Are you working your butt off… literally?
The posterior chain muscles may be the most important group of muscles when it comes to daily performance as an athlete or an average Joe. The posterior chain of muscles in the hip include the glutes, hamstrings and the posterior core/para-spinals; and they are responsible for stabilizing and moving the hip and pelvis. They are often neglected in strength training causing muscular imbalance and anterior chain dominance, which can lead to low back pain and instability. So, if you have had some sort of low back pain, you are most likely not working your butt off as much as you thought.
Importance of Posterior Chain Muscles
When your hip joint and its muscles fail to function, your lumbar spine takes over movements that it shouldn’t which can cause low back pain. The glutes are often the most affected by the lack of hip mobility, often getting inhibited or unused. Posterior chain muscles are crucial to full functioning hips. Many Crossfit movements require powerful hips, which really means a powerful posterior chain. The power positions in the Olympic weightlifting movements, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, rowing, and even the push press all generate power from your hips. Without full functioning hip muscles, these movements will lack efficiency and cause pain.
How do I know if I have a weak posterior chain?
Along with pain there are some postural signs that can be seen that can help us identify weaknesses. One of these signs are an anterior pelvic tilt or lower cross syndrome (LCS). LCS can be seen in individuals with a hyperlordotic curve in their lumbar spine, which is caused by tight/over used anterior muscles (rectus femoris, iliopsoas, and abdominals) and weak/inhibited posterior chain muscles (hamstrings, glutes).
Just like with UCS, we want to address the short muscles first then strengthen the weak. Stretching and mobilizing the rectus femoris and hip flexors (refer to Low Back Pain post). Next, we want to strengthen the posterior chain muscles. The main movement we want to get to activate all the posterior chain muscles is the hip hinge. This can be seen in exercises like the “Good Morning”, kettlebell swings and deadlifts. The combination of the stretching and strengthening will help take some tension off the anterior muscles, make the posterior muscles fire correctly and bring full mobility back into your hip joint and stability to your low back.