Editor’s note: This week’s workout was submitted by a company specializing in performance training. We were not paid for this, but chose to run it based on its merit and anticipated value to readers.
Race-Season Prep: Building the Posterior Chain
Race season is here! Are you ready for explosive, double-pole starts and mid-race attacks? How about sprint finishes? With race season already firing up across most of North America, SISU Strong wants to make sure you’re maximizing your time in the gym to accomplish these goals!
Based in Park City, Utah, SISU Strong works with actions sports athletes and outdoor recreation enthusiasts to build strength, improve movement, and increase resistance to injury. Founder and Head Coach Deacon Andrews has made a name for himself by adapting timetested strength training protocols to optimize performance for everyone from weekend warriors to pros in a variety of outdoor sports.
In this Wednesday Workout, Andrews takes us through a typical strength training session with one of his cross-country skiers, focusing on developing the posterior chain.
The muscles of the posterior chain are much more than just stabilizers. They’re also responsible for hip extension, which is the primary movement that drives you forward when you skate or kick classic. A stronger posterior chain means a stronger push, which translates to greater efficiency, more speed, better overall performance and less potential for injury through a long season of training. Developing your “backside” will also improve endurance, slow the onset of muscular fatigue, and therefore allow you to maintain greater control throughout your race or training session.
Assuming you can already train through a good range of motion without pain, posterior chain weakness is a fairly easy issue to address. Taking the time to work on this now will build the strength and muscle endurance that will give you an edge on race day, while also helping you avoid injury by stabilizing the hips and knees.
Warm up (mobility and activation):
2 rounds (easy pace | 5-10 minutes)
4 rounds (moderate pace | 20-30 minutes)
- Glute Bridges x 6-8 reps
- Ring Rows x 6-8 reps
- Plank x 10 seconds x 2 (max effort, squeeze your core!)
- Romanian Deadlifts x 10 reps
- Band Pull-Aparts x 10 reps
- Palloff Press x 10 reps (each side)
Practice Diaphragmatic Breathing for 1-3 minutes
Hip Flexor Stretch x 10 seconds each side x 3
This workout can be once per week for 3-4 weeks. Start with your bodyweight or some light resistance, and add a small amount of resistance each week, provided you can maintain good technique and range of motion. Add 1 round to the strength portion of the workout every 1-2 weeks.
Read on for descriptions of the core exercises and instructions on how to progress to greater resistance:
Posterior Chain Exercises - Technique and Progressions
Glute Bridges (demo video)
Lay flat on your back, on the floor. Bend your knees, moving your heels towards your butt, and make sure your feet are flat on the floor. Push up through your heels and squeeze your butt, lifting yourself off of the floor into a “bridge” position. Hold for a second, then return to a resting position on the floor. Repeat. You can load this movement by placing a barbell, dumbbell or kettlebell on your lap. To build strength through different positions and phases of the movement, vary the tempo and add in some pauses, as shown in this video.
Romanian Deadlifts (demo video)
From a standing position, bend your knees slightly while keeping your torso upright. Keeping your chest up and head neutral (don’t crane your neck in any direction), slowly push your hips back. As your hips move back, try to keep your knees from moving forward. Keeping the knees back helps take your quads out of the equation and allows the hamstrings and glutes to do the work through this range of motion. Go to the point where you start to feel tension build up in your hamstrings, then, keeping your knees in that same slightly bent position, return to standing. If doing this movement unweighted, place your hands on your hips. To add resistance, hold a weight in front of your hips with both hands, lowering it between your legs through the descending portion of the movement. Be careful not to allow your upper or lower back to round during this movement.
Ring Rows (demo video)
For this movement, you’ll need a pair of gymnastic rings with straps, a TRX, or some sort of homemade equivalent. Most commercial gyms have this equipment nowadays. Adjust the rings or TRX so that the bottom is at or about knee height.
Grab one ring/handle in each hand and walk backwards until the rings are about chestheight with your arms fully extended. Slowly, and with a firm grip on the rings, walk your feet forwards toward the rig, or whatever sturdy object the rings are hanging from. Your arms should be fully extended, your weight should be supported partially by the rings, and your body should be at an angle to the floor. Squeeze your butt to set your brace and prevent sagging through the midsection during this movement. Starting with your palms facing down, simply pull your body up until the rings are almost touching your chest. As you pull, rotate your arms so that you finish with your palms facing in.
Band Pull Apart (demo video)
For this movement, you’ll need a resistance band. I recommend starting with something fairly light, as this movement is harder than it sounds. Holding one end of the band in each hand, extend your arms out so that the band is taut and held away from your chest. Then, squeeze your butt to set your brace and rotate your shoulder blades down and back try to think about putting them in your back pockets. Then, focusing on using your upper back, and keeping your arms locked out, “spread” the band by moving your hands away from each other until the band touches your chest. Don’t puff your chest out to reach the band. There should be no movement at the elbow joint. Do this exercise in several sets of 1020 repetitions.
To learn more about how a well-planned strength training program can help develop your posterior chain and take your training and performance to the next level, check out our website at sisustrong.com and sign up for a free consultation!
Co-Owner | Manager | Coach
SISU Strong Athletic Performance