Total Shape is a reader-supported site. Purchases made through links may earn a commission. Learn more.

12 Best Posterior Chain Exercises (For Strength & Stability)

Christiana Mikesch
Published by Christiana Mikesch | Senior Coach
Last updated: July 28, 2023

The posterior chain is one of the most neglected body areas when programming for strength, hypertrophy, or endurance.

The main reason why people forget to develop their posterior chain muscles is that they are located on the back of the body, which isn’t as aesthetic as anterior chain muscles.

Based on our observations and more than 30 hours of testing, we singled out the 12 best posterior chain exercises.

All exercises were selected based on specific criteria and were evaluated by my fitness team and me.

Read below to learn the best posterior chain exercises, their benefits, and how to program them for the best muscle-building effects.

Quick Summary

  • The best posterior chain workouts include rack pull, pendlay row, high pull, hang clean, back extension, chin-up, landmine single-leg deadlift, Romanian deadlift, and more.
  • Posterior chain workouts benefits include correcting muscle imbalances, improving sports performance, and building a more balanced and functional body.
  • To progress with posterior chain workouts and build more muscles, you must incorporate the principle of progressive overload.

Best Posterior Chain Exercises

Women showing back muscles while doing posterior chain exercises

My fitness team and I tested all posterior chain workouts on the list.

We ensured all movements were safe to perform and without causing injury.

In addition, all exercises may be performed by experienced and advanced lifters to achieve maximal muscle-building effects.

Read below to learn the 15 best posterior chain workouts and how to perform them.

"When you’re training, you might tend to forget about the things you cannot see. That’s why many lifters run the risk of overemphasizing their “mirror muscles” like their chest, biceps, and quads."

- Shane McLean, Certified Personal Trainer

1. Rack Pull

Rack pulls are a variation of traditional bilateral barbell deadlift exercises.

The exercise follows a hip hinge movement pattern and will target posterior chain muscles such as the erector spinae, biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus.

Rack pulls are the best way to regress traditional floor deadlifts and learn the proper technique.

How to Perform Rack Pulls

  1. Load the barbell on the rack with the appropriate weight, meaning you can perform between 8 and 12 repetitions.
  2. Assume standing in front of the loaded barbell and take a slightly wider pronated grip than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Brace your core, keep your back flat, and inhale.
  4. Start the exercise by pulling the barbell along your body and extending your hips to reach a fully extended standing position.
  5. When your hips are fully extended, hold that position for one second.
  6. Reverse the motion by bending your hips to return to the starting position.
  7. Repeat for 8-12 reps and 3-4 sets.

Also Read: How to Do a Rack Pull

2. Pendlay Row

A man doing pendlay row

Pendlay row is a variation of barbell rows that focuses on rowing the barbell toward your sternum.

This will activate your trapezius muscles more than rowing towards your hips, activating your lats more.

Pendlay row will require synergist work from muscles such as the trapezius, latissimus dorsi, and posterior deltoid head.

How to Perform Pendlay Rows

  1. Load the barbell with the appropriate weight on the floor to complete up to 8 repetitions.
  2. Assume standing before the barbell and take a pronated grip wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Place your shin against the barbell, enter a low deadlift/squat position, keep your back flat, and brace the core.
  4. Start the exercise by rowing the barbell towards your sternum without moving the rest of your body parts,
  5. When the barbell reaches the top position, reverse the motion to return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for 8 repetitions and 4 sets.

3. High Pull

The high pull is a traditional shoulder-building exercise used by first bodybuilders for hypertrophy and strength.

It follows a pull movement pattern and requires shoulder abduction and elbow flexion.

The muscles activated include the deltoids and trapezius.

How to Perform High Pulls

  1. Load the barbell on the floor with the appropriate weight, meaning you can perform 10 repetitions.
  2. Pick the barbell from the floor and assume a fully extended standing position, feet shoulder width.
  3. The barbell should hang in your hands, your elbows fully extended, and your shoulder in the anatomical position near the body.
  4. Start the exercise by pulling the barbell towards your chin.
  5. When the bar reaches below your chin, reverse the movement to return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for 10 repetitions and 3-4 sets.

4. Hang Clean

Man performing hang clean on barbell

The hang clean is an explosive upper and lower body movement that builds strength in sport-specific scenarios.

It requires your body to quickly produce large amounts of force and transition energy from your lower body to the upper body.

It is a full-body movement, meaning all muscles will work synergistically to complete the movement.

It is of great significance for improving weak posterior chain muscles.

How to Perform a Hang Clean

  1. Load the barbell on the rack with the appropriate weight to complete up to 5 repetitions.
  2. Assume standing before the barbell and take a pronated grip with your hands shoulder-width apart.
  3. Take the barbell off the rack, and step back.
  4. Brace your core, keep your back flat, and look forward without tilting your head or breaking the normal physiological curvature of the spine.
  5. Start the exercise by forcefully pulling the barbell towards your chin and lowering your body to a quarter squat position.
  6. When the bar reaches the highest position in the air, tuck underneath it and flex your shoulder while bending your elbows to catch the barbell on top of your upper arms.
  7. Absorb the force by slightly entering the squat position.
  8. Return the barbell to the starting hang position and repeat for 3-4 more reps and 4 sets.

5. Lying Back Extension

Back extension is a classical exercise used to build a strong posterior chain.

It will strengthen your erector spinae and other back muscles, essential for developing a strong and healthy posterior chain.

The back extension can be progressed by adding external resistance through weight, chains, and similar.

How to Perform Lying Back Extensions

  1. Assume a lying position on your stomach.
  2. Place your hands above your head and fully extend your elbows.
  3. Start the exercise by extending your back and moving your hands from the floor toward the ceiling.
  4. When you reach maximal extension, hold for one second.
  5. Reverse the motion by bending your hips to return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for 12-15 repetitions and 4-5 sets.

6. Chin-up

Doing chin ups outdoors

Chin-ups or pull-ups are essential compound upper-body pulling exercises for developing a strong posterior chain.

Pulling posterior chain workouts such as pull-ups will develop muscles such as the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and posterior deltoid.

Chin-ups follow a vertical pulling movement pattern essential for developing proper shoulder blade function.

How to Perform Chin-Ups

  1. Assume a hanging position on the pull-up bar with your arms fully extended and back flat.
  2. Start the exercise by pulling your body towards the pull-up bar by flexing your elbows and adducting the shoulders.
  3. Hold that position in isometric contraction for one second when your chin reaches above the bar.
  4. Reverse the motion by abducting at the shoulder joint and extending at the elbows to return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for 6-8 repetitions and 3-4 sets.

Also Read: Excellent Pull-up Bars

7. Landmine Single-Leg Deadlift

Landmine single-leg deadlift is one of the best posterior chain workouts to increase athletic performance and build strength in major posterior chain muscles.

It is effective at building stronger stabilizer muscles since the unilateral nature of the exercise forces your adductors and gluteus medius to keep your knee in the same position.

It is an entire-body exercise performed with knees bent to avoid hyperextension injuries.

How to Perform Landmine Single-Leg Deadlift

  1. Load the landmine barbell with the appropriate weight to complete 6 repetitions.
  2. Assume a standing position perpendicular to the end of the landmine.
  3. Hold the end of the landmine barbell with your right hand and shift your balance to the left leg.
  4. Start the exercise by bending forward in your hips while your left knee is slightly bent and all your weight is placed on the left leg.
  5. The right leg should move back towards the ceiling as your torso bends forward.
  6. Hold that position for one second when your fist passes the line of the knees.
  7. Reverse the motion to return to the starting position.
  8. Repeat for 6 reps and 3-4 sets.

8. Romanian Deadlift

Performing romanian deadlift indoors

Romanian deadlift will build the entire posterior chain using only lost to medium weight load.

It follows the deadlift movement pattern and will activate your hamstring, glutes, and latissimus dorsi.

The Romanian deadlift is a great starting point for learning traditional deadlifts and strengthening posterior muscles before lifting heavy loads.

How to Perform a Romanian Deadlift

  1. Load the barbell on the floor with the appropriate weight, meaning you can perform up to 8 repetitions.
  2. Assume a standing position before the barbell and take a pronated grip.
  3. Lift the barbell off the floor and return to standing with the bar hanging from our hands.
  4. Keep your back flat, brace your core, and slightly bend your knees.
  5. Start the exercise by moving your hips forward and lowering the barbell against your body towards the floor.
  6. Hold that position for one second when your fists pass the line of the knees.
  7. Reverse the motion by extending your hips to return to the starting position.
  8. Repeat for 8 reps and 3-4 sets.

Also Read: Romanian Deadlift vs Deadlift

9. Barbell Good Morning

Barbell good mornings are one of the best beginner posterior chain workouts to strengthen the entire posterior chain.

In addition, they will prepare your body for more advanced posterior chain exercises such as barbell deadlifts and single-leg deadlift variations.

How to Perform Barbell Good Mornings

  1. Load the barbell on the squat rack with a lighter weight so you can perform 8 repetitions.
  2. Assume standing in front of the barbell and place it on your back.
  3. Step back to free space for the entire movement.
  4. Start the exercise by slightly bending your knees and hips forward without moving the rest of your joints.
  5. When the hamstrings become tight enough, and you feel the urge to stop, return to the starting position by extending your hips.
  6. Repeat for 8 reps and 3-4 sets.

10. Glute-Ham Raise

Glute ham raises inside gym

Glute ham raise is one of the best posterior chain exercises for developing strong glutes and hamstrings in your lower body.

Glute ham raises are frequently used in sport-specific scenarios to build balance between anterior and posterior chain muscles.

How to Perform Glute Ham Raises

  1. Enter the glute ham raise machine and assume a starting position like the one in back extensions.
  2. Extend your hand above your head for added resistance, or keep them to your chest for the easier version.
  3. Start the exercise by lowering your torso towards the ground while keeping your hamstring and glutes tight and activated.
  4. When you reach the bottom position, extend the hips to return to the top.
  5. Repeat for 8 reps and 3 sets.

Related Articles:

11. Kettlebell Swing

Kettlebell swings can be paired with barbell hip thrust if you are an athlete looking to build explosive strength.

Kettlebell sewing will exercise weak posterior chain muscles and build hip power necessary for acceleration, running, jumping, and similar movement patterns.

How to Perform Kettlebell Swings

  1. Pick the appropriate kettlebell so you can perform 6 explosive repetitions.
  2. Assume a standing position wider than hip-width apart and pick the kettlebell from the floor.
  3. Start the exercise by bending your torso forward and bringing the kettlebell below your body and between your legs.
  4. Explosively extend your hips and pull the kettlebell up in the air so it reaches your eyesight.
  5. Repeat for 6 repetitions and 4-5 sets.

12. Hip Thrust

A fit woman doing hip thrust with weights

Hip thrusts follow the hip extension movement pattern and develop strong glutes and hamstring muscles.

They can be performed unilaterally or bilaterally, but a two-legged starting position is recommended for beginners.

How to Perform Hip Thrusts

  1. Place a box or flat bench behind you and put a yoga mat on it to lower the pressure on your shoulder blades.
  2. Load the barbell and place it in front of the bench.
  3. Lie before the box, and place the barbell above your hips and shoulder blades on the flat bench.
  4. Lift the barbell from the floor by extending your hips towards the ceiling.
  5. Start the exercise by lowering your body in the hip joint and bringing the barbell closer to the floor.
  6. When you reach the bottom position, explosively push the barbell back up to the starting position.
  7. Repeat for 10 reps and 3-4 sets.

What Is the Best Posterior Chain Exercise?

The best posterior chain exercise is a deadlift. Deadlifts are essential for developing strong posterior chain muscles and avoiding injuries.

Deadlifts are often called the king of all exercises since they require multiple muscle groups and joints working simultaneously to complete the movement.

They are a core part of every serious strength program and have many variations, such as single-leg, double-leg, partial range of motion, and similar.

To build a strong posterior chain with deadlifts, you must incorporate the principle of progressive overload [1].

Progressive overload increases the reps, sets, load, and overall intensity on every next workout.

The main purpose of it is to constantly evoke neuromuscular adaptations, which are responsible for building muscle and strength.

"The muscles on the backside of the body, also known as the posterior chain, are often neglected since you can’t see them!

- Ryan Nosak, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist

What Muscles Make up the Posterior Chain?

Showing posterior chain

The muscles that make up the posterior chain include calves, hamstrings, glutes, erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, posterior deltoid, and more.

Some additional posterior chain muscles include infraspinatus, supraspinatus, teres minor, and major.

All posterior chain muscles have an anterior muscle pair, and those two are often in agonist-antagonist relation.

Agonist-antagonist relation means while one muscle of the anterior chain is contracting, the opposite one on the back must be relaxed to stretch and allow the movement.

The same counts vice-versa.

The posterior chain muscles are essential for developing a holistic, injury-free body [2].

Most sportsmen and lifters avoid building strong posterior chains, which leads to multiple injuries, strains, and muscle imbalances.

Benefits of Training Your Posterior Chain

Performing weight exercises for back

Strong muscles in the posterior chain have multiple benefits, but you may find the most important ones below.

"As an athlete, you are constantly using the muscles of your posterior chain. Whether you’re jumping, sprinting or throwing a pitch off the mound, you are using this set of muscles.

- John Papp, ACE-Certified Personal Trainer & Sports Performance Coach

1. Target Muscle Imbalances

As mentioned, the agonist-antagonist relation is essential for avoiding injuries and building a more holistic and balanced body [3].

Agonists are muscles that initiate the movement and are also called the prime movers.

However, synergists may also count as agonists since they assist the prime movers in completing the movement.

The two should not be confused, but both types of muscles need respective antagonist muscles, which will allow the movement to occur.

Antagonists are muscles that are relaxed and stretched during the movement. They have the function of allowing the movement to occur while agonists and synergists perform the activity.

Both are essential for increased sports performance and reduced injury risk [4].

Related: How to Fix Muscle Imbalances

2. Reduced Injury Risk

Showing back pains with red highlights

Posterior chain muscles are often responsible for slowing down or absorbing force through the eccentric contraction phase [5].

This is essential to avoid extensive force placed on your joints and ligaments, which may lead to potential injuries.

Developing strong hamstrings and glutes in the lower body will decrease the chance of injuring the quadriceps and hip flexors while running, sprinting, or jumping.

On the contrary, developing strong back muscles such as latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and posterior deltoid will lower the chance of injury in anterior chain muscles.

The balance between posterior and anterior chain muscles is essential for developing an injury-free body.

3. Strengthened Posture

Posterior chain muscles are responsible for keeping your posture in the anatomical and physiological position [6].

Your spine has four main curves: cervical lordosis, thoracic kyphosis, lumbar lordosis, and sacral kyphosis.

If your posterior chain muscles are strong and built for endurance, the physiological curvatures will remain the same, and posture imbalances may never occur.

How to Program Posterior Chain Exercises?

Woman showing posterior chain

To program posterior chain exercises, you must divide them into four different categories. These include lower body, upper body, unilateral, and bilateral exercises.

Therefore, we may build the following groups of posterior chain exercises:

  • Lower-body bilateral exercises
  • Upper-body bilateral exercises
  • Lower-body unilateral exercises
  • Upper-body bilateral exercises

However, you may also divide them based on functional movement patterns:

  • Vertical pulling exercises
  • Horizontal pulling exercises
  • Hip-hinge or deadlift movement pattern exercises
  • Knee-bend or squat movement pattern exercises

For endurance, you should do more than 12 reps for as many sets as possible and as little rest between them.

For hypertrophy, apply the range of 6-12 reps, 3-5 sets, and the first interval between the sets should be no more than 90 seconds.

For strength, complete between 1-5 reps, for up to 5 sets, and with the rest interval of 2-5 minutes.

For power, do the same as for strength, but with lighter weights since the aim is to move as much weight as possible but as fastest as possible.


What Exercise Works the Posterior Chain?

An exercise that works posterior chain is the deadlift. Any exercise following the deadlift and hip-hinge movement pattern effectively develops strong posterior chain muscles.

What Are the 5 Posterior Chain Muscles?

The five posterior chain muscles are the trapezius, latissimus dorsi, erector spinae, hamstrings, and glutes. The muscles are the biggest posterior chain muscles responsible for pulling and hip-hinging movement patterns.

How Do You Build Posterior Chain Strength?

You build posterior chain strength by doing exercises that follow a pulling or deadlifting movement pattern. Some of those exercises are barbell deadlifts, pull-ups, and rows.

What At-Home Posterior Chain Exercise Is the Best for Hypertrophy?

The best posterior chain exercise for hypertrophy is the deadlift.

Deadlifts can be used on their own to develop posterior chain strength.

You may complete the whole posterior chain workout at home without going to the gym or spending money on expensive gym memberships.

Read our guide on the best barbells for your home gym to pick a high-quality and durable barbell that will help you develop the posterior chain in the comfort of your home and avoid injuries.

Let me know which posterior chain exercise is your favorite and why.


Was this article helpful?

About The Author

You May Also Like

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *




Learn More