Even if you think you’re doing a full body workout, chances are you’re paying more attention to the front half of your body than to your back. After all, that’s the side you see most often when you look in a mirror or put on clothes.
This can create imbalances over time and make your gym sessions less effective.
That’s because those posterior chain muscles in the back of your spine and legs are some of the largest and potentially strongest muscles in your body. They include your glutes, the calves and hamstrings in your legs, the latissimus dorsi in your middle and upper back, and the erector spinae that run up both sides of your spine.
Fortunately, there are many ways to target these muscles. In fact, whether you prefer yoga or lifting weights, there are probably movements you already know that you can start doing more consistently to shape up the back half of your body.
Upgrade your workouts by using these tips for training your posterior chain.
- Increase mobility. When the quadriceps in the front of your thighs become stronger than the muscles around them, they might start doing work that your hamstrings and glutes were designed for. Keeping your legs balanced helps to stabilize your hips and give you an efficient stride. That way you can move more comfortably, especially as you grow older.
- Enhance sports performance. A powerful posterior chain creates strength and speed. You can jump higher and run faster.
- Prevent injuries. Weak glutes can affect your posture. If your rear end tends to stick out behind you when you’re trying to stand up straight, you may develop aches and pains in your knees and lower back.
- Relieve stress from sitting. How did your posterior chair become so vulnerable in the first place? Prolonged sitting puts strain on your back and glutes. Take a break every 30 minutes to move around for at least a minute.
- Burn calories. If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll find that posterior chain exercises are great for torching calories. That’s because they usually involve compound movements that require multiple large body parts to work together.
- Try deadlifts. This productive movement isn’t just for bodybuilders and weightlifters. Hold a barbell on the floor in front of you as you stand up with your knees bent. Keep your back straight as you lift the bar and carefully lower it back to the ground.
- Squat down. Squats with or without weights are another great way to target your glutes and legs. Experiment with different variations to keep it interesting.
- Raise your calves. Calf raises are ideal for your lower legs. Start out by standing on the edge of a step. Lower your heels down and rise back up on your toes.
- Practice down dog. Many yoga poses tone the rear side of your body. Each time you do down dog, you’re strengthening your back, glutes, and legs.
- Work on backbends. Yoga can also help you to enjoy the positive effects of backbends regardless of whether you can do the full pose. Ask your teacher about simpler variations such as sphynx or baby cobra.
- Go rowing. Whether you use a boat, machine, or dumbbells, rowing motions engage your back too. In fact, some experts believe that rowing machines reach 84% of the muscles in your body, which may be as close to a full body workout as you can get.
Give your posterior chain muscles equal time when you’re working out. You’ll be rewarded with greater strength and mobility.