A problem with the majority of people trying to get in shape by going to the gym is that they will typically assess progress – and build their workouts around – what they can see in the mirror.
And, of course, the most prominent muscles when gazing at your own reflection are pectorals, deltoids, abs, biceps, and quads.
Many stand by the mantra that if you can’t see the other muscles in the mirror, they aren’t important.
This line of thinking, however, is a problem, for these ‘show muscles’ only account for half of your body.
To acquire a well-balance physique you need to pay equal attention to the rear of your body.
Not only are these muscle significant from an aesthetic point of view, they are also extremely important from a functional perspective – that is, in improving your athletic performance.
The Posterior Chain
The muscles at your rear work together in a chain, and, as a consequence, it is important that they are given equal attention.
If one muscle is lagging this will lead to an imbalance that can affect performance and also result in injury.
For instance, three of the most common causes of lower back pain – as well as performance hindrances – are a lack of core stability, shortened hip flexors and a lack of strength in the posterior chain.
So, if you want to improve performance and prevent the risk of injury, start giving your posterior chain the attention it deserves.
What follows is a breakdown of these specific muscles, from top to bottom, along with their role in the chain and suggested exercises to develop muscle size and strength:
Role: spine support
The Multifidus is a group of muscles joined to the spinal column which provide spinal support by relieving the vertebral disks of the pressure placed upon them.
Suggested exercises: Good Mornings, Deadlift
Role: spinal and back extension
The Erector Spinae allows for an arched back which helps your body support heavy weight.
Suggested exercises: Romanian Deadlift, Back Extension
Role: spine/back support
Your external obliques are located at the side of your six pack, extending from the lower part of your ribcage to your pelvis.
Suggested exercises: Cable Twist, Side Plank, Bicycle Crunches
Role: upper leg rotation, hip extensors
The glutes play an important role when it comes to hip movement.
Your gluteal muscles are made up of three separate muscles: Gluteus Minimus, Gluteus Maximus, and the Gluteus Medius.
Suggested exercises: Squats, Lunges, Deadlift
Role: extension of hips and knee bending
The hamstring muscle group comprises fast twitch fibres and three different muscles: Semimembranosus, Semitendinosus, and the Biceps Femoris.
Suggested exercises: Squats, Romanian Deadlift
Role: knee bending and plantar flexes ankle
Your Gastrocnemius muscles – along with the Soleus – are utilised from heel elevation and knee stability.
Suggested exercises: calf raise
So, there we have it, the key components making up your posterior chain.
Strengthening these muscle groups will contribute significantly towards your body’s overall strength and general athletic ability, such as running and jumping.
Therefore, when planning your next gym cycle, ensure that you pay equal attention to your posterior and anterior muscles, as working on this balance and unison will do wonders for your progress.
If you have any thoughts or questions about the points raised in this article, I’d love to hear from you.
Leave me a comment below and I’ll get back to you!
About the author
Henry is a fitness enthusiast with a passion for strength training and the martial arts. You can find him blogging over at GymTalk.