By Aaron Mehl
Contributor, Sports and Fitness Network
The “posterior chain” is one of a strength and conditioning coach’s favorite terms, and can be defined as all of the muscles that make up the back side of your body. These muscles include the lats, trapezius, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and all musculature of the lower back. Basically anything you cannot see in the mirror. The posterior chain on most athletes (and most Americans) is severely underdeveloped. A strong posterior chain can not only make a person faster and more powerful, but most importantly, it can drastically reduce the chances of acquiring an injury. Even people who get good nutrition, proper sleep, and use proper technique can become injured if major imbalances are found.
Most people are quad dominant because they spend a lot more time on the leg press and extension machines than they do dead lifting. When you couple that with a squat technique that breaks at the knees and shoots them out over the toes instead of a “proper” squat (which breaks at the hips, stays on the heels, and forces a person to sit back), you have a prescription for disaster by causing an uneven force to be placed on the knees. The lower back is another area for concern because for some reason we, as Americans, are obsessed with having six pack abs. Six pack abs are great. . . back surgery is not! A strong lower back will keep your spine in a good position during any type of lifting or carrying anything for an extended period of time. Tying it all back into injury prevention, when you get fatigued during a run is when you become more susceptible to injury because you hunch forward and cannot keep your spine in a good position which exposes you to injury.
Now you’re saying, “ok you’ve convinced me I need to do more than curls in the squat rack, but what do I do?” The exercises you will see the most improvement in strength and power development will be multi-joint barbell movements. Squat, deadlift, power cleans, etc. However, it is crucial that these exercises be done using proper technique. There is no point to getting stronger to help prevent injury by injuring yourself while trying to get stronger.
Remember, a strong posterior chain will increase your ability to run, jump, land, and perform tasks essential to everyday life. Just because you cannot see it in the mirror doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be as strong and powerful as humanly possible.
Train safe, train smart, and train hard.