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Training Differences For Anterior vs Posterior Muscles?

Hey gang,

Have any of you noticed or found any studies that suggest the anterior muscles respond to different stimulus versus posterior muscles?

Just to clarify, I’m counting anterior muscles as such: quads, biceps, chest, anterior delts. Posterior muscles would be: hams, glutes, low/mid/upper back, triceps.

To my limited understanding, it seems like posterior is geared more towards heavy and powerful/explosive work, while anterior muscles might be better suited to slightly higher rep and endurance work.

Am I totally off base? Love to hear everyone’s thoughts.

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I’ve heard theories about natural fiber type breakdowns before but never that anterior vs posterior Have a specific response type.

I’m curious about the details, specifically how they say the two group differ in regard to response to training?

S

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Fibre type breakdown is kinda what led me down this thought process, eventually questioning, as mentioned, if muscles with higher concentrations of fibre types seem to be located anteriorly versus posteriorly.

I think Chad Waterbury has made mention of something similar, but I can’t remember the exact specifics.

I’ve always experienced the exact opposite. I can do hinges and pulls for reps all day, but anterior muscles are better suited for explosive work.

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You cannot conclusively say that posterior chain muscles are collectively slow or fast, as for anterior chain. Additionally, it wouldn’t even matter if you could.

In regards to fibre type breakdown, we see a “mixed bag” all across the front and back of someone’s body. For example, following the posterior chain we see:

  • Soleus, slow
  • Gastrocnemius, fast
  • Hamstrings, inconsistently reported between studies
  • Glute max, slow
  • Erectors, slow
  • Lats, mixed
  • Trapezius, mixed

Coming through the “anterior chain”

  • Tibialis anterior, slow
  • Quadriceps, fast
  • Psoas, mixed
  • Abdominals, mixed
  • Pectorals, fast
  • sternocleidomastoid, fast

However, muscle fibre types in humans have not been deeply investigated, and there are considerable differences in reporting rates between studies.

Additionally, training a muscle based on its fibre type may not be necessary. Schoenfeld ran a study last year which showed similar growth adaptations between limbs when one was trained specifically to its predominant fibre type, and one was not. Granted, this was only a single study with a small population, but it strongly supports what lifters have known anecdotally for years: it doesn’t matter

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Sometimes you hear the advice to train pressing muscles like a Powerlifter, back muscles like a Bodybuilder and legs like an Athlete. It’s kind of an antidotal-sound-bite more than a training philosophy, but other people have thought like you’re thinking now.

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Echoing some of thes other posters, it doesn’t break down this way in general, and certainly not for most in particular. Every body is different, but most people can go after the triceps and biceps frequently and with reps, but not quads or back. Depending on goals. I feel like bigger muscles (relatively speaking) respond better to heavy training and smaller muscles use more volume. Maybe a self-fulfilling prophecy, but, it takes longer to recover from a big leg or back day both for the muscles and the CNS. The “Bros” seem to manage to work arms almost daily though, so…

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Dan John talks a lot about the work of other guys who say that some muscles get tighter(chest, hip flexors) as you age and other muscles get stretched out and weaker(mid back. glutes).

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I kinda figured this.

I’ve heard this too, but yeah, I figured it was more of a guideline as opposed to something with much scientific backing.

This is also my feeling.

Maybe my thought process was just coincidental in that some of the biggest, strongest muscle groups happen to be located posteriorly? Deadlifts are huge lifts powered by the posterior chain, big benches are (generally) powered by strong triceps, strong squats require a big contribution from the posterior chain also. In terms of arms, triceps make up more of your arm than biceps.

If you want some science check out “Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches” by Yuri Verkhoshansky. He’s a Soviet era track coach who “invented” plyometrics.

Anyway, in this book he briefly summarizes 50 years of Russian studies, explaining why he like to use lots of different training methods and the Conjugate System.

These dudes spent years playing around with concentric, eccentric and isometric training. Lifting fast and lifting slow, lifting heavy vs lifting light. What effects it had on strength, mass or vertical jump, etc, etc.

One time they took several groups of lifters. Some did isometrics, some did eccentric focused lifting and some used a concentric focus. Then they charted the gains these groups made in Anterior muscles, posterior muscles and legs. I can’t remember all the results exactly, but I think back muscles did best lowering, and abs did best isometrically.

Another study compared squaring fast vs slow and slow guys got stronger, but worse at jumping. And fast guys didn’t get much bigger, but got better at vertical jump.

The book goes on and on like this. Then Verkhoshansky talks about what types of training and methods they felt worked best for individual sports.

Pretty nerdy stuff, but pretty cool if that’s what you’re into.

There is a free pdf available, but you’re 100% sure to get attacked by Russian cyber punks if you open it.

Closer to home, you should ask Thibadeau. I’m sure he’s got some info on this topic.

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This book’s been on my shelf for a year now, I keep putting off starting it. Between that and Supertraining is probably 90% of all the stuff I’d ever need to know

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Good info. In real life Siff was kind of a dick though, I have a feeling most of the good stuff came from Verkhoshansky

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Interesting. How’d you end up meeting him?

We were both members of something called “Strength Digest”. It was a lifting discussion group of mostly Powerlifters and a few Strongmen. There were quite a few “Names” on it I think. Lyle McDonald was on there, Thibs might have been too - I know we discussed his stuff on there. He had some crazy stories though. Claimed he saw Reding Front Squatting 800lbs in training for reps.

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I would be willing to countenance a theoretical difference of fiber types for posterior chain muscles vs the rest of the skeletal musculature, owing to the role they (the PC muscles) play in posture and ambulation. But I’m hard-pressed to see how evolution might have selected differing fiber types based simply on whether a muscle was on the front vs the back of the skeleton.

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But isn’t this exactly why the posterior chain can’t be predominantly/stereotypically fast or slow twitch? The demands for upright posture and the demands for ambulation (particularly sprinting) are directly at odds with each other.

I do suppose that humans evolved to be superior endurance runners rather than sprinters, so a slow-twitch dominance could make sense…

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Its really interesting to see the way they approached research and sports science. Each guy built off of what the previous guys did, and did studies following up on stuff they learned before. For years and years. Instead of just wasting time trying to disprove everything from other coaches/researchers or the past, like we do in the West.

The book is a really dense read, but there are so many great graphs and charts that make lots of info easy to digest, even if you’re just flipping through the pages.

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I wonder if a part of this could also be that the traditional “explosive”/“athletic” lifts (snatch, clean, etc) are all pretty posterior chain dominant, while the anterior muscles tend to get a lot of focus when doing bodybuilding-style, high-rep “pump” training. So maybe we also begin to associate the posterior and anterior muscles with the sort of training being done for them? Sort of a “chicken or the egg” scenario. Are those muscles naturally suited for those tasks or do we just see them as being suited for them because we train them like that? Probably a bit of both, but an interesting thought.

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I would strongly argue for the former.

Humans were sprinting and picking stuff up off the floor long before we formalised barbell deadlift technique

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