The following workouts have been specifically designed to develop the five muscles of the posterior chain. As well as strengthening each link, the workouts can also enhance whole-body fitness.
Furthermore, because they feature a broad range of posterior chain exercises, they engage all the major muscle groups. In addition, the mix of training methods means that you can improve strength, muscle endurance, and cardio – or a combination of the three.
Posterior chain workout benefits
Each posterior chain workout delivers its own unique set of benefits. While the core concern remains consistent, the chief aim is achieved in different ways.
For example, the first posterior chain workout consists of a barbell complex. Comprised of five compound movements, this workout will enhance strength in every link of the chain. But as well as building strength (and power), the exercises can help increase muscle mass.
The second posterior chain workout is loosely based on the EMOM (every minute on the minute) training method. Organised into a compact circuit, the four functional exercises engage the full chain. But because you’re battling against the clock, the work rate remains high which serves to stimulate the cardiovascular system.
Our third and final posterior chain workout features an eclectic compilation of resistance and bodyweight exercises. The intensity and volume are lower than their predecessors. There are two training protocols to choose from – strength or muscle endurance. Thus, the workout offers the option of building either a strong or sculpted chain.
Increased strength in all the muscles of the posterior chain
Enhanced muscle endurance
Improved aerobic capacity
Functional fitness development
Putting the posterior chain workouts into action
The training effects outlined above have been factored into the workouts so that they appeal to a wider audience. Thus, those looking to develop a specific component of fitness – such as strength – will have a posterior chain workout that aligns with their needs.
The same can be said of the trainer striving to enhance functional fitness or strength and conditioning.
Specific fitness goal
For the trainer that fits the above description, they would incorporate the appropriate workout into their weekly routine. Perhaps every couple of weeks they might change the posterior chain exercises. This would serve to stimulate novelty and the muscles in different ways.
The importance of changing our routine is outlined by Arnold Schwarzenegger. He states that regularly mixing up our workouts can prevent boredom and ‘shock the body into new growth,’ (The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding).
General fitness development
The person pursuing general fitness would take a different approach. Because their exercise regime is not dictated by a narrow goal, they have more freedom in the type of training they participate in.
Such fitness ‘free spirits’ might consider cycling through the three workouts across a training week. Alternatively, they could focus on one workout at a time before moving on. Though this approach won’t make you a master of one component of fitness, it can help you become a Jack of all.
Posterior chain workout overview
Below there are three workouts that have been designed to target the muscles of the posterior chain. The workouts feature a brief outline of the training process and a list of key points.
In addition, the exercises and workout particulars – duration, objective, and training method – are listed in the accompanying session plan.
Warm up before you workout
In the NSCA’s epic Essentials of Strength & Conditioning, we are reminded that ‘a warm-up period is important before any athletic’ activity. Warming up, the authors observe, ‘helps protect against injury by improving the flexibility of muscles.’
In addition, a general-purpose warm-up of between 5 to 10 minutes prepares the physiological systems for the coming demands of exercise. The warm-up guidelines given by NSCA involve ‘slow jogging’ or ‘riding a stationary bike.’
While these aerobic activities will raise core and body temperature and elevate resting heart rate, they only engage the muscles of the legs. A more comprehensive warm-up would include rowing, the cross-trainer, or airdyne cycling – as they enable you to engage both the lower and upper body muscles simultaneously.
Also, concluding the initial cardio ‘pulse raiser’, you should include low-intensity exercises that feature in the main workout plan. For each of the posterior chain workouts a ‘suggested warm-up’ has been provided. As Watson says, the warm-up should be of an 'appropriate nature' and reflect the coming demands of the workout (Physical Fitness & Athletic Performance).
Posterior chain workout #1: Compound complex
This workout is like letting a blacksmith loose on your posterior chain. The exercises are anvils, and the reps hammer blows. With each completed complex you’ll forge a stronger chain.
The complex is comparatively straightforward and can be completed with a single Olympic barbell. Comprised of five compound exercises, you’ll be descending a repetition ladder organised as follows: 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, rest . . . repeat.
The objective is to complete one full complex before resting. However, as with all Hungry4Fitness workouts, you can tailor the session plan to suit your level of fitness. If that means more rest or fewer reps, then so be it.
Warm up well before breaking out that Olympic barbell. The suggested warm-up involves a 2000-metre steady-paced row followed by one complex at 40 to 50% of one-rep max.
Organise your training area. For a workout like this, it’s best to be isolated from the main gym population; you don’t want people buzzing about when you’re popping out power cleans. Also, if you’re using a single barbell, you might find it helpful to have a few extra discs to hand for those heavier lifts or, better still, a stack of bumper plates.
Observing the exercise order, descend the repetition ladder before resting.
Repeat until you have completed 10 complexes.
Related: Best Olympic Barbells and Bumper Plates
Posterior chain workout #2: Functional fitness circuit
This workout aims to develop functional strength, muscular endurance, and aerobic fitness. A tall order for any workout. The exercises selected activate the primary muscles of the posterior chain as well as those of the cardio-respiratory system.
Applying a variation of the CrossFit EMOM (every minute on the minute) training method, you have three minutes in which to complete one round of the circuit. However much time you have remaining, you can take as rest.
Maintaining a medium intensity, the four exercises can be completed in around two minutes. This leaves a solid 60 seconds to recover before the next round.
Warm up thoroughly before starting the workout. The suggested warm-up is as follows: 1000-metre row and two low-intensity laps of the circuit.
Organise the equipment prior to programming your training timer. Having your circuit set up will facilitate a smoother and more efficient transition between stations.
Set 10 x three-minute repeat countdowns. When you’re ready, progress through the circuit aiming to complete a lap in under three minutes.
Take the remaining time as rest. Repeat.
Related: Best Competition Kettlebells
Posterior chain workout #3: Strength & Conditioning
Our final posterior chain workout features a diverse mix of exercises. Scheduled to take place in a public gym, you will be working your way through a collection of cardio, resistance, bodyweight, isolation, and compound movements.
The session plan is kicked into touch with a steady-paced row of between 2000 and 5000 metres. This cardio bout is the conditioning bit of the workout. As well as augmenting the effects of the warm-up, the row activates all the muscles of the posterior chain while also burning a few calories in the process.
Concluding the cardio, you’ll enter a line-up of resistance exercises. At a glance, they appear to be organised arbitrarily, but that’s not the case. Grouped together in pairs, each exercise pairing targets a specific link of the posterior chain.
Starting at the hamstrings, you’ll progress up through the glutes, lower back, lats, and finish off at the trapezius. You have two training protocols to choose from: strength or muscle endurance.
The suggested warm-up: 5 minutes of low-intensity output on either the rower, airdyne bike or cross-trainer. Complete one set of 10 to 15 reps (seconds for reverse plank) on all the resistance exercises featured in the plan.
Now that you’re warm and ready, get going on the rowing. Try to sustain a consistent pace for the distance.
Select the training protocol that aligns with your fitness goals – strength or muscle endurance.
Proceed to progress through the session plan. Remember to focus on the quality of your form.
Not sure how to perform an exercise? Click the link for a quick demo: Hamstring curls | Kettlebell lunges | Stiff-leg deadlifts | Double kettlebell swing | Single-arm dumbbell row | Pull-ups | Face pulls | Kettlebell snatch-pull
Enjoyed these posterior chain workouts?
Get your hands on 70 more with the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits & Workouts Volume 2.