I’ll be blunt: Most of you guys probably have a weak posterior chain. It’s not all your fault, though, it’s just that in this day and age dudes spend way too much time sitting down and that leads to weaknesses. Even if you lift regularly and are putting up decent numbers in all the big lifts, there is a good chance that if you have a desk job or spend a not insignificant amount of time sitting during the day that you posterior chain is your weak link. Hell, I’ll be the first to admit that my posterior chain is the weakest part of my body comparatively speaking. It took a near-injurious deadlift set a few months ago to really expose that I had a problem I couldn’t ignore anymore, and since then I’ve been busting my ass bringing it up to speed with the rest of my body.
So what exactly is your posterior chain? The posterior chain is exactly like it sounds- the lower back, the glutes, and the hamstrings. They are the key to your strength development, the most important muscle grouping in your body, yet they are consistently the most under worked and under appreciated. They are behind basically every lift worth doing, and the stronger they are the better your lifts will be- full stop. Without a strong posterior chain, you are hamstringing your gains and opening yourself up to injury when you start getting up to big boy weights and your weaknesses are exposed.
When you sit for long periods of time on a daily basis, your posterior chain goes to shit if corrective action is not taken. Your hamstrings shorten, your hip flexors shorten, you stop activating your glutes (a.k.a- desk ass, bane of potential office hotties everywhere), and your lower back stiffens. Many of us develop anterior pelvic tilt because of this- which we’ll talk about in full length next post. All this imbalance and tension and lack of flexibility is at times annoying and painful, it will hold you back in the gym, and even worse can be a ticking time bomb during a heavy set of squats or deadlifts (squats and deadlifts hit the PC well, but not enough for most of us). Just think- for years, even decades for some, you have been sitting at length on a daily basis slowly atrophying your posterior chain. Even if you’ve been lifting but *not* focusing on remedying it, you’ve only slowed the atrophy but it’s still there.
Luckily, corrective action is simple. Not easy, but simple. You will need to start stretching and preferably foam rolling daily as well because chances are you are incredibly inflexible down there. We’ll go more into detail on those in the anterior pelvic tilt article, but for now consider simple toe touches, leg over head back stretches, butterflies, and hip flexor lunges.
There are also dozens of exercises you can incorporate today to strengthen your posterior chain. Here are some notables:
-Good Mornings. We’ve discussed these at length already, and they still remain one of my all time favorite assistance lifts.
-Romanian Dead Lifts-
-Back Extensions. T-Nation covers pretty much every conceivable form of extensions imaginable.
-I like to warm up and cool down with Glute Bridge and Swiss Ball Hamstring Curls. They stretch them out nice and get everything activated, and burn out sets are great for post workout. For those of you with really bad posterior chains, these may kick your ass:
-Planks until your body is convulsing like an epileptic are also great.
-If you have access to a Glute-Ham machine (I wish I did), you need to get on those stat. The guys at EliteFTS jizz over these non-stop and that’s good enough for me:
For more ideas, T-Nation has a pretty comprehensive article here.
So pick a few lifts to start out with and hammer them 3 or more times a week. Start light and work up slowly to get the movement down and your form perfect. The goal, as with all assistance lifts, is to boost your overall strength- not to be the best back extender or good morning-er in the gym. Even after a mere month, you will be noticing big differences not only in your big lift totals, but your daily comfort and mobility levels. After you have built it up sufficiently, I recommend you stop using belts if you aren’t already going raw and kick it up an even bigger notch.
Work the kinks out your soon-to-be-sore back and hamstrings with a SPRI High-Density Foam Roller.