Remember that time you said “Man, I wish my back was weaker?” Yeah, I didn’t think so. This is the first of a two-part series by Jacob Tsypkin on effective movements for training the posterior chain. Tsypkin coaches competitive weightlifters, CrossFitters,and even a powerlifter or three (if you force him) so his advice works well for most of you. As with most things in the gym, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do these, so read this carefully, watch the videos, and get to work.
To anyone remotely familiar with strength training, it is quite obvious that the posterior chain plays an important role in the sport of weightlifting. However, developing strength in the hamstrings, glutes, and back for improving performance in the snatch and clean & jerk isn’t quite as simple as it may seem.
I break the movements I use for this purpose down into two groups. This article discusses the first of those groups, the general: These movements are designed to create strength throughout the posterior chain in a way which is not specific to the snatch and clean & jerk. You are probably at least familiar with most of these movements.
1. Romanian Deadlift
If you are a consistent reader of 70’s Big, it is pretty unlikely that you haven’t heard plenty about the RDL. I’ll keep it simple here: we train it once a week, usually for 3×5, occasionally building up to a top set of 5 with good form before resetting. For mechanics, I’ll refer to you Justin’s post on the topic.
2. Pendlay Row
Basically a strict barbell row. The man himself tells you how to do it in the video below. We usually do these for heavy sets of 3-5 across, occasionally doubles or singles. In a lighter training phase, or for a lifter who needs some hypertrophy, we’ll do sets up to 10-12 reps.
3. Glute Ham Raise
I like sets of 5-10 on these. If 10 reps is easy, add some weight. Use with great care; these will make you sore for days. Once a week is plenty, and start with a low dose, like 3×5 (if you can do them at all…a lot of very strong people can’t.)
(I had Tsypkin create a GHR video because 90% of the GHR’s I see out there in the cold dark world are turrible. Just turrible. He got Ariel to be his lovely assistant. You’re welcome. – Cloud)
4. Back Extension
This is a true back extension, as taught here by some strange non-bearded Pendlay impersonator. Typically I start a lifter with 3×10-15 at bodyweight, and increase the reps up to 20 over a week or two, then add load at 3×10.
5. Back Raise
This is what most people refer to as a back extension. In reality the hips and hamstrings are doing the work here, but it’s still a very useful exercise. I follow the same protocol for applying these to a lifter’s training as I do for the back extensions, and Glenn covers this in the back extension video.
In the next segment, we will discuss posterior chain exercises specific to the sport of weightlifting.
Jacob Tsypkin is a CrossFit and weightlifting coach, the co-owner of CrossFit Monterey and the Monterey Bay Barbell Club in Monterey, CA, and a very handsome young man. He is available for weightlifting seminars and orders triple meat on his Chipotle burritos with a straight face.