posterior chain

Is sitting killing your performance?

The typical modern lifestyle means more sitting, with the consequence of weakness through the body’s most powerful structures. Boost your strength and functional movement with these tips.


Within the 21st century lifestyle, excessive sitting is become evermore frequent. Most of us go to work and sit behind a desk or at the controls of machinery, before coming home and spending the night on the couch watching your favorite television series on Netflix.

The dangers of sitting to your health have been well-documented in recent times. This article aims to address another aspect of your livelihood that sitting is affecting: your posterior chain.


What is my posterior chain?


The posterior chain consists of the muscles in the back half (posterior) of your body. These include your latissimus dorsi group and erector spinae in your back, gluteal muscles, hamstrings and calf muscles.


How is my posterior chain affected by sitting?

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We now know that your gluteal muscles are a part of your posterior chain. We also know that we sit on our gluteals. Constant sitting on these muscles causes excessive lengthening, and ultimately weakness. Furthermore, a seated position means your hip flexors are in a constant shortened position, which leads to tightness and over-activation. This over-activation inhibits the gluteal muscles from being able to effectively carry out their role in the body’s movement, which can overload the hamstrings and lower back muscles, leading to further problems. Finally, given the large role of the gluteal muscles in postural control (“core strength”), a lack in this postural control can also result. This is just scratching the surface of the issues that can arise.


Why is my posterior chain important?


The muscles of your posterior chain are primarily responsible for movements such as walking, running, stepping up, jumping – basically any movement that drives the body forward. Now, let’s consider sports such as running, football, netball, cricket, soccer, and so on. When you consider the demands of these sports, it is quite easy to link them to the posterior chain. Each of these sports involve forward movement through running, jumping and landing. They also demand a high level of postural control (which is important in any daily task).


What can I do to develop my posterior chain?


Now that we understand the role of the posterior chain in both daily living and athletic development, it is easy to understand how a strong and powerful posterior chain can make a strong and powerful athlete, or person in general. With a strong posterior chain, athletes are able to move with more power and efficiency. The following tips can help develop your posterior chain, as well as reduce your risk of experiencing weakness or complications with other structures in the body.

  1. Move often. If you work at a desk, or in a seated position, try and get up and walk around as often as possible, to counter the effects of sitting. Set the printer away from your desk to force you to walk every time you print a document, or set an alarm on your phone every half hour to get up and stretch
  2. Stretch your tight muscles. If you indeed do have tight hip flexors or quadriceps, a stretching program to improve your mobility in these areas will help with reactivating the muscles on the other side of your body. An Accredited Exercise Physiologist can tailor a stretching program to accommodate for any tightness in the body
  3. Resistance training focusing on these muscle groups. Exercises that work to develop your posterior chain include lat pulldown, row, squat, deadlift, bridges and kettlebell swings. Of course, your exercise selection will depend on your physical condition and history, and a progressive nature will be necessary during your program, so it is important to consult with your Accredited Exercise Physiologist before beginning such a regime


Tips to remember


  1. The posterior chain includes your latissimus dorsi muscles, erector spinae, gluteals, hamstrings, and calf muscles
  2. Your posterior chain harnesses great strength and power for human movement and athletic performance
  3. Excessive sitting is detrimental to your posterior chain, causing tightness of anterior hip muscles which, in turns, can inhibit muscles in your posterior chain
  4. Stretching and strengthening are the key to developing and maintaining a strong posterior chain
  5. Avoid excessive sitting to ensure healthy muscles throughout your body

To get individualised advice from an expert, click here.