Many people will talk about the posterior chain in reference to the glutes, hamstrings and lower back. I look at it differently. I see it as pretty much any muscle that you can’t see in the mirror. Many of these muscles that we can’t see become and can cause overuse and chronic injuries or other health problems such as headaches. This is mostly caused from what we do in society. We can split the body into two sections upper and lower posterior chain. We sit in our car, at work/school and then sit when we get home after a day of sitting. This causes two things, since our hips are in flexion it switches the glutes off and turns the hip flexors on. Over time the strength in the glutes diminish and the over activation of the hip flexors, hamstrings and lower back muscles. In the photo you will see that the hip flexors pull down the pelvis causing an anterior pelvic tilt, this then pulls the lumbar into lordosis which can cause a wide array of lower back problems.
The next problem that occurs due to what we do during the day is an over activation of the upper trapezius. With so much work completed on a computer, iPad and hand held devices today it is all completed right in front of us in the same area. From this we get a tightening in the pectoral muscles and the upper trapezius muscles over activate. I like to call the upper trapezius muscle a bully muscle, it wants to do all the work of the lower trapezius muscle and the rhomboids. In turn this then promotes the rounding of the shoulders by the tightness of the pectoral muscles and we get even weaker in the lower traps and rhomboids. This over activation, weakness and tightness then can lead to thoracic kyphosis which as the same to lumbar lordosis it can cause an array of issues.
There is some great news though if you think this may be something you suffer from. For the weak glutes at work you can do a very simple exercise once every hour of sitting, it is called a glute squeeze. All you need to do is stand up at your desk and squeeze and hold your glutes for 10 seconds 10 times. You can also put your hands on your buttocks to increase the neural drive as you can feel yourself squeeze your glutes. What this exercise does is that it will switch the glutes back on and remember what they have to do, it will also pull your pelvis back to neutral position allow your back to have some relief. At home you can use a spikey ball and place it either in two places two places to gain relief, you can place it on your TFL junction which is located where the coin pocket on your pants would be. The other location is your Psoas Major muscle which can be located just below and inside the hip. For the upper posterior chain it is as easy at work as every hour remember to push your shoulders down and squeeze your scapula’s (shoulder blades). This will get the lower traps and rhomboids activating and give your upper traps release. When at home you can use a spikey ball to release through your pectoral muscles, you can do this by using your door way placing the ball to just the inside of the shoulder joint. You can then just turn around and place the spikey ball to the upper part of your back to the side near your neck. Push and lean against the door way. For these two exercises you only need to hold for 20 seconds and repeat 2-3 times.
Sport and Exercise Scientist
TFL Release Pectoral Release Upper Trapezius Release Psoas Release