Want to Age Well? You Need a Strong Posterior Chain. Give Your Body’s Backside Some Love With These 7 Moves

Photo: Getty Images/ FatCamera
Whether you’re into weightlifting or Pilates, you’ve probably heard your instructor tell you to engage your “posterior chain.”

Well, they’re not just talking about your glutes, says Katie Wetzel, CPT, certified personal trainer and co-owner of gain. in Atlanta.

“Think of your posterior chain as the superhero cape of muscles from your neck to your heels,” she explains.

Strengthening these muscles is not only critical for everyday movements like jumping and lifting, but also for preventing injuries and improving posture and balance, Wetzel says.

And chances are if you spend a lot of time hunched over your computer (guilty!) or engaging in quad-dominant exercises like running (also guilty!), your posterior chain could use some TLC.

Experts In This Article

Here, experts like Wetzel tell us what exactly *are* those posterior chain muscles, how to tell if they’re weak, and go-to exercises to put your backside front and center.

What is your posterior chain and which muscles does it include?

“Your posterior chain includes all the muscles in your backside,” says Hannah Davis, CPT, CSPS, owner and personal trainer at Body by Hannah Studio in Cleveland, Tennessee.

According to Wetzel, “this group of muscles—upper back, lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves—work together to help you stand up, lift heavy things off the ground, and stay stable and balanced in everyday life.”

Unfortunately, most of us spend too much time in sedentary positions like sitting, which weakens the posterior chain and creates imbalances that lead to poor posture and even injury.

The benefits of a strong posterior chain

“Having a strong posterior chain is key for building good posture, preventing injuries, and improving overall strength,” Wetzel says.

Improving these muscles is also critical for supporting your spine and doing everyday activities like lifting heavy objects and climbing the stairs.

“Giving your backside some extra attention can also help with injury prevention and pain that often presents in the lower back, knees, and even shoulders due to muscle imbalances and weaknesses,” Davis adds.

Plus, posterior-focused exercises can help you build overall body muscle mass, metabolic health, and improve mobility—which Davis says is especially critical as you age.

How to know if you have a weak posterior chain

“It might be time to prioritize posterior strength training if you notice habitual lower back pain or struggle to keep your form strong and stable during exercises like squats, lunges, or deadlifts or just while picking up a heavy box or laundry basket off the floor,” Wetzel says.

And if you spend a lot of time sitting or doing forward-moving workouts like boxing, your body’s backline likely also needs strengthening to avoid muscle imbalances.

Davis recommends a simple single-leg glute bridge test to asses potential posterior chain weaknesses: While lifted into a glute bridge, extend one leg out, then lower it to the floor and back up again. If you feel your hips sink or wobble or you struggle to maintain balance on one leg, “it’s a good indicator that you need to incorporate more posterior chain exercises into your programs,” she says.

“This group of muscles—upper back, lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves—work together to help you stand up, lift heavy things off the ground, and stay stable and balanced in everyday life.” —Hannah Davis, CPT, CSPS

The best posterior chain exercises

These exercises strengthen your posterior chain by targeting backside muscles from your neck to your ankles, improving balance, posture, and stability.

If you’re new to exercise, try incorporating one or two of the bodyweight-only movements into your routine each week. More experienced athletes can perform the entire series with weights three to four times each week.

1. Glute bridge

Personal trainer demonstrating glute bridge posterior chain exercise
Photo: Katie Wetzel, CPT

  1. Start lying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor, hip-width apart, and arms down by your sides.
  2. Engage your core by pushing your lower back into the floor and zipping your ribs and hips toward one another.
  3. Maintain that position as you push your heels into the floor, squeeze your glutes, and lift your hips off the floor until your knees, hips, and shoulders are in a straight and strong line.
  4. Hold the position for a few seconds before slowly lowering your hips back to the floor.
  5. Repeat 10 to 15 times.


Up the intensity by placing a small Pilates ball or ring between your knees or adding a dumbbell on top of your thighs.

2. Superhero

Personal trainer demonstrating superhero posterior chain exercise
Photo: Hannah Davis, CPT, CSPS

  1. Start lying face down on a mat or the floor.
  2. Extend your arms overhead and straighten your legs.
  3. Lift your arms, chest, and legs off the floor by contracting the muscles of your back and glutes.
  4. Hold this position for two to three seconds while contracting the muscles of your back.
  5. Slowly lower your arms, chest, and legs back to the ground.
  6. Repeat 5 to 10 times.


To prevent strain, keep your neck in a neutral position by looking down at the ground or the top of the mat. Add a small resistance band around your arms or the ankles to increase posterior chain engagement.

3. Kettlebell swing

Personal trainer demonstrating kettlebell swing posterior chain exercise
Photo: Hannah Davis, CPT, CSPS

  1. Start by standing about a foot behind your kettlebell.
  2. Hinge your hips back and bend your knees as you reach forward to grab the kettlebell handle, tilting the kettlebell toward you.
  3. Keep your head up and grip the handle creating tension in your lats and depressing your shoulders
  4. Bring the kettlebell toward your groin, and then snap your hips forward to as you stand, swinging the kettlebell to shoulder height.
  5. Bend your knees and hinge your hips back as the kettlebell lowers back toward your groin.
  6. Repeat 15 to 20 times.

4. Bent-over row

Personal trainer demonstrating bent-over row posterior chain exercise
Photo: Katie Wetzel, CPT

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees bent slightly.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing in toward your body, arms down by your sides.
  3. Bend forward at your hips while maintaining a straight back and neutral spinal position until your torso is almost parallel to the floor and your arms hang directly beneath your shoulders.
  4. Maintain a strong core and pull the weights toward your lower ribs by squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  5. Hold this top position for a few seconds to really feel the muscle contraction in your upper back before slowly returning the weights with control to the starting position.
  6. Repeat 12 to 15 times.


Start with lighter weights to maintain your form, and stand with your side facing a mirror so you can check your form without turning your head.

5. Barbell hip thrust

Personal trainer demonstrating barbell hip thrust posterior chain exercise
Photo: Hannah Davis, CPT, CSPS

  1. Start seated on the floor, knees bent, feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart, and toes turned out slightly.
  2. Rest your upper back on the edge of a weight bench or aerobic step.
  3. Roll the weighted barbell across your hips, adding a pad underneath for comfort if needed.
  4. Hold onto the bar with your palms facing down to keep it balanced, then squeeze your glutes to shoot your hips up to press the bar straight up until your hips are in line with your shoulders and knees.
  5. Keep your core tight and tuck your chin toward your body, then slowly hinge at your hips to lower the bar down until the barbell weight plates tap the floor.
  6. Squeeze your glutes and lift again.
  7. Repeat 15 to 20 times.


Try the exercise with body weight or a light weight first to avoid back strain and perfect your form.

6. Romanian deadlift

Personal trainer demonstrating Romanian deadlift posterior chain exercise
Photo: Katie Wetzel, CPT

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, bend your knees, and hold the dumbbells in front of your thighs using an overhand grip (fingers or knuckles facing your thighs).
  2. Lower the weights down your legs by pushing your hips back, keeping your back straight and the weights as close to your legs as possible.
  3. Lower the weights until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings or until your hips can’t go back any further.
  4. Once you pause at the bottom, push your feet into the ground to reverse the motion and drive your hips forward to stand back up straight.
  5. Repeat 15 to 20 times.


Think of this exercise as lint-rolling the front of your legs, but with a flat back.

7. Gorilla row

Personal trainer demonstrating gorilla row posterior chain exercise
Photo: Hannah Davis, CPT, CSPS

  1. Place two kettlebells each in line with your toes and hinge your hips back, bending your knees and placing one hand on each weight.
  2. Alternate actively pushing one weight into the ground while pulling the other one up into your ribs.
  3. Repeat 10 to 15 times on each side.


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