Matthew Plowman

The Anterior and Posterior Chain

By Matthew Plowman on August 26th, 2013

The Anterior and Posterior Chain

Every great structure is based on a great foundation. Mathematically, the height of a pyramid is as wide as its base, thus the bigger the base, the higher the pyramid can be. The same is true with the body, arguably the most astounding bit of biological design in all of creation. The things that your body can do is amazing! But what I want to focus on, are the two columns that make up the whole of your bodies physical support structure, the anterior and posterior chains.roganblog1     Now given the fact that we are talking about anterior and posterior chains, we need to look at these collections of muscles as just that, chains. The reason for this being is that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Both chains are a collection of muscles that act as the ‘core’ of the body. This ‘core’ is responsible for keeping us stable throughout all of our movement patterns. The human act of walking has been described as a series of controlled falls. Well, the proprioceptors of your body come alive, and both of these chains become activated and prevent this series of controlled falls from turning into actual falls. So all in all they are rather important.   So what is the anterior and posterior chain? Well, lets break them down and look at each chain individually:   The Posterior Chain –  The posterior chain consists of the all the muscles in the posterior of the body that provides stability, and structural integrity during any expression of strength or athleticism. These muscles consist of the spinal erectors, glutes, and hamstrings.  

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 Its Dorian Yates… but skinned!

The Anterior Chain – The anterior chain is positioned directly inform of the posterior chain, serving mainly as a pelvic stabilizer during movement when working in unison with the posterior chain. The anterior chain once again is a collection of muscles which allow for you to maintain structural integrity throughout the front of your body, namely through your abdominal corset. The anterior chain, in and of itself, consists of the entire abdominal corset, the illiopsoas (hip flexors), and the rectus femorus, all of which allow for spinal flexion.

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Peel back the veil of the abdominal corset, and you find these badboys!

The beauty of these chains is that while they have their own places and own particular emphasis during certain movements, they are designed to work in unison with one another, creating total body stability within the structure of the body. When properly engaged of course. So as we said earlier a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and as such a weak link in any part of either your posterior, or anterior chains, is going to lead to some major issues if you are looking to express maximal strength in optimal positions.Many mobility issues come down having a part of either chain that is either overly tight, or overly weak. For example, a weak anterior chain leads to an increased potential for decreased lumbo-pelvic stability. This would present as a rotation of the pelvis during any point that you are working at your hips end range of motions, mainly during squatting and deadlifting. This would be down to either the fact that the individual lacks the strength in his/her anterior chain to allow for full, strong thoracic extension, or lumbar stability. This would lead to an increased risk of injury, and would leave you squatting with a nasty “butt wink”.The issue of a weak anterior chain would also present during any movements where you are loaded axially – supporting a weight over, or on the axis of your body, a.k.a. your spine. The act of axial loading, or in fact any form of loading, requires a strong posterior and anterior chain, and if one is weak, it is going to affect the other, preventing the two from acting in a fully symbiotic manner.   roganblog4  

Rob Orlando understands the importance of stability

  “Having a six pack does not mean you have a strong stomach. Just a really good diet.” – Louie SimmonsYes Louie, but it does look awesome! Having a strong anterior and posterior chain creates greater body stability, and ultimately leads to greater force development in any athletic movement. Both Louie Simmons and Kelly Starrett have based their careers’ on the fact that there is no difference between being in the strongest position, and the most optimal position, are exactly the same thing. This is due to the fact that having a maximally strong and stable core, transfers over into greater maximal force production both in, and out of the gym. Whether you are jumping, squatting, running or snatching, a strong core is going to help you express your strength more optimally.So how do you go about training both of your chains? Well, it’s not through endless sit-ups or dorsal raises. The posterior and anterior chains by their nature need to be worked as their own respective muscles groups. Note I say groups, not individual muscles. To simply work on one link in either chain often ends up causing a negative backlash in the long term. How you ask? Well, lets look at the six-pack. Now, the six-pack is what you get when your body fat is so low you can see your rectus abdominals. Now, the traditional knowledge will tell you that millions, upon millions of sit ups will get your those nice deep cut abs we all desire. However, working a muscle in a limited range of motion consistently is going to lead to a development of the muscle in a shortened range of motion is going to end up with, yep, you guessed it a shortened muscle. That great six-pack may have caused you to develop a tight hip flexor.

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Colin Burns doesn’t always do overhead holds, but when he does, they’re hellaheavy!

So how do we go back and train these chains? Well, the answer is, you guessed it, train heavy. Back squats, front squats, front squat holds, deadlifts, farmers walks, over head press, over head carries, the list goes on. But, the key thing here is that they are all done heavy, and require a huge amount of core stabilization. So get off the machines, pick up a barbell, take off the belt, and pick up something heavy with good technique and use the natural stabilizing structures of your body that you were born with to keep you stable and in the most optimal state possible.

Later TeamCSN!Train StrongLive StrongBe StrongRogan Allport – Personal Trainer

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