When you look at the mirror, what muscles do you see? Men will typically see their pecs and their biceps; women will see their abs. And that’s great—yay for muscle tone! But it can be a problem when you focus on the muscles that you can see in the mirror at the expense of your posterior chain—the muscles on the back of your body.
That’s because your posterior chain contains more than 50 percent of your muscle mass. If those muscles are weaker than your “mirror muscles”, you increase your risk of shoulder and lower-back injuries, as well as poor posture, which can create the illusion that you have a belly.
Don’t believe me? Sit in a chair with a normal, relaxed but rounded posture and look at your stomach. Then sit up straight, draw your shoulders back and look down again. Looks flatter, right? Strengthening our posterior chain pulls us back and improves our posture, lengthening our midsection and reducing that paunch.
As I tell many of my clients, it’s time to get back—literally. The major muscle groups you want to focus on strengthening are your triceps, the space between your shoulder blades, and your lower back, glutes, and hamstrings.
4 Key Posterior Chain Exercises
Pick two of these posterior chain exercises to do on Mondays and Thursdays; complete the other two exercises on Tuesdays and Fridays. Do 4 to 5 sets of 20 repetitions of each exercise.
Hold one TRX handle in each hand with your hands out in front of you, palms facing each other. While keeping your arms straight, walk your feet forward and lean back, keeping tension in the straps until you’re at about a 50-degree angle. Pull your shoulder blades back and down, then pull your torso towards your hands, keeping your elbows close to your body and your body in a stiff, straight line from your head to your heels. Lower your body back to the starting position. That’s one rep.
Lying Dumbbell Tricep Extension
Lying on your back, hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms fully extended toward the ceiling, palms facing each other. Hinging at your elbows, lower the dumbbells until they are next to your ears. (Don’t let them touch the floor.) Then extend your arms toward the ceiling, returning to the starting position. That’s one rep.
Targets: lower back and glutes
Lie face down on a flat bench with your palms grasping the front of the bench and your knees about 5” off the edge of the bench. Contract your glutes and low-back muscles and raise your lower body as high as you can. Slowly lower again back to the starting position. That’s one rep.
Stiff-leg Dumbbell Deadlifts
Targets: hamstrings and glutes
Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and with a dumbbell in each hand in front of you, palms facing your thighs. Inhale and bend at the waist, pushing your butt backwards while keeping your back straight. Simultaneously slide the dumbbells down the front of your thighs. Push your hips back as far as you can until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. When you can no longer push your hips back any further, slide your hips forward to the starting position. That’s one rep.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.