Last week's article directly relates to these muscular chains of our body. These muscles work together to perform movements in an efficient, cohesive manner that makes you stronger and less likely to injure yourself. What are the Anterior and Posterior Chains, and why on earth should you care?
Posterior Chain -- We're going to start with the posterior chain because is this where most people, including myself, struggle the most. Why? In short, because we sit too damn much. The Posterior Chain comprises all of our back muscles, starting with the calves. There are too many muscles in this chain to discuss them all, but the key muscles I want you to have top of mind are the:
- Glute Maximus & Medius
- Erector Spinae
- Lower, Middle, and Upper Traps
- Lower and Upper Lats
Unfortunately, every single one of these muscles gets incredibly "lazy" when we sit too much. Why? Because they all spend too much time in a stretched, or lengthened position not needing to contract. We have issues arise such as "dead butt syndrome", anterior pelvic tilt, Kyphosis, knee pain, and of course lower back pain.
The good news is many of you are working your butts off (literally) to strengthen your posterior muscles. What I want you to take away from this understanding how to use your Posterior Chain more effectively. There are incredible benefits that come from developing a Posterior Chain that flows fluidly together as a unit, just like we discussed last week. Some of these include:
- Running faster -- primarily through greater stride length
- More explosive -- jumping, squatting, hip-hinging
- Improved posture -- straightened spine, and strong enough back muscles to hold the shoulders in a neutral position. Reduced pelvic tilt.
I'll end with the HOW: Let's take the deadlift - personally and professionally my single favorite exercise. The primary muscles here are our Glute Maximus and Transverse Abs, yes. But you also need to recruit those big Hamstring and Lat muscles to do it correctly. If done correctly, this exercise alone can correct many posterior chain problems. To do it correctly, we need to focus on where energy is generated. While you're in the starting position, preparing to lift the bar, you need to make sure your hamstrings are under tension - you should feel this stretch. As you lift, your Hamstrings, Glutes, and Lats will contract together to full your hips into extension as you pull the bar up. As you come back down, your Transverse Abs will take over, while your Lats still work to maintain a straight spine. Your Hamstrings and Lats will be placed back under tension as they begin building potential energy to do the lift again.
Anterior Chain -- I will be much briefer with the anterior chain because most of this will be repetitive. Our Anterior Chain comprises the muscles on the front of our body; the big ones being your Pecs, Rectus Abdominis, and Quads.
Many potential problems that arise from a weak posterior chain directly impact the anterior chain as well. For example, Kyphosis creates excessive shortening of the Pec muscles in your chest. This shortening then pulls the shoulders forward (as mentioned last week) and exacerbates the rounding of your upper back.
Similarly in your hips, with anterior pelvic tilt. The tilting forward shortens the Hip Flexor and Quadriceps, while lengthening the Hamstrings. This then leads to excessive arching of the lower back (Lordosis) and lower back pain.
In summary, the Posterior Chain is where we often struggle most, and therefore worth more attention when designing workout programs. However, as with most things, balance is key. Having a strong Posterior and Anterior Chain will make you stronger, fitter and less susceptible to injury.