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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Annie's Top 5 Picks for Posterior Chain Exercises

The pos….what?  The posterior chain!  It is a group of muscles primarily consisting of your back, glutes (butt) and hamstrings.  In other words, it's the backside of your body.

There's an old training adage that one should train their posterior chain twice as much anterior chain.  I'm not sure of the validity of that statement but I would agree that in general the low back, glutes, and hamstrings are typically weak (in relation to the anterior), undertrained and, in some cases, even ignored.

Take a look at most weight rooms.  What are people doing?  Most likely the majority of people are doing bicep curls, bench press, abdominal work, and maybe lunges. All of these are great movements but they're all working predominately the front of our body. And like it or not, people like to train parts the see in the mirror- myself included.  It wasn't until a few years ago that I realized the importance of training my posterior chain.  Since then, I've noticed a huge improvement in my lifts and a bigger butt (which is a welcomed bonus in my eyes).

When you combine training primarily the front of the body with jobs that have us sitting most of the day, you may wind up with a weak backside and a weak posterior chain can lead to/cause back pain, development of poor movement patterns, muscular imbalances or poor posture.

If you're looking to add some back, glute, and hamstring work into your training here are my top five favorite posterior chain exercises (in no particular order).

1.  Deadlift (including all variations):  Regardless if it's a with a trap bar, stiff legged, American, conventional or sumo the deadlift is a great exercise to build up your posterior chain.

2.  Hip thrusts (all variations):  Just like the deadlift, there are many variations of the hip thrust including body weight, single leg, weighted, feet elevated, etc.  They're all a great addition to your workouts.

3.  Romanian Deadlifts:  Ok so, I know I already said deadlifts but in my opinion the RDL is in a league of it's own when it comes to isolating the hamstrings and glutes.  No matter how often I do these, they're always sure to leave me feeling sore the following day.

4.  Good mornings: Similar to the RDL (just moving the weight to a top, back loaded position), good mornings are awesome and targeting the entire backside of your body.

5.  Kettlebell swings:  I originally had this post written late week, prior to taking a kettlebell certification class with a different movement making the list.  After spending hours learning about proper technique, kettlebell swings just had to make the list.  Despite how the KB swing appears, your force comes from the drive of your hips, hamstrings, and glutes (not your arms).  It's a great movement to help you nail the hip hinge which will transfer over to your deadlift and squat.

Your turn:  What's your favorite strength training exercise for your posterior chain?


  1. I couldn't agree more. Once I learned the "hip hinge" movement, my squats got deeper and more effective.

  2. I'm a big fan of deadlifts personally and am just getting into kettlebell work.

  3. I love deadlifts! I recently started doing hip thrusts - who knew that your butt could burn so bad lol kettlebell swings kill me. I don't know why. They also kind of hurt my lower back? So I have to use super light weights. I'm assuming this is because I lack core strength?

  4. Great list! Part of my PT for my injured knee has to do with working my glutes so I've been incorporating a lot of these suggestions into my strength routine.