4 Ways to Strengthen Your Posterior Chain
Let's talk about bone health! Aging and bone loss are inseparable. But the rate at which your bone density declines determines your risk for fractures. Common fracture spots are hips and spine. We seriously need to strengthen the structures that support these areas! By strength training your posterior chain (lower back, glutes, and hamstrings), you reduce the risk of fractures and also reduce the risk of osteopenia (low bone mass) and osteoporosis (advanced loss of bone tissue).
Trainer/Workout by: Brook Benten
Equipment: Kettlebell (25-35lbs)
For 1-minute a day, 4-6 days a week for the next 4-weeks, commit to this posterior chain strengthening progression:
Week 1: 1-minute each day of Bird Dog
Week 2: 1-minute per day of Alternating Glute Bridges
Week 3: 1-minute per day of Kettlebell Deadlift
Week 4: 1-minute per day of Front Two-Handed Kettlebell Swing
Below are four exercises for strengthening the posterior chain:
Bird Dog - is suitable for all fitness levels, even those brand new to strength training.
Alternating Glute Bridges - is more challenging than Bird Dog.
Kettlebell Deadlift - adds load to a bodyweight deadlift.
Front Two-Handed Kettlebell Swing - is a progression of Kettlebell Deadlift, and the most challenging exercise on this list!
Begin in quadruped ("All 4s") position. Next, reach your right arm forward and your left leg back until your body forms one straight line from wrist to torso to heel. Hold momentarily, then return to starting position. Repeat with left arm/right leg. At the longest point on each bird dog, with your hand projecting forward and your opposing leg projected back, you will feel gentle strength in the lower back.
Be careful not to lift the arm or leg higher than torso height- doing so would take the “gentle” out of this back strengthening exercise!
Alternating Glute Bridges
Lay belly-facing up on the floor with knees bent, feet planted on the floor, and arms long by your sides, palms facing down. Lift one leg straight up above the hip, point your toes, and lift and squeeze your glutes to raise your hips until there's a straight diagonal line from your shoulders to hips to knees. Hold momentarily. Lower your glutes to the ground. Switch legs. Lift the other leg straight up above the hip and repeat the glute bridge. Continue to alternate legs.
Wrap your fingers around the handle of a 25-35lbs kettlebell. Stand tall with your arms hanging right in front of the middle of the body and the kettlebell handle securely embraced in your grip. Plant your feet slightly wider than hips width apart and toes turned slightly out. Track your knees in the same direction as your toes as you draw your hips far out and back, like a slingshot! As you pull your hips back, tip your torso forward while maintaining a flat (neutral) spine. At the bottom of the dead lift, your ribcage should nearly touch the tops of your thighs and your back should look like the top of a table. Be sure to keep your abdominal muscles tight, as if bracing for a punch to the gut- this will help to ensure you are distributing the load throughout your core and not overloading the lower back. Next, tighten your glutes and drive your hips forward and raise your torso upright. Stop the movement when your hips are in line with the shoulders and knees.
The focus on the deadlift is the dominant hip drive!
Front 2-Handed Kettlebell Swing
Begin by placing a 25lb kettlebell on the floor, about an arms length in front of you. Reach your hips back and reach your arms forward to wrap your fingers around the handle of the bell. Tip the bell toward you and drag it from the floor to hike it between your legs through a deadlift base, as learned in Alternating Glute Bridge. Get your hands right into your groin as this will smack the kettlebell right to the glutes, where the force for the swing is produced! Clench your buns tight to take your hips forcefully driving forward. Activate your core and stop the movement when the hips align with the knees and shoulders (avoid hyperextension at the lower back at the top of the swing). Let the kettlebell reach a height where it feels momentarily weightless. You can open your fingers here if your grip needs a break, but as soon as gravity starts pulling the kettlebell back down, re-grip and…REPEAT!
The kettlebell handle swiveling in your hands will cause some friction. You may want to have some chalk handy, especially if you have sweaty/moist hands.