Strengthening the Posterior Chain
I’ve experienced a few unpleasant injuries while running with extensive volume, that stemmed from having a weak posterior chain. Bulging and herniated discs in my lumbar spine,hamstring tendenosis ,achilles tendinitis and a hamstring tear were amongst them. I wasn’t aware of the importance of strengthening the muscles that need to be strong to absorb the force I was putting on my body with consistent running. Unfortunately, other muscles compensating and the main strong muscles like the Glutes not “firing” led to injury and poor performance after training diligently for race goals.
The posterior chain is our power house and is comprised of some of the biggest and strongest muscles in the body. These muscles, including those of the back, glutes, hamstrings and calves, are critical to all athletic movements, including running.
Its the force that comes from the posterior chain that propels us forward. For runners, it’s easy for us to be quad-dominant, taking our hamstrings and glutes out of the picture or, at the very least, moving them to the back burner.
When sitting in a seated position for hours throughout the day, these posterior muscles forget how to work, forcing our anterior muscles to take over and do jobs they were never designed to do. This leads to a host of problems with reduced running performance and increased risk of injury topping the list.
Signs of a weak posterior chain could entail:
~ If you spend most of your day sitting, you can pretty much guarantee your posterior strength leaves something to be desired.
~If you regularly experience knee pain, your quad-to-hamstring ratio may need some improvement (i.e. stronger hamstrings).
~ If you regularly experience back pain during runs or at rest, you may have tight, overdeveloped quads and hip flexors that are causing excessive anterior pelvic tilt and spinal lordosis (sway back).
~If your kick isn’t there or you feel your power is lacking, there’s a pretty good chance you’re not running on all cylinders.
The key to optimal to stride efficiency and power, is balance between proper reinforcement and consistent training.
Here I am with functional trainer and advanced corrective exercise expert Matt Semrick of the Urban Wellness Clinic, demonstrating three essential exercises that I have added to my routine, and has done wonders for running with avoiding injury. Working with Matt is such a blessing as he is always educating me about my body, with specific details on body mechanics and research, as he trains me.
Work a few of the following moves into your routine to increase your power output and up your running game:
Hip Bridge/ Thruster
The hip bridge and thruster is a great way to wake up those glute muscles that have a tendency to forget their job. These can be performed with heavy weights for strength or lighter weights for power—it’s completely up to you.
How:start out with a simple glute bridge. Lie face up on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat. Press through your heels and contract your glutes to lift your hips off the floor until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Hold for a few counts then lower back to the floor. Once the movement is comfortable and you feel your glutes responding, add resistance in the form of bands or weights.
I have my knee bent in this photo with the added protection, supporting my back as I already have an anterior tilt in my spine
Sometimes I add a ball or pilates magic circle in between my knees to contract my adductors and get them firing at the same time that I’m turning the glute on.
Deadlifts target your posterior chain from top to bottom, developing strength and power everywhere in between.
Stand with feet shoulder width apart
Toes slightly turned out
Bell placed between your feet or slightly behind ankles
Inhale through your nose
Hinge at the hips
Reach for the bell
Load your lats
Keep a neutral spine with eyes on the horizon
Press through floor and stand up
How to: This move is the key to a strong back. Grab the handles with your palms facing one another. Lean all the way back until weight is on your heels, arms extended out in front of you, and body forms a diagonal. Squeeze shoulder blades together and keep your core tight as you bend your elbows and pull torso up to meet your hands. Lower to return to start.. Lift until your body reaches full extension then return to starting.