Check your Posterior!

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Often when we’re exercising we like to focus on muscle groups that we can see, such as the chest, biceps, abs, and quads – you know the “beach muscles”. But what about the muscles we can’t see — the posterior (back) side? More often than not we tend to neglect the posterior side (back/butt/hamstrings/calves) of our body because we can’t see those muscles in the mirror. Neglecting one or more of these muscles not only causes weakness on the backside of the body, but significant tightness on the front side of the body. This can lead to substantial orthopedic issues in the shoulders, lower back, and knees if not corrected.

The Problem:

When progressive muscle weakening occurs on the posterior side of the body, progressive muscle tightening occurs on the front side of the body. How does this happen? When muscles become weak, they elongate (beyond their natural resting length), this weakness is in part due to reduced nervous system signals sent to the muscle. At the same time that a reduced nerve signal is sent to these posterior muscles, a greater signal is sent to the opposite muscles on the front of the body (i.e., weak upper back means tighter chest muscles). This process occurs during the course of our daily lives, such as driving or computer posture, where most people are hunched over. This exacerbates posterior weakness and anterior tightness, which can affect your posture, gait, and activity of daily living if left unchecked.

What You Can Do:

Balance your workout so you’re engaging both sides of the body not just what you can see. Exercises that engage your posterior include pulling movements such as rows/ lat pull down, superman, stability ball leg curls/ bridges, and pelvic lifts. Also, make sure to stretch; over time it’ll become tight from constantly activating/working.

Below is an intermediate posterior workout:

Posterior workout

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest Interval (s)

Lat pulldown

3

12 to 15

90

Stability ball leg curl

3

12 to 15

90

Cable seated row

2

12 to 15

75

Stability ball bridge

2

12 to 15

75

Calf raise

2

12 to 15

75

Plank

3

30-60sec

60

Pelvic lift

3

12 to 15

60

Take Home Message:

We all have our own specific fitness goal –bigger arms, smaller waist, better abs — but just remember that there are two sides of the coin. Working your back as well as your front will help in overall body balance, eliminate weaknesses, and prevent overuse injuries in our daily activities, such as posture and gait.

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