Forget sexy, we’re bringing strength back — that is, to the back of your body. While you know toughening up your muscles with weight training helps sidestep injury, focusing only on your front (think push-ups, bench presses and bicep curls) won’t cut it. Here’s why: Those moves — favorites among the majority of gym-goers — only work one side of your body.
“People like to focus on the things they see right in front of them, the muscles they see in the mirror,” says celebrity trainer Jason Walsh (who just got Emma Stone top shape for Battle of the Sexes) and founder of Rise Nation in Los Angeles. “They might do some rows, but the back side of the body, known as the posterior chain, is an afterthought. Focusing on that, though, is important to have a balanced body that’s functional, working well and pain-free.”
Doing moves like presses, crunches or even taking a spin class (not to mention sitting hunched over a laptop) pulls your body forward. And in turn, you ignore the entire backside, which then stays weak. “Weak glutes and hamstrings lead to extra strain on the lower back,” says Walsh. They can also lead to poor posture — or knee pain if your glutes aren’t strong enough to stabilize your legs.
Walsh’s fix: Mix multi-joint exercises into your gym routine, so you move in a variety of directions and work in a functional way. He often takes clients through intervals on the rower, as well as through hip flexion and extension moves. Steal his other eight favorite exercises for working the entire back of your body. Like we said, you’ll bring that strength right (to your) back.
8 Exercises to Strengthen Your Posterior Chain from Jason Walsh
Perform each of the moves below for 30 seconds each, and then repeat for three to five rounds. Aim to get in as many reps as possible in those 30 seconds. Your entire back side is about to get super strong and sculpted.
1. Single-Leg Russian Deadlift
How to: Stand with feet hip-width apart holding a dumbbell in each hand (a). Shift your weight into your right foot and lean forward with a flat back, shoulders relaxed. At the same time, lift your left leg behind you, lowering until your body is parallel to the floor. Arms should extend toward the floor as you keep your shoulders back (don’t round your back) (b). Let your right leg bend slightly as you lower (c). Slowly stand back up and repeat (d). Then switch sides.
2. Isometric Pull-Up Hold
How to: Stand in front of a pull-up bar, hands gripping the bar (a). Jump up so your chin is above the bar, elbows are bent and down by your sides (b). Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds, then lower down (c).
3. Hip Thrust
How to: Facing away from a bench, lean your shoulder blades against it, feet flat on floor in front of you (a). Engaging your glutes, push your hips up as if you’re doing a bridge. To up the challenge, bring your feet together, and raise one knee in the air (hitting tabletop position) as your lift your hips (b). Lower back down, then repeat.
How to: Lie face down on the floor or a bench with arms and legs extended (a). Engaging your glutes, lift your torso, arms and legs a few inches off floor (b). Hold for 5 to 10 seconds, then lower to start (c). Repeat.
5. Sled Drag
How to: Stand facing a weighted sled and holding onto the sides with both hands. Lower into a squat position (a). Keeping chest up and pushing off your heels, walk backwards, pulling the sled with you (b). Repeat.
6. Spiderman Crawl
How to: Start in a high plank position (a). Step your right leg up to the outside of your right hand, knee above your elbow. At the same time, step your left hand forward and lower down into a tricep push-up (b). Push yourself back up, and as you reach the top, step your right foot back, left foot up to the outside of your left hand. Right hand takes a step forward (c). Repeat the push up and continue alternating as you move forward.