“I’ve Never Seen a Strong Person with a Small Ass.”
Legendary strength coach Louie Simmons has a way with words, doesn’t he? But the man does know a thing or two about building a big, strong powerful posterior chain arguably better than any other coach on earth.
Training the posterior chain does not have to be overly complicated. Variation with strength training is important to ensure we are finding new ways to challenge ourselves as well as determining what variation works best for our unique profile.
While implementing new variations is certainly part of any trainees process in their journey to become stronger and more muscular, we should avoid trying to re-invent the wheel and experiment with tried and true movement patterns.
With that said, most of you have a limited amount of time to devote to your training and going down the movement rabbit hole of what variation to choose will not be the best use of our time.
Additionally, many trainees often become victims of paralysis by analysis and simply cannot make prudent decisions when it comes to their program design. Let’s avoid that.
The Top 10 Posterior Chain Building Exercises
The list of movements I’m going to provide you with can be varied a number of ways such as, loading, tempo, volume, so while this list does contains just 10 variations, you can insert your ideas to vary the execution and stimulus.
This list is limited to mainly “assistance exercises” for the posterior chain so you won’t see any of the classic lifts such as the squat and deadlift. Here’s are the top 10 posterior chain building exercises you should be training for a bigger, stronger backside:
#10 Sled Push
For many of you having access to a sled might be a luxury, but for those of you that do take advantage. This work can be included in your lower-body training day. Using a moderate to heavy load push the sled using the low-handle setting for 100 ft. The advantage with this variation is that your glutes will be on fire, but you won’t incur the same soreness you’d incur from a variation with axial loading making it an easy variation to recover from. Additionally, this work will allow you to train the anaerobic energy system so you’ll essentially be able to kill two birds with one stone. This work can be varied in terms of volume, loading, where you position yourself (high handle vs. low handle) and rest intervals. In my own programming, this work is a staple and has a huge carryover to my squat and deadlift.
#9 Reverse Hyper
Another specialty piece that you may not have access to, but if you do consider it a huge win. I often get the question, “what can I place the Reverse Hyper with” and the honest answer is nothing. Of course, there are comparable movements in terms of training the same musculature but the effect of this piece of equipment is unlike any other. In this case, we are going to work on controlled repetitions where the pendulum does NOT swing out of control. At the top of each repetition, we are going to squeeze our glutes HARD. For most that are accustomed to using the Reverse Hyper can use 50% of their Back Squat 1RM for 100 total repetitions, but if you’re new to using the RH start with half of that for both loading and volume.
#8 Single Leg RDL with Hand Support
While I love the Single Leg RDL without support, I tend to favor the supported version for a few reasons.
The training effect is greater because I’m able to up the load.
The movement efficiency is higher due to the reduced requirement of balance allowing for better consistency of movement/load.
Of course, this does NOT replace the unsupported variation as for athletes learning how to maintain balance under load is important, it’s simply another tool to vary a great movement. For this variation, try performing 4-5 sets of 5-6 reps per side with the heaviest load you can handle with good form.
#7 Glute Ham Raises
The Glute Ham Raise is another staple exercise that will crush your backside. Fortunately, most gyms have a GHR, but many athletes do not utilize it. Usually, the issue I see is that athletes do not know how to set it up in terms of how close to put the backplate to the front pad. For most of you the backplate will need to be closer than you think, but of course, you’ll need to play with it. The movement can be varied a number of ways such as adding additional loading in the form of band tension, a weighted vest, or a medball. Start with 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps. Once you’re able to use additional external load you can increase the sets and decrease the reps per set.
#6 Band Resisted Russian Kettlebell Swing
The band resisted kettlebell swing is a great variation to really hit the glutes and hamstrings hard for high-volumes of work. The addition of a band provides an “overspeed eccentric” where the band forcefully pulls the kettlebell down on the reverse action. For this reason, you’ll have to be more resistant to this action thereby creating more eccentric demand as well as forcing you to be more aggressive on the concentric action. Overall, this provides a new twist to an otherwise common hip-hinge movement pattern. You’ll want to make sure you squeeze your glutes hard at the top of the movement and try NOT to over-extend at the top of the movement. This movement can be done for high volume, up to 100 total reps.
#5 Back Raises
For many the 45 degree back raise is a common movement pattern and put simply it works. This movement has been proven to have high EMG ratings for gluteal activity. For this reason, we’ve included it on our list, but we can change the demand of this movement a number of ways by using additional resistance ie. band tension or an implement on the ground such as a loaded barbell or a kettlebell (shown using an empty Saftey Squat Bar.) This is another movement that can be done for high volume up to 100 total reps.
#4 Sled Pull Powerwalk
Like the sledpush this can double as conditioning work. Here we are looking for big, powerful steps where your heel meets the ground FIRST then pushing through your toes. If you’re forceful on each step the sled should jerk side-to-side. Start off with 6-8 sets of 40-60 yards with as much weight as you can handle on your sled while still being forcefull on ALL sets.
#3 Wide Stance Concentric Good Morning
The wide stance good morning is a nice variation to hit the spinal erectors, glutes, hamstrings, and adductors. You can vary this by using a specialty bar such as a safety squat bar and/or accommodating resistance in the form of band-tension or chains. You’ll want to work with submaximal loading, but building to a challenging set of 5-8 reps. If you’re not able to perform the concentric variation in a rack off pins, you can opt for the traditional goodmorning.
#2 Wide Stance High Box Squat
With this box squat variation, we are going to work at or above parallel allowing us to ensure the movement remains posterior chain dominant. With that said, your shins should be completely vertical. For this variation, once you’re proficient, we are going to build to a 1-3 RM over the course of 6-7 sets. You can vary this the same way as we varied the good morning ie. using a specialty bar such as a safety squat bar and/or accommodating resistance in the form of band or chain. A few teaching points, you want to make sure you sit back on the box while keeping your lumbar tight. This allows us to break up the phases of the lift and develop reversal strength.
#1 Barbell RDL with RNT Band
Obviously this list cannot be complete with the good ole barbell RDL. While this a tried a true variation we can certainly insert some variation with movement by using Reactive Neuromuscular Training (RNT) with the form of bands pulling forward. The band pulling forward is going to force us to dial in solid position and engage the anterior core/posterior chain to even greater potential. This can be done with a regular or wide stance. Perform 4-5 sets of 6-10 reps.
Build The Posterior Chain, And The Big Lifts Will Come
While this list is pretty extensive it’s very actionable – you can apply these variations to your training right away and reap the benefits. Additionally, there is a nice balance between heavy, moderate, and light loading as well as low, moderate, and high volume for each respective variation.
Overall, training the posterior chain effectively is extremely important and will responsible for the large majority of the lean-mass you gain on your backside as well as pushing your squat and deadlift numbers up!
About The Author
My name is Jason Brown and I have been fitness professional for nearly 15 years. I have owned my own facility, trained a wide-range of clients ranging from soccer moms, military personnel, law enforcement, CrossFitters, Powerlifters, and professional athletes. My area of specialization is providing a system of concurrent fitness geared toward the general population in a group setting. Currently, I own BoxProgramming.com and write programming for over 250 facilities world-wide.