If you don’t already deadlift or squat, don’t even read this article – find a barbell and start doing so immediately.
I kind of lied with the title. I’m not here to specifically talk about the squat and deadlift. Rather, I’m here to talk about my fave topic, the posterior chain (aka the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. You could probably chuck the upper back in there too).
You may be rolling your eyes about now, but if any of the following sound appealing, keep reading:
you want a stronger squat
you want a stronger deadlift
you want to run faster
you want to jump higher
you want to potentially improve lower back or knee pain
you want better posture
you want to finally get rid of chicken legs
In a nutshell, the posterior chain is vital for being athletic, powerful, and healthy.
Coaches in sports and athletics have always seen the posterior chain as a priority, while many weekend warriors have spent years avoiding it. After all, why do a Romanian deadlift when you can bench instead? We’ve all been guilty of it at some stage.
Often times, my job as a coach is simply to get people training the body parts they don’t do alone. In most cases, that means a tonne of upper back and posterior chain work.
Predictably, after a few months of training, many of my male clients report that their trousers feel tighter due to muscle growth in the glutes and thighs. No more skinny jeans (thank God for that…).
So how do we go about getting the good stuff listed above?
Let me show you.
If you have trained for a while, you probably know most of these exercises already. The list is by no means definitive, and different people react differently to different exercises. Try them out and see which ones work. If it’s a good fit, keep it. If not, replace it.
(In no particular order.)
One of the best of all. Higher jump, stronger & better shaped glutes, and when done for a higher reps, an excellent fat burner. Do them!
The Romanian Deadlift (aka the RDL), not only builds strength and mass of the hamstrings, but also gives a great dynamic stretch, potentially improving hamstring flexibility mobility.
Many people don’t even know how to squeeze their glutes. This is a problem, as the glutes are the largest muscle group in the body. If you don’t know how to activate them, you’re probably not as strong and athletic as you could be.
The glute bridge is a good place to start for most people as it teaches you how to activate these powerful muscles. Adding a band around the knees makes the contraction at the top of the movement even more intense, really helping you feel the squeeze.
Do not just thrust your hips into the air. At the top, squeeze HARD (it should feel uncomfortable).
Once you get good at the bridge, you can advance it by elevating your upper body to increase the range of motion.
You can do these before deadlifts &/or squats to ‘wake up’ your glutes, and it’s also a great exercise in and of itself.
Such an under-rated (and badly butchered) exercise.
The spinal erector muscles in the lower back help keep your torso upright and in good posture. One of the activities in the Spartan Race was the ‘Bucket Brigade’, where you fill up a huge bucket with soil and carry it for 0.5 km (or more). My lower back was absolutely screaming by the end of it. Definitely should have done more back extensions beforehand.
As with many exercises, you need to be deliberate with what you’re doing, rather than just swinging up and down. Flex the glutes hard at the top position (just as you would at the top of a deadlift), and do not over-extend your back.
You will feel an intense burn in the hams, glutes, and lower back. Adding weight makes this even more brutal.
Bulgarian split squats
(Please note – in the video above, I’m doing one and a half rep Bulgarian split squats. You don’t need to do the half rep in the normal version.)
Man. This is probably the most horrible one on the list. But as you probably now know, the sh*ttiest exercises are usually the best.
While these are great for the quads, they really hammer the glutes too. Prepare to swear badly after each set.
(Note: Not everyone should do these off a high bench – it’s perfectly fine to reduce the height if needed.)
Swiss ball curl
While this may look like a ‘girly’ movement, trust me, it’s much harder than it looks. It’s something you would do more towards the end of a workout, once the heavier stuff done is out of the way. A solid addition to your arsenal, especially as it doesn’t cause much joint stress at all.
I hope you enjoyed this guys. Better get training (unless you want to look like Hank from King Of The Hill).