In a recent article I discussed the impact of flexibility on the posterior chain, the group of muscles that run along the back side of your body: lower back, glutes, hamstrings and calves.
These muscle support the backside of our body and greatly impact our foundation/balance, power, and posture. These muscles are interdependent, so one problem with any of these muscles can impact the entire posterior chain.
Issues can occur when any of these muscles in the chain are underdeveloped, unbalanced or have limited range of motion. In today’s society the average person spends more time of their day sitting than being active. A large portion of free time is also spent on electronic devices. All of this leads to a weak posterior chain.
The glutes are the main muscle movers in the lower body. However, sitting on them all day can destroy your body. While sitting, inactive glutes will not stabilize your hips, resulting in poor posture. Sitting for long periods will reduce the muscles’ ability to fire adequate muscle fibers. This will make normal movement more difficult and result in muscle discrepancies that can lead to injuries.
Inactive glutes will also cause hip flexors to tighten, and then hamstrings will take up the slack from what the glutes are unable to do. All of this makes any type of movement more difficult and increases the risk of future injuries – all things we don’t want.
So what can be done to reduce all of this? You can focus your attention on two areas: at work or the office and at the gym.
At work or while sitting for long periods, make sure you are activating your glutes. Every 5-10 minutes try to sit up straight, tighten your glutes and active your core to support your hips and spine. Try to hold that position for a minute or two, and keep repeating the movement throughout the day.
You can also get up and take short walks around the office every 15-20 minutes, and focus on good posture while walking. Another good option is a stand up desk, this will minimize the time you sit throughout the day and will force all these muscles to engage while standing.
In the gym, you can focus on improving neuromuscular control, form/technique and strength. By working on standing on one leg from a front lunge position, the body can become more efficient at firing muscle fibers from the glutes. No weights; just stepping up to balance. Focus on neutral hip position, good posture and activate and hold the glutes throughout the motion. Relax the glute before starting the next rep; 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps is sufficient.
Improving flexibility will help with form. Some individuals have poor technique because they have limited range of motion. The better they become at improving flexibility, the better they will become with technique. However any gym exercise should be done properly with no weight before adding weights, so get the form down before trying to build strength.
Exercises that can build strength in the glutes are squats, lunges, deadlifts, and leg press. You can google videos clips of each exercise to make sure you are doing the exercise correctly.
I recommend doing 8-10 reps of each exercise and 2-4 sets. If you have any questions about the exercises, you can email me, and I’ll do my best to answer your questions.The best way to resolve any issues with the posterior chain will be a combination of improved flexibility, neuromuscular control and strength – in that order.
It will not happen overnight; it should take 2-4 months of consistent work before improvements will be noticed. The benefits may be decreased back and/or hip pain, improved posture, improved functional movement and improved overall health. An improved quality of life is worth the effort, So invest in your health and wellness.