This time I want to talk a bit about the posterior chain. The importance of a strong, mobile, and powerful posterior chain cannot be understated for CrossFit, and probably for life generally. You may be able to guess from the name…the posterior chain refers to a linkage of muscles on the posterior (back) of the body: from the lower back, to the gluteal group (butt), to the hamstrings, and down to the calves. For many of us, the posterior chain is underdeveloped because of years of favouring the large, strong quadriceps group (front of the leg) when walking up stairs, squatting, and so on. Consensus is, however, that a strong posterior chain is vital for athletic performance.
Feel a bit weak in the posterior chain? Want to get your bum (literally) in shape for the summer? The good thing is that some or all of these exercises are likely already in your program:
Deadlift: The deadlift is a favourite for many as it is the chance to lift a ton of weight off the ground. At Ignite we tend to use barbells or kettlebells for it, but in reality it refers to lifting any load from the ground to the hip. When set at the bottom of the deadlift, flatten the lower back and maximise the activation of your posterior chain by thinking of pushing the ground away from you with your heels. This will keep you off of your toes and your weight back, and maximise the effectiveness of the lift.
GHD Hip Extension: This exercise uses the Glute-Ham Developer (GHD) and it can be intimidating to many because of the reality that you must hang prone off the apparatus and forcefully extend upward. But once you get the hang of it you’ll be feeling the benefits and want it in your program all the time! The key here is to keep the back flat, with the hip acting as a hinge. If the back rounds toward the bottom, it turns into a back extension, which does not allow for maximal posterior chain activation.
Kettlebell Swing: Kettlebell swings are also a favourite because they develop power in the posterior chain and can get the heart rate up! Just knowing that KB swings involve the posterior chain can help us do them the right way – it’s the glutes (hips) that work to get the kettlebell overhead! When at the bottom of the swing, forcefully straighten the knees and shoot the hips forward – if you find yourself muscling the kettlebell up with your arms, you need to develop more power in the glutes (hips) in order to take the weight up in the future. Many variations of the KB swing exist, such as single-arm swings