You can mix and match whatever veggies, whole grains, and proteins you have on hand.

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.

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

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