The Posterior Chain in the Body

So what exactly is the posterior chain? It’s only one of the most important sets of muscles when it comes to stabilisation, performance, strength and power. The primary muscles included in the chain are the lower and upper back, glutes (butt muscles), hamstrings and calf muscles. These muscles have a huge stabilisation role effecting the hips and lower limb alignments. Unfortunately the posterior chain is often neglected and there are a few reasons why.

First, most people sit on their glutes all day, leading to quad dominance. The glutes lose their primary role of hip stabilization and extension. Second, none of the primary muscles are a mirror muscle. It’s the out-of-sight, out-of-mind theory. Even people leading an active fitness lifestyle that includes strength training, usually overwork anterior muscles. They end up neglecting the more important posterior ones.

The quadriceps take a back seat to the posterior chain (hip and lumbar extensors) when it comes to performance, strength and power. Compared to the quads, the glutes and hamstrings are more powerful muscles for stabilization. Sedentary lifestyles and lack of proper exercise lead to suboptimal muscular activation patterns within the posterior chain due to lower crossed syndrome (LCS).

In LCS, the hip flexors are overactive and reciprocally inhibit the gluteus maximus muscles. Without contribution of the gluteus maximus to hip extension, the hamstrings and lumbar erector spinae muscles must work overtime and become synergistic dominant movers. This causes marked anterior tilt of the pelvis and an accentuated lordotic curve at the lumbar spine. This is a recipe for acute and chronic lower back pain syndromes.

You must work the hip to protect the spine. When the hip does not work properly or move the way we need it to, there will be increased spinal motion and potential back problems. The solution to lower back pain isn’t always found in the back, it’s all in the hips! Hip mobility requires the right muscles moving the hip joint to decrease the movement and load of the lumbar spine as a substitute. This means core stability is intimately related to hip mobility.

Ultimately, the posterior chain is a neglected area among many keen gym goers and by the general population. If you can work on strengthening the muscles of the posterior chain and ensure they are stabilising and assisting the hips in taking load of the lower back you will go a long way to reducing the likelihood of injuries and muscle imbalances.

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