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The Posterior Chain

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

I’ve witnessed plenty of strong athletes who can squat and deadlift a ton of weight yet struggle to execute twenty bodyweight back extensions. What does this tell you? They’re weak and need more strength endurance in their posterior chains!

 The Posterior Chain – What is it?

The posterior chain is a group of muscles, tendons and ligaments on the posterior of the body. Examples of these muscles include the biceps femoris, gluteus maximus, and erector spinae muscle group. It’s never unwise to hammer the posterior-chain, which is often a weak link among athletes.  In our programs, we use the 45 degree back extension as our primary implement in building the initial base strength of the posterior chain.  The various exercises that can be done with the 45 degree back extension will improve squat and deadlift strength as well as sprinting speed.

Standing lower body movements like squats, deadlifts, lunges, and power cleans reign supreme for a variety of reasons. It’s our job as strength coaches to teach our athletes how to perform lifts properly. Anything that strengthens the posterior chain might lead to less low back pain and injury.

The 45 Degree back extension can help enhance the squat, deadlift, lunge, and power clean because you have built a good foundation, so you can feel confident that their backs aren’t going to round forward or hyperextend very easily, their glutes are strong and can turn on when needed, their hamstrings are loose enough to allow for a healthy range of forward bending motion, and their hip flexors are loose enough to allow for full hip extension.

Position your thighs prone on padding. Hook heels on platform lip or under padded brace.

Raise upper body until hip and waist are fully extended. Lower body by bending hips and waist until fully flexed. Repeat.


Begin with body weight. Do not pause or bounce at bottom of lift. Full range of motion will vary from Athlete to Athlete.

I hope that I’ve done a good job of trying to persuade strength coaches to being open-minded about training the 45-degree back extension. For more information please join us on December 8th for The Strength Summit where we will discuss the posterior chain as well as the Power Clean, Bench Press and Back Squat.