Everyone loves a nice butt, right?

And everyone also loves a strong back, well-developed and properly-firing glutes, and healthy hamstrings…right?

Ok, maybe having a perky booty is the more obvious perk (pun unintended but appreciated) of working your “posterior chain,” or the muscles along the back of your body. But those muscles are also super important for reasons besides turning heads.  A well-developed posterior chain that can engage properly (i.e. the right muscles are working for the right movements) helps maintain healthy posture and spinal alignment, prevent knee and hip and foot injuries, improve athletic performance, decrease back pain, and improve balance, stability, and core function.  In addition, because the muscles of the posterior chain are so comparatively large and strong (especially those glutes!), the posterior chain serves as a hefty portion of very metabolically active tissue – basically, you’ve got a lot of muscle back there, and it can burn a lot of calories.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t use our posterior chain as much or as well as we should. Thanks to office jobs and laptops and mobile phones, most of us spend the majority of our day seated and hunched in front of a screen. This leaves our posterior chain muscles stretched and inactive, while our anterior chain muscles (those along the front of the body; think chest, shoulders, etc.) are overused and tightened from motions like reaching forward, typing, etc.  In addition, a lot of folks – yours truly included! – are fairly anterior-dominant in the lower body as well, which means the quads are taking over and doing more of the work while the glutes and hamstrings get lazy.

The way to fix this?  Strengthen your posterior chain, stretch those tight muscles of the anterior chain, and put down your phone, get up from your desk, and move around a bit more during the work day. 

(If you want to see a bunch of ways you can change up your position or get a little more active at the office, follow me on instagram. I share a lot of #officefitness hacks in my insta-story!)

Remember, the posterior chain muscles are those along the back of your body. The big guns are your back, your hamstrings, and your glutes.  The exercises that target these muscles are those involved in pulling motions – pull ups, deadlifts, back extensions, and all the countless variations in between.  But don’t worry too much about picking out exercises right now, because I’ve got a spicy posterior chain workout for you right here!

This is a workout of trisets, or groupings of 3 exercises.  After a warm up, you’ll move through the trisets (grey boxes) in order, with minimal rest between exercises and about 2 minutes (more if needed) between trisets. For example, you will comple 3 rounds of the exercises in Triset A before moving on to complete 3 rounds of Triset B.  In Triset A, you’ll do your KB sumo squats and then quickly move to KB swings, and after that quickly into the 3-pt DB rows, with minimal time between the individual exercises…but after finishing 3 rounds of the exercises in Triset A, you’ll take a 2 minute (or however many minutes you need) break before jumping into Triset B.

Some quick pro-tips for ya with this workout…

  1. You can pin the graphic above so you can save this workout for-ev-errrr. (You can also share this post on facebook/twitter if you want me to fall in love with you.)
  2. Be sure to warm up and stretch a bit before this workout.  Skipping your warm up and mobility work is tempting, but also stupid (speaking from experience). So just do it.
  3. You should use a weight that is appropriate for your strength and fitness level.  This is a high volume workout, so you don’t want something super heavy, because that will tire out your muscles before you’re done…and that means sloppy form, which leads to injuries and other not-fun things.  When a weight starts to compromise your form, it’s too heavy – sub in a lighter weight that allows you to keep good form. It’s often better to actually start out with a lighter weight, and then move up to a heavier weight as necessary. (Your body will thank you, even if your ego doesn’t.  Besides, humility is good for #gains.)  You can also reduce the number of times you go through each triset if it’s too challenge – instead of 3 rounds of each triset, you can do 1 or 2.
  4. This is all in English, but I did use some abbreviations that can seem foreign if you’re not a personal trainer!  For reference:
    KB = kettlebell (looks like an upside-down ring pop made out of iron)
    DB = dumbbell (you know what those look like)
    BB = barbell (either the olympic BB, with or without plates, or the preloaded BBs that most gyms have)
    SL = single leg
    RDL = romanian deadlift (see this video for a demo)
    3-pt DB rows = well…just watch this video (fancy name for an exercise you’ve probably seen at least a few times)
    stiff leg DLs = another type of deadlift (this video explains the difference between stiff leg DLs and RDLs)
  5. If you don’t have access to some of the equipment, no worries – just substitute a different type of weight for the one listed. For example, if you don’t have a barbell, you can use dumbells for your deadlifts instead.  If you aren’t yet able to do a certain exercise, like pull ups, you can do a regressed version, such as pull ups on the assisted pull up machine.  (For other examples, check youtube or reach out to me on instagram!)
  6. Be prepared to walk a little funny the day after you do this! (Another great time to stretch and spend quality time with your foam roller or lacrosse ball…)
  7. As always, if you’re unsure of an exercise, YouTube is your BFF.

This workout is probably best for folks who have been working out for awhile and are familiar with weight training.  I was sore for a couple days after doing this at my parents place – God bless my dad’s garage gym – and I’ve been lifting weights for years (albeit much lighter weights for the past six months since I quit my gym membership and have been limited to a pair of 10lb dumbbells).

If you’re just starting to exercise for the first time ever, or just the first time in a long time, take it slow! It might be good to check in (in person) with a personal trainer to make sure that your movement patterns are safe, healthy, and setting you up for long term success.  You might try this workout with just your bodyweight! If you’re more intermediate/advanced in your experience with weight training, have at it and just remember that form always trumps weight.

And now, go forth and work that posterior chain.  Let’s be the kind of people Sir Mixalot writes songs about.



2 thoughts on “Baby Got Back (Posterior Chain Workout)”

  1. How often would you recommend doing this workout? Once a week? Twice a week? Would you recommend increasing weight each week or reps?

    1. Once a week would be good, if you have a couple other strength training workouts you can do throughout the week. If not, you could do it twice a week, but give yourself at least about 48 hours in between workouts!

      I would increase weight a little bit every other time you do the workout (so ideally, every other week you’d increase weight). You know you’re ready to bump up the weight if you’re keeping perfect form and it’s no longer a struggle to finish the last few reps of each set.

      Hope you enjoy the workout!

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