Powerhouse Exercises for Posterior Chain Strength

The Two Exercises You Need

Train your posterior chain with these two neglected exercises to improve performance and alleviate annoying back pain.


You might have a strong back or resilient and coordinated back muscles, but probably not both. Strengthening posterior chain coordination is neglected in most training programs.

Too bad, because the posterior chain is the powerline of your body – a fundamental element of your athleticism that spans from your heels to your head. The components are usually trained in isolation, but an integrated approach delivers significant performance gains.

Even better, a strong and well-coordinated posterior chain is your ticket to a pain-free back. The two game-changing exercises? Nordic curls and neck bridging.

The Mighty Posterior Chain

First, a quick review. The posterior chain is the series of muscles on the back of your body. It comprises your lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves, and goes all the way up to your traps and neck muscles.

Think of the posterior chain as your body’s powerhouse. Every explosive action, every heavy lift, every jump, and every sprint heavily relies on this interconnected system of muscles. They’re your primary movers and stabilizers that maintain your body’s balance and alignment. Neglecting these muscles often manifests as back pain.

Understanding the muscles involved is crucial:

  • Calves: Initiate movement and stabilize your body.
  • Hamstrings: Responsible for knee flexion and hip extension.
  • Glutes: Work for hip extension, rotation, and stabilization.
  • Lower Back and Back: Extend and stabilize the spine.
  • Traps: Move and stabilize the shoulder blades and support neck and head movements.
  • Neck Muscles: Support your head, allow rotation and flexion, and helps maintain posture.

Two simple exercises can cover all this musculature and help to train it as an integrated whole to make a strong, intelligent system that supports excellent posture and becomes the foundation of powerful movements.

1. Nordic Curl

This hamstring-strengthening exercise is touted for its injury-prevention benefits, especially for those involved in sprinting or high-speed movements. The Nordic curl places your hamstrings under significant tension, promoting strength and resilience.

With the Nordic curl, you’re improving hamstring strength and working towards better overall posterior chain balance and coordination, substantially alleviating back pain.

Even if your deadlift is good, you’ll instantly know you need this exercise in just the first few reps. Don’t be surprised if you get a cramp or spasm in the hamstring. That indicates you need this drill!

2. Neck Bridge

You see this exercise in the wrestling world but not so much in the average gym. Neck bridging helps develop the posterior muscles of the neck and the trapezius. It also engages the muscles down your spine and glutes when performed correctly.

Neck bridging, although intense, significantly strengthens your neck, upper back, and spinal muscles. Do this exercise with caution. Start slowly and gradually increase the intensity as your strength improves.

Power Up Your Posterior Chain

Integrating Nordic curls and neck bridging into your routine gives your posterior chain the challenge it needs. These exercises go beyond regular squats, deadlifts, or rows, focusing on commonly neglected (but integral) parts to a strong, balanced posterior chain.

A resilient posterior chain not only translates to less back pain and a buffer against potential injuries, but it’s also your secret ingredient to superior athletic performance. Whether lifting more, sprinting faster, jumping higher, or staying agile, it all starts at the back. A bit of discomfort at first is a small price to pay for the enormous gains you’ll make in your overall strength, resilience, and performance.

Make any workout work better. Fuel it.

Biotest

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Also include Glute Ham raises. They are terrific for the posterior chain.

I plan to avoid the neck bridges due to an arthritic neck.

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I am right there with you on the arthritic neck. 30 years of high back squats did my neck no favors… The errors of our youth, come back and kick our asses in our 50s.

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Pretty sure I’ve read an article on TNation that specifically suggested that unless you’re a wrestler, you should never do neck bridges. The same benefits can be gained in safer ways with safer exercises. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure.

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heya,

agree a 100 percent, never seen a top flight lifter of any sort do neck bridges, not saying they havent tried or whatnot…but it’s on nobody else’s must do list.

take care.

shift key has left the building tonight, my apologies.

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As I am an ancient wrestler/ judo player neck bridging has been part of my training for almost 50 years. I started young - seen a lot of folks hurt themselves bridging. Neck training is important & yes most folks should not bridge - there are better/safer ways to train your neck.
The Nordic curls destroy me…gotta focus on those.
Bridging …when properly coached & carefully done is very effective…but you must focus.
Excellent article nonetheless !!

Jealous of the old school Judo background! I did it in the 90’s and didn’t keep it up, wish I did.

The accumulated muscle memory, muscle strength and know-how can’t be replicated. I am learning surfing at 60, I will never be good. Hoping for competent. Can’t substitute for that young age learning and muscle memory. Instructor asked me for advice from 60, told him learn the things you want to do in your 20’s, you can always go back and remember. Learning late in life is tough… Tip of the cap for you longevity!

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Surfing ! That’s great…. I tried it in my 20’s…worked really hard and got to slightly better than bad. You are learning a new skill…you’re not just aging…you’re getting better. I am envious of your skill set. Keep at it my friend. In my senior years I have enjoyed learning new skills…I’ll probably do dips on my walker :slight_smile:

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Hey, @Mr_DoWork and @asmonius, thanks for reading and commenting! The engagement is important and greatly appreciated.

I have applied the neck bridge in the clinical setting and with athletes for a decade. I used to have access to MedX machines that standardized patient movement, and the huge amount of research they have made me feel very confident in this application with world-class athletes to 80yr old females with arm numbness and tingling. I will talk about that in another post.

But, I understand that vertebral artery dissection (VAD - the big issue people are concerned with) might seem scary, but let’s start with a reassuring fact: it’s quite rare 2.6/100,000. Generally, it’s responsible for about 2% of all ischemic strokes. In younger folks (between 30 to 45 years old), it’s a bit more common but still only accounts for 10-25% of stroke cases.

VAD can occur spontaneously, but it’s often connected to minor trauma to the neck. All movement has risk involved. In case you’re curious, some other risk factors include certain sports, high blood pressure, some connective tissue disorders, specific activities like painting ceilings or practicing yoga, motor vehicle accidents, and even neck manipulation. Still, remember that it’s a relatively uncommon condition.

To check whether you might be at risk, it’s crucial to be aware of potential symptoms.

He* adache: It is typically severe and sudden, sometimes described as a ‘thunderclap’ headache. It can also be localized to the back of the head or on one side.

  • Neck pain: The pain can be localized to one side of the neck, and may radiate upwards toward the head or downwards towards the shoulders.
  • Dizziness or vertigo:
  • Visual disturbances: Including double vision or partial loss of vision in one or both eyes.
  • Difficulty speaking: Some people may experience slurred or difficult speech.
  • Difficulty swallowing:
  • Ataxia: This is a lack of muscle control or coordination of voluntary movements.
  • Numbness or weakness: This can occur on one side of the body or in one limb.
  • Loss of consciousness: In severe cases, a person may lose consciousness.
  • Tinnitus: Some people report a pulsating sound in one or both ears.
  • Facial pain or numbness: This can occur on one side of the face.

Again, these symptoms can be associated with other conditions and should get checked out.

Here is an easy self-test you can do to assess yourself. Do this with a partner so they can observe you if you feel you have any risk at all. Do seated or standing, having the partner watch your eyes and face. Keep your eyes open and continue to talk to each other. Hold each position for 15-30sec and move to the next positions sequentially.

  1. Head back, looking up as much as possible.
  2. From #1, turn your head to “look over the shoulder.”
  3. From #2, use the opposite hand to apply some comfortable pressure, feeling the upper neck’s compression.
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If you have any of the above symptoms, STOP! Then make an appointment to be evaluated. If you already have pain in the neck or headaches, have yourself evaluated by a professional.

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