Best Posterior Chain Barbell Exercises

8 March 2022
By Jack Coxall

This article is part of our series of blogs on the posterior chain. In this edition, we’ll take a detailed look at the best posterior chain barbell exercises - guaranteed to give you a great workout!

Why are barbell exercises an important part of a posterior chain workout?

When compared to machines, movements performed with a barbell require more stabilisation to perform safely and correctly. As stabilisation is one of the key functions of many muscles in the posterior chain, including the glutes, lats, spinal erectors and shoulder stabilising muscles, performing exercises with a barbell may give you more ‘bang for your back’.

Furthermore, a barbell allows for greater loading when compared to dumbbells and kettlebells allowing you to keep making linear progression for longer. Barbell movements can also be performed in a power rack meaning you can adjust the starting position of the movement. For example, a barbell can be loaded with a heavy weight in the rack, ready for you to perform a squat without having to lift the weight from the floor, as would be the case for a dumbbell loaded squat.

Barbell Hip Thrust

This may be the greatest glute builder there is. When performed properly. It may look simple, but there are a few boxes to tick to ensure you perform the movement safely and effectively.

You can check out our how-to walk-through here:

Position yourself with back up against the edge of a bench or box. Roll a loaded barbell into the crease of your hips, ensure you add a bar pad so that you can perform the exercise comfortably. Once the barbell position is set in your hip crease, set your feet and bend your knees to roughly 90 degrees. Drive your feet into the floor and drive your back towards the bench or box.

Lean back into the bench or box, with the edge of it sitting just below the shoulder blade. Your upper body and hips should be in one straight line.

Brace your core and maintain a neutral spine. Drive your feet into the floor and drive up through the hips.lever. Your upper back should act as a pivot point on the bench. Squeeze for a beat at the top and return to the starting position, maintaining a braced core.

Conventional Deadlift

Often termed the ‘King of Exercises’ (a title for which it often battles with the back squat) the deadlift is an incredible strength builder for the entire posterior chain. It’ll hit the glutes, hamstrings, spinal erectors and traps to name just a few.

You can check out our how-to walk-through here:

To set up, step under a loaded barbell on the floor, setting your feet so that the bar sits just halfway across them. Set the feet about hip-width apart, and then ‘screw’ them into the floor by twisting them slightly apart- imagine you’re spreading a towel. Maintaining a relatively vertical shin angle, hinge your hips back and set your shoulders over the bar.

Contract your lats to pull the bar tight into the body, lift your chest (think ‘proud chest’) and set your back to a neutral position. Brace your core and ‘pre-load’ the barbell with slightly less force than you need to lift the bar. Your arms should be taut. Think of yourself like a crane, with your hands acting as the hooks and your arms acting as the wires. To move efficiently your wires need to be tense before you pull.

Drive your feet into the floor, think about pushing the floor away, as you stand up, driving through the hips and maintaining a neutral spine and braced core.

To complete the movement, contract your quads, squeeze and push through your glutes to come to a standing position. Lower the bar under control by reversing the movement, re-set it to the floor and repeat for the desired number of reps.

Pendlay Row

This is one of the best movements for building strength across the whole back, as well as developing significant core strength and challenging your hamstring mobility.

You can check out our how-to walk-through here:

Start with a loaded barbell on the floor, step under the bar so it sets roughly halfway over your feet. Hinge into position and take a slightly wider than shoulder width grip. Set your hips slightly higher than a deadlift. 

Brace your core and maintain a flat back throughout. Build tension in your arms before you pull, imagine you’re generating 99% of the force required to perform the rep. You should hear the bar ‘click’ into place against the plates. There should be tension through your body. 

To perform the rep, explosively pull the bar up towards the lower part of your chest. Ensure you maintain the same shoulder and hip position. 

Lower the bar under control towards the floor. Allow it to come to a dead stop and then repeat for the desired number of reps.

Safety First

Remember, the movements and techniques you see demonstrated here are advanced weightlifting exercises and our team have practiced them countless thousands of times. It's vital to have professional guidance when you're exercising - and this is especially true when you're using free weights.

If you'd like to talk to us about training with us here in London at our Soho, Fitzrovia, or Mayfair studios, we'd love to help. Equally, if you're somewhere else in the world - we can be by your side virtually using our innovative online training app and video call guidance.

Contact Fitness Lab today to see how we can help

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