You've probably heard of it or your coach talk about "The Posterior Chain" -- The Posterior Chain refers to the muscles on the posterior side of the body aka the back side. This includes the low back (erectors), glutes, hamstrings, and calf muscles but also includes muscles of the upper back and core.
These muscles are the primary driver in explosive power which translates to more speed and explosiveness on the field which is a big focus for athletes of all ages, sports, and positions.
Training what we call the "mirror muscles" aka biceps, chest, and abs may make you look great at the pool but training to develop the pure power producers and drivers on the backside of the body will help you increase athletic performance and help you stay injury free on the field.
The truth is, there is more to the posterior chain than just the main muscles which are the glutes, hamstrings, and erectors, additionally the traps, lats, calves, adductors, and core are also main supporters and contributors to movement in the chain.
The Major Muscles of The Posterior Chain
– Upper, middle, and lower traps
– Posterior Deltoids
– Spinal erectors
– Transverse abdominis
The posterior chain is called a chain as the entirety of the muscle groups above work together to initiate linear movement (sprinting/deceleration) agility, and jumping all of which are key in athletic performance on and off the field.
The main responsibility of the posterior chain is hip extension which involves utilization of the glutes and hamstrings, knee flexion (hamstrings), and plantar flexion (calves).
All of these movements are key in sprint mechanics, jumping, and main movements in the weight room such as squats, deadlifts, and lunges require engagement of the posterior chain to be completed. In addition, upper body movements such as presses, rows, and pull/chin ups require engagement of the posterior chain to be completed.
Now, while training the posterior chain is important, so is training the quads; and yes I know we said too many guys train the mirror muscles, and the quads could fall into that group, but when it comes to sprinting and jumping or really just being explosive on the field; training the quads is as important as training the posterior chain but it needs to be done equally!
So where does the quad come into play? Well, when sprinting or jumping, the quad aids in knee extension which aids in creating what we call triple extension. Triple extension is the simultaneous action of the ankle , knee , and hip extending to create linear power.
The biggest issue when we see athletes training, is they become too quad dominant meaning they are overtraining the front side of the muscle and neglecting to place an emphasis on the posterior chain.
This can occur even when athletes squat as they tend to focus on flexion of the knee to initiate the movement vs sitting back into the hips; one big reason we focus on utilizing a box squat as our main variation of squat here at Ironworks as it allows the athlete to sit back and put the main focus of the movement on the glutes and hamstrings.
If an athlete or really anyone develops a muscular imbalance such as a stronger anterior (quads) to posterior (hamstrings/glutes) you can begin to see issues or injury to the low back and knee as well as the hamstrings themselves.
So what movements train the posterior chain?
- Box Squats
- Deficit Deadlifts
- Romanian Deadlifts
- Good Mornings
- Hamstring Curls
- Reverse Hyperextensions
- Back Extensions
- Lat Pull Downs
- Pull Ups
- Chin Ups
As mentioned earlier, training the posterior chain can lead to an increase in speed and power on and off the field, but how?
As an athlete builds the chain and really the full body to be stronger, it is also vital to train those muscles to be fast and explosive therefore increasing the rate of force that can be produced from those muscle groups.
To do this an athlete must train optimally, but focus on training maximal strength and dynamic strength throughout the year and weekly to not only get more muscular activation, but to train those muscles to be quick and explosive.
As an athlete becomes more explosive or increases the rate of force that they can produce, they will see that transfer into their on field performance as they are now able to produce more force to move their body through the acceleration phases of sprinting, change of direction, and jumping.
Here at Ironworks, we utilize the Conjugate Method which utilizes multiple different facets of training to accomplish maximal strength, dynamic strength, general physical prep, and speed/explosiveness. Through these different training methods we have seen athletes increase their strength and power in the weight room, but also in their 40 and 60 times, vertical jump and broad jump, as well as their throwing and hitting velocities and much more.
Hyson, Joe Wuebben and Sean. “5 Posterior Chain Exercises for Stability and Strength.” Onnit Academy, Onnit Academy, 15 Sept. 2020, www.onnit.com/academy/posterior-chain/.
“WSBB Blog: Quick Guide to Hamstring Training.” Westside Barbell, Westside Barbell, www.westside-barbell.com/blogs/the-blog/wsbb-blog-quick-guide-to-hamstring-training.
Simmons, Louie. “WSBB Blog: Hamstring Training 101.” Westside Barbell, Westside Barbell, www.westside-barbell.com/blogs/the-blog/wsbb-blog-hamstring-training-101.
Simmons, Louie. “Training Strong Legs for World Records.” Westside Barbell, Westside Barbell, www.westside-barbell.com/blogs/the-blog/training-strong-legs-for-world-records.