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Bringing Up My Posterior Chain

Hi all, I’ve been lifting seriously for about 9 months but I still consider myself a beginner. This is because my squat total is still pathetic compared to my bench and deadlift.

Over the summer I unwisely chose to do the 20 rep squats program that is, I know realize, designed for advanced trainees. Needless to say, when I got past 165 I injured my knees, and that was the end of squatting for about two months. My knees killed me-- I couldn’t do any exercises that involved them.

I’ve been doing a lot of glute activation and strengthening exercises, and I feel a lot better now, but my knee pain occasionally resurfaces, and my big weakness is still present: a weak as hell squat. Weaker than my bench. It pisses me off to no end, but I can’t do anything about it.

I am convinced it’s because my posterior chain is embarassingly weak. Knowing this is empowering, I guess, but to be honest I don’t know what to do about it. The exercises that “hit” the posterior chain the most are the one’s I’m bad at – Squats – and I’m ‘good’ at deadlifts somehow.

Here’s some important info:

-I do glute activation-- sideways band walks, bird dogs, glute bridges, etc

-I do have bumper plates at my gym, so I can do cleans and the like

-My gym also doesn’t have glute-ham raise platforms (I’m in college, no choice of gym unfortunately)

-I do run hills once to twice a week, this seems to be working my glutes

-I don’t know exactly what hip mobility stretches I’m supposed to do

-I have been squatting below parallel – for front squats, I used a wide stance with feet facing 30* out, with my ass coming down well past parallel. For back squats, not quite as deep, same foot position

-Our dining hall is under renovation and the closest one is a 20 min walk. Needless to say, ‘eating more’ not an option; I’m currently relying heavily on MRPs and other snacks (Metabolic Drive, Complete and Low carb, MB bars, Mixed nuts, milled flax seeds, oil oil, etc), Despite this, I feel that I’m still in a position where I can add strength; after all, I’m a beginner and it’s not like it’s hard to add to a 115 pound squat.

I gave a lot of info, hopefully this will make my situation more understandable.

Other than that, I’d like some advice on how to strengthen it. I’m sick of having a weak squat and feeling out of control.

And I have used the search function, before anyone asks. Most articles contain assumptions that do not apply to me.

Thanks in advance!

So you’re bad at squats. The best solution would be to focus on doing, you guessed it, squats. Assuming your knee has healed up (if not, you might want to grab bullet proof knees by Mike Robertson), just start squatting more. Train in the 4-6 rep range, and add 5 lbs to the bar each workout. Also, if you really need posterior chain work, you could do pull throughs. You might want to take a look at starting strength and run it for a month or 2 to bring your squat up.

You ever used a box to squat? I have found pausing on a box at parallel, before exploding up hits my glutes pretty hard. If you don’t have a box, just drag a bench into the squat rack.

Also speed squats helps with form and to learn how to recruit more muscle. Do 10 sets of 3 at 50% your 1RM, but focus on moving as fast as possible (with strict form).

these might be worth a look

Thanks for the feedback guys.

in order:

ninjaboy: I should have said this, whoops. I was doing starting strength. Once I got to 135 on the bar, it basically stopping working for me, and I was actually using very small increments. I wouldn’t post if it weren’t a problem I could not understand – I don’t know why my squat sucks, and practicing it has not helped in the past. It’s just lead to knee pain.

I’ve been eyeing bulletproof knees, but the price tag is a little steep. Now that you suggest it, it’s starting to look a whole lot better though.

Liambrady- I have toyed around with the box squat, but I haven’t used it enough to tell whether it works for me or not yet. I will continue box squatting like you said (that’s how I did it during two sessions) and I’ll report back

indiladhar - thanks a lot, I will give them a try.

I was hoping someone could recommend some ancillary exercises to try out, I have given hack squats a try and I liked them, would they have any carry over to real squats?

You could try reverse lunges holding a barbell with a front squat grip or single leg squats to a box. I’ve never heard of a strength program including leg machines. They just don’t provide all the core muscle work, coordination and balance necessary to improve your squat.

If you’re getting knee pain and don’t have some kind of medical condition, you probably have a mechanical problem. Lookup “squat Rx” on youtube and make sure your form is good. And here’s a good article on squat form by the bulletprooof knees guy, Mike Robertson.

Why would you think you have a problem with your “posterior chain” if your deadlift is doing perfectly well?

What other exercises are you doing to strengthen your thighs?

And as somebody above me stated, knee pain is probably a technique issue. Relaxing at the bottom, rocking forward onto the balls of the feet, letting the knees bow in, locking out the knees at the top… these things will all cause knee pain, so make sure you’re staying tight and squatting correctly.

He could be lower back dominant. Lots of conventional lifters are basically pulling with the low back. Not ideal maybe, but it happens. But yeah, that’s a thought. Also second the technique issue with knee pain.

OP–do front squats hurt the knees? If not, continue doing them.

video of squat form may be helpful.

layout of your current leg day might be helpful. Or program if it’s full body.

post chain exercises—

pull-throughs. Killer for glutes and hammies. Bit of a balance component though. Just have to get used to them is all.

step ups
good mornings (but be careful with form!!)
Dimel deads—basically the top half of a deadlift. Start from the top end, lower down to the knees by pushing the hips out, and fire the hips back through to complete the lift. Great lift. NOT meant for the low back–keep the tension in the glutes and hams. Keep the head up and torso as upright as possible. Don’t use your quads, just push the hips back, and then fire forwards.

leg curls. They actually might help for once.

all these exercises should be done in higher rep ranges (8-12 ish) for now. The goal isn’t more pounds on the bar so much as it is learning to activate the muscles you need to activate under tension greater than bodyweight. As long as you can feel them in the right muscles, keep moving up in weight. If you can’t, don’t go up in weight.

Focus on ‘Pulling your hips through’ on both squat and deadlift, that will get your ass to grow (and be utilized more)


Pull throughs are great to ASSist with that. (see what i did there?)

Pull throughs look great. I will try them. Actually, I ran across an article that focused on ‘bringing up the chain’

I tried day one and it was strange, in that it was the first time I’ve used machines in a while. I’m going to give this a couple weeks to work, and if it doesn’t I’ll try something else. Anyone else ever used this program?

Knee pain: Yeah, it actually did hurt when I would front squat, but never during-- only about an hour after finishing the session, and then for another half a day after. I know I’m gonna catch some shit for this, but I suspect I may have been going too low (I’m not very flexible yet) and that caused the knee pain.

Speaking of flexibility, is progression necessary with stretching?

I don’t have access to a video camera, but I’ll see if I can borrow one from anyone in my dorm.

Thanks for the feedback guys, I really appreciate all the advice