunately, most of the exercises that build your posterior chain muscles are probably familiar to you. However, just like your other muscles, form and mental discipline are crucial to working your posterior chain.
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 lower back. This is especially true if you add a little technique to the end of each repetition. When you stand from the squatting position, do a calf raise before settling back to the balls of your feet.
Reverse flies involve leaning over, at a 90° angle to your legs, and basically raising your arms up and down like you’re mimicking a bird in flight. You spread your arms out perpendicular to your body, while holding a dumbbell in each hand. This works the muscles in your upper back, along the spine, and outward.
Rows are crucial when it comes to working your back muscles and should be included in every back workout regimen. Also known as the “bent-over row,” the Latissimus Dorsi is the muscle this exercise targets.
While you can target these muscles while doing squats, it’s better to do an exercise that targets them directly, with a full three sets of 8 to 12 reps. The calf muscles may be smaller than your thigh muscles, but don’t overlook them as they are exceedingly powerful and can handle a good deal of weight.
Simply set up like you’re about to do squats but stick with calf raises only and work them through your sets and reps.
This exercise is a full-body exercise that also does wonders for your lower back and core muscles, simply because it requires good form and you need those muscles to perform it. The primary focus, however, is on your hamstrings and glutes.
Hamstring muscles are a small group of muscles and one of the most important on the posterior chain because they are small and easily injured. Weak hamstrings are capable of creating a host of problems throughout your body as other muscles attempt to compensate for their weakened state.
The posterior chain is a typically underutilized ladder of muscle groupings that require more attention than most non-weightlifters tend to neglect. They are important for so many simple things, such as posture, balance, running, and injury reduction.
They may not be the most popular muscles to work in the gym but they are deserving of the same time and effort you would put into a bench press or curls.