Build Your Posterior Chain With These Isolation Exercises

Your hamstrings, glutes and low-back muscles power nearly every athletic movement, so you need to focus on your posterior chain during workouts.

Kettlebell Training

If you want to get better at your sport, you need to focus on your posterior chain during workouts. Your hamstrings, glutes and low-back muscles are the driving force behind nearly every athletic movement.

To grasp the importance of the posterior chain, you must understand the roles these muscles play:

  • Hamstrings: knee flexion (bending) and hip extension (straightening the hips)
  • Glutes: hip extension (straightening the hips)
  • Low-back: spinal stability and injury prevention

These movements and muscles help athletes jump, accelerate and run, while also preventing injury to the lower body. So, resist the temptation to work on your mirrors muscles. If you want to become a better athlete, focus on your posterior chain.

Below are my top five isolation exercises for getting my athletes stronger in this crucial area. Perform them in addition to Olympic lifts, Deadlifts or Squats. Choose Exercise 1, or one from Exercise 2 or 3 and one from Exercise 4 or 5.

Exercise 1: TRX Hamstring and Glute Tri-Set

These exercises are performed in a circuit, starting with the most difficult and ending with the easiest.

Leg Curl

  • Place heels in TRX straps
  • Pull heels toward butt and simultaneously raise hips off ground
  • Maintain straight line from knees to shoulders at top of movement

Bent-Knee Hip Extension

  • Place heels in TRX strap
  • Drive through heels to raise hips off ground to create a straight line from knees to shoulders
  • Hold for two seconds then slowly return to start position

Straight-Leg Hip Extension

  • Same as above, but legs stay straight throughout movement

Sets/Reps: 2-3x8-12 each

Exercise 2: Russian Hamstring

This exercise targets the hamstrings, and it's a great option if you don't have access to a Glute Ham Raise machine.

  • Kneel on a pad and have a partner hold your feet to the ground
  • Keeping your hips forward, slowly bend your knees to lower to a push-up position.
  • Bend your knees to pull your body up and return to kneeling position
  • Perform a small Push-Up if assistance is needed

Sets/Reps: 3x8

Exercise 3: Sliding Body Leg Curl

This is a brutally tough exercise that targets both the hamstrings and glutes.

  • Position two Valslides next to each other and place a plate on top of the slides
  • Lie with upper back on the plate with legs straight
  • Drive heels into ground and curl heels to butt
  • Keep hips up throughout movement
  • Straighten legs to return to start position

Sets/Reps: 3x8-12

Exercise 4: Single-Leg Hip Extension

Watch a sprinter coming out of the blocks and you will see that they lean forward, punch their knee and then explosively extend their hip to accelerate forward. That said, training hip extension is a wise decision if you want to run faster.

  • Place foot on the floor, a bench or a medicine ball with other leg elevated in air
  • Drive through heel of planted leg to raise hips off the ground
  • Hold at the top before lowering

Sets/Reps: 3x8-12

Exercise 5: Kettlebell Swings

This exercise improves explosive posterior chain power and can also serve as a conditioning tool.

  • Hold a kettlebell with both hands between your legs
  • Hinge at hips to propel kettlebell to chin level, keeping arms straight
  • Lower kettlebell through the same motion
  • Immediately repeat in a rhythmic fashion

Sets/Reps: 3x15-20

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock