Advanced training of the Posterior Chain

By: Brandon Hourigan – Bowling Green University – Director of Strength & Conditioning

Follow-up to the first article: The Posterior Chain


Using the 45-degree back extension as our primary implement in building the initial base strength of the posterior chain. The next exercises selection would be the glute/ham raise.

The glute –ham raise enables an athlete to work both the knee and hip extension functions of the hamstrings. This is important for preventing back and knee injuries.

Athletes who think they can just do the core lifts such as power cleans and squats, consider a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and in power cleans and squats that weak link is often the low back and hamstrings. If heavy weights are used without adequately strengthening the muscles of the spine, the back will round, placing stress on the disks of the back.

Before performing the glute-ham raise exercise, it’s important to adjust the machine for your height. Start by adjusting the footplate so that when your feet are secured, your upper thighs are resting on the center of the bench and you can hang your body over the edge of the bench so that it is perpendicular to the floor.

Adjust the height of the footplate to a comfortable position- if it is too low, the pad will dig into your thighs.

Begin by lying face down on the glute-ham raise. Place your feet on the footplate with your toes pointed downward. Hang over the bench; bending at the hips so your upper back is at a 90-degree angle to your lower body. Place your hands on your chest, and raise your trunk so your upper body is perpendicular to the floor- keep your back straight throughout the exercise.
Now raise your trunk by flexing your knees-you should be pushing the footplate with the balls of your feet.

If you are not strong enough to lift your trunk to this position, try the exercise with the hands on your hips. You can also have a training partner stand in front of you and push upward on your shoulders.

When the exercise becomes easy, perform the eccentric portion of the exercise with your hands placed behind your head. Perform the concentric portion with your hands across your chest, and at the top of the movement place your hands behind your head for the eccentric portion.
Soon you will be able to perform all the reps with your hands behind your head. You also can make the exercise more difficult by placing your knees on the pad and raising the height of the footplate.

When you become strong enough to add more resistance, you can hold a medicine ball or weight plate or dumbbell against your chest.

Besides changing your hand position from the chest to behind your head, you can change the position of the additional weight to increase the eccentric overload. Grasp a weight plate or dumbbell and hold it against your chest. Perform the concentric portion of the exercise, and then at the top position extend the weight in front of you and slowly return to the start position.

Another is you perform 5 repetitions of back extension with resistance, and then immediately drop the weight and perform 5 reps of the full movement.

You also can perform 5 full repetitions with resistance, and then grasping a weight perform 5 back extensions.

Click Here to View our Stray Dog Strength Glute/Ham Raises.