How can you train your glutes, hamstrings, and back at the same time? You may not realize this, but your glutes (butt muscles) are among the three most important muscle groups used in weightlifting. Glutes, together with your hamstrings and lower back, are known as the posterior chain that supports every full-body, multi-joint compound movement that your body performs. Your speed, strength, and power begin with your posterior chain!
Why should you train your glutes, hamstrings, and back?
If you are not training your glutes, hamstrings, and back, you’re not reaching your full power potential, and you won’t be jumping as high or running as fast as you could be. Unfortunately, most athletes focus on their quads, neglecting their glutes and hamstrings. This creates an imbalance in your posterior chain that will, over time, lead to pain and injury in your lower back and hamstrings. Weak hamstrings and glutes will also cause your pelvis to tilt forward.
Failure to train your posterior chain puts you at risk for reduced performance and may result in injury. You need to stretch, strengthen, and train your glutes, hamstrings, and back together for optimal performance. While the usual deadlifts and lunges are marginally useful, they will inevitably reinforce your dominant muscles. This will contribute to any imbalance already present and will produce dysfunctional compensatory patterns caused by weakness in any of the three muscle groups.
What are some good exercises to train your glutes, hamstrings, and back?
Here are four examples of a compound, full-body exercises that you can add to your weightlifting, strength, and mobility training to improve the strength, flexibility, and power of your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back:
Glute Bridges − Grab your mat and start on your back with your hands by your sides. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor directly below your knees. Now squeeze your glutes, tighten your core, and raise your hips toward the ceiling. The goal is to form a straight line extending from your knees to your shoulders. Keep your core tight and pull your stomach back toward your spine, holding the bridge for 30 seconds.
Swiss Ball Leg Curls − Start in your glute bridge position but with your feet on a Swiss (inflatable) exercise ball. Perform a glute bridge and, when your hips are highest, do a hamstring curl rolling the ball from your heels to the balls of your feet as the ball comes towards your body. Hold your core and glutes tight as you control the ball on the way out and repeat.
How can squats and the kettlebell swing help your posterior chain?
Squat Jumps and Box Jumps − Squat jumps are a plyometric exercise that activates your posterior chain muscles and connective tissues. Stand with your feet at shoulder width and swing your arms back as you perform a squat. At the lowest point of your squat, throw your arms forward and upward as you jump explosively until your body leaves the ground. As you touch down, perform another squat and jump and repeat. Once you improve your jump height, add a sturdy box or bench to jump up on and then down.
Kettlebell Swings − Kettlebell swings are a compound exercise that works your entire posterior chain. Hold the kettlebell securely in both hands in front of your body. Engage your hips and knees as you swing the bell forward and back in a slow, controlled rhythm. You will soon learn to “pop” your hips forward as you propel the kettlebell forward, engaging your posterior chain.