Posterior chain FAQs

11 March 2022
By Brett Durney

This blog is part of our series on the posterior chain. In this Posterior Chain FAQs article, we’ll answer some commonly asked questions about the posterior chain and associated exercises.

What exercises target the posterior chain?

The most popular exercises and most well-known exercises are deadlifts (any kind), hip thrusts, squats & back extensions. The lesser-known exercises are pelvic bridge, prone skydiver, and isometric hamstring curls. In short and simple terms, any exercise that predominantly utilises the hamstring, glute & back muscles could be classified as a posterior chain exercise.

Do burpees work the posterior chain?

Yes! However, it may not be the best choice of exercise if posterior chain activation is your number one goal.

The burpee is an intense, full-body exercise which utilises almost every muscle in the body (including the hamstrings, glutes and back muscles as well as calf muscles which make up the posterior chain).

When used as a part of a well-structured workout routine that is focused on you and your goals/progression, the burpee has its place. Are there better posterior chain exercises? Yes, but the burpee still holds its place.

Can you strengthen the posterior chain without deadlifts?

Absolutely! For some people, deadlifts simply can not be done. Think back injuries, leg length discrepancies, just coming out of surgery, etc.

The good news is that the posterior chain can be strengthened in many other ways, and there is always a way, no matter what the situation or condition in which we can work. By utilising isometric movements such as pelvic bridges, long lever bridges OR hip thrusts, we can work the posterior chain effectively and efficiently. We can also regress certain variations of traditional deadlifts to make it easier if required.

What is a posterior chain workout?

A posterior chain workout, in its most simplified form, is a workout that consists of exercises which focus on and work the muscles down the backside of the body (back, glutes, hamstrings and calves). It is very common in resistance training to split your workouts into different muscle groups depending on your goals.

As with all training, recovery is really important. By splitting your muscle groups on different days, you factor in intra-workout recovery, which enables you to train more frequently and therefore achieve your goals in the timeframes desired.

Some common examples of exercises used in a posterior chain workout could be (deadlifts, hip thrusts, squats (type will focus more or less on the posterior chain), hamstring curls, calf raises, back extensions, reverse hypers etc). 

Do front squats work the posterior chain?

In short – yes; however, they may not be the most effective or targeted posterior chain exercise. By the pure nature of the front squat, where your body is ‘front loaded’ you engage much more of your anterior chain (think abdominals, quadriceps, tibialis anterior) to complete the movement.

Whilst, of course, your hamstring and glutes and lower back will be assisting movers in this exercise, it does not make it the most effective or most go-to exercise to target the posterior chain. For a more focused and targeted approach, we would recommend selecting exercises such as deadlifts, hip thrusts and back extensions.

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