We all love a great chest. Powerful arms, loaded pecs, broad shoulders, it’s the money-making muscles. But power, true power, comes from the legs. Ask any professional athlete. From football players to baseball players, they will all tell you power comes from the lower half of the body.
So if you want to compete, you need to build a strong lower half.
These muscle groups are massive. No upper body muscle groups can compete in either size or strength, which is why you have athletes squatting 600 pounds while showing off thighs larger than the average person’s waist.
If you’re eyeing a competitive advantage in your athletic activities, you need to focus on your lower body in the gym.
From your gluteus down to your calves, all of this makes up the posterior chain, and a strong posterior chain will give you the kind of strength you need to succeed, no matter the activity you want to improve.
So if you’re ready to build a strong posterior chain and leave the competition in your dust, make sure to check out our intensive workout right here.
What’s the Benefit of a Strong Posterior Chain?
So what’s the benefit of pushing your lower body to the max and aiming at a stronger lower body?
It really comes down to power. Power in any kind of athletic activity. And yet this area of the body is often overlooked by the average lifter.
A strong backside helps with more than just power. It helps with your posture and will reduce pain in your lower back (and often times the pain in your lower back leads to pain in the neck and shoulders as your body compensates for the weakness).
Having a stronger lower body will help you with a number of your other lifts as well.
You’ll see massive gains with your deadlifts and your squats.
If you do any other Olympic lifts you’ll see these improvements as well. You may even see improvements in traditional upper body lifts like the shoulder press if you use your lower body to gain momentum before pushing the weights up.
It’s rather incredible what a strong lower body can do for the rest of your body. A strong upper body doesn’t help your legs, but strong legs can help with your upper body lifts.
Of course, let us also not forget one of the most desirable benefits of the strong posterior chain: it looks great. Sure, a strong, powerful chest and killer biceps is great and all, but there’s nothing long a strong, firm booty.
The booty is a showstopper for many people and having powerful quads that go along with it help elevate the look to the next level.
And no matter how much jogging or stair stepping you do, you’ll never have that incredible lower body.
You need to train it and you need to train it hard.
In fact, it is possible to train your lower body harder than your upper body
Posterior Chain Training Schedule
The training schedule for your lower body, especially when you really want to build it up, will be different from working out your upper body.
When you want to target an area of your upper body it’s generally ideal to completely blast away at it once a week. You push your chest to the limit and give it a week to recover and rebuild (although it is still used as a secondary and stabilizing muscle during other days).
With the lower body, you can afford to hit it and destroy it in extreme workouts twice a week.
So why the difference?
Why can you hit your lower body a second day when you should probably avoid it on your upper body?
Because you are used to using your lower body every single day.
You stand up, you walk, you run to catch the bus. You walk the dog and play catch with the kids. You’re always using your lower body. Your upper body isn’t like that.
Unless you work construction or another manual labor job, you don’t do all that much with your upper body.
So it isn’t used to being regularly engaged every single day. It’s why your lower body muscles are so much larger and naturally more developed.
Thanks to this, your body can recover faster and is ready to go at it again.
So even if you’re targeting individual upper body muscle groups once a week, focus on your lower body twice a week to take full advantage of your body’s natural ability to repair.
You’ll want to spread the days out.
Try to do one every 3-4 days. This will give you time to recover and for the muscles to rebuild. Anything closer together and you may not be able to get the most out of your lifting days.
Plus, you’ll be lifting big, which puts ample strain on these muscle groups.
If you’re like many people you might just grow tired of the leg lifts.
After all, it’s the same handful of lifts and doing the exact same thing every single leg day is boring.
Thankfully, by splitting it up in two days you really can use different leg lifts.
This not only helps keep it interesting but it will hit your lower body in slightly different ways, which helps prevent your body from becoming accustomed to the lift.
This way, you’ll hold off possible strength plateaus.
There are a few different ways you can break down your leg workouts.
In this method, it is broken down with a day that focuses primarily on the hamstrings (while still hitting the rest of the lower body).
The second workout routine focuses on the gluteus (while still hitting the rest of the lower body). If you want to mix and match the lifts that are perfectly fine. Feel free to make it your own.
Plus, there are just some days where you can’t get to the lying leg curl machines depending on how busy it is at the gym.
Hang Power Clean (HPC)
This is a slight alteration to a traditional power clean. A traditional power clean you’ll start in a full squat, explode up to the waist level, then explode up again to bring the weight to your shoulder level.
With the HPC, you’ll start with the weight hanging at your waist.
So you’ll power clean the weight up once from the squat position, then leave the weight “hanging” where you hold it.
While the HPC removes the initial explosion it does help with improving the explosion from your lower body to create the momentum needed to push the bar up to your chest and shoulder level.
The full power clean uses a good amount of your back and shoulders during the initial deadlift portion.
By focusing on the second half of a power clean you’ll completely target your lower body and hamstrings.
Of course, you don’t want to cut the deadlift out of your workout routine. Just have it on back day. The deadlift is one of those great lifts you can move around to just about any day when necessary.
To perform this lift, squat the weight up off the ground and hold it at your waist level.
Explode up and rotate your wrists as you do so in order to catch the weight at the top of your chest.
Return the weight back down to the waist level and repeat.
Another benefit to this lift is you don’t have the rest time that often comes with placing the weight back on the ground. With the HPC you’ll always remain fully engaged.
With all of these lifts, you want to lift big.
Because you’ll be hanging onto the weight at all times the number of reps you can do with the HPC is limited. So shoot for three reps per set and pump out four sets.
This is the traditional squat you’ve probably been doing since you started to lift.
Always use a barbell and squat rack whenever possible.
Avoid the weight machines or the Smith machine whenever possible.
The free weight barbell squat engages your entire lower body and your core as stabilizers, which does not happen when you use a machine.
With the back squat, you need to find a mirror where you can see yourself lower down. It is important to lower yourself down so your thighs are parallel with the ground.
If it helps, ask for a spotter to monitor your form and to ensure you lower yourself down far enough during your squat. If you don’t have a spotter find a focal point on the upper portion of the wall above the squat rack.
Focusing on this will help keep your back straight. You can also use a bench lowered to where your thigh parallel is to ensure you squat low enough.
You want to really hit your legs here, so shoot for five sets. An ideal number of reps is between six and eight.
Shoot for eight if you want to lift for size, or shoot for six if you want to lift for strength.
Here is a lift you can toss into either the glute centric or the ham centric lift days. It works both and, best of all, doesn’t require any additional weight.
With this exercise, you’ll use the glute-ham lift station.
With it, you’ll place your knees against the forward padding and slip your ankles under the top padding and the front of your foot on top of the back leg padding. In many ways it is similar to a leg curl machine, only this remains stationary.
Begin the exercise with your torso fully erect. This takes the pressure off your lower body.
As you lower yourself down the tension is placed on your lower body. You’ll discover your knee placement on the front pads alters where the majority of the tension is placed (your glutes or your hamstrings).
Lower your upper body slowly down until it is parallel to the ground. Some people bend all the way down so their hands can touch the ground but this isn’t necessary.
The greatest amount of tension is placed on your legs when you are parallel to the ground (your body weight is furthest from your legs at this position so it increases the natural tension placed on your lower body).
This is a body weight resistant exercise, so do as many as you can with three sets. Just remember, the slower you go the more tension you place on your lower body.
So don’t try to just blow through these.
Lying Leg Curl
Most of the time you want to avoid using machines. However, the lying leg curl is one of those machines you just can’t replicate with physical weights.
When using the lying leg curl you need to make sure you don’t try to put too much weight on the machine.
One of the biggest mistakes with this lift is people put too much weight on and they don’t actually complete the full curl. Instead, it becomes a half-curl.
With the lying leg curl, you’ll want to do three sets, but each set will be just a little bit different.
First, go for the full reps.
Once you’ve finished this set, perform top half reps. This is where you curl the weight all the way up on the first rep, then every subsequent rep is just the top portion of the curl, so lower the weight down a few inches, curl back up, and repeat.
This keeps the tension on the lower portion of your calf muscles.
After this set, perform bottom half curls.
With this, you’ll hit the top portion of your calf muscles. It is important to never let the weight rest. The purpose of these top half and bottom half sets is to keep the individual muscle heads fully engaged without rest.
This portion is the glute-centric workout.
Again, you’ll still hit your hamstrings, but most of the lifts will specifically target your butt.
You can mix and match some of the lifts as you desire, just as long as you perform all of the mentioned lifts from both workouts at least once during the week.
Instead of the hanging power clean, you’ll go with the traditional power clean here.
Using a wider placement for your feet you’ll increase the tension placed on your butt with every initial explosive move up.
Again, you want to go with big weight here, so focus on three reps and four sets. It’s the move you want to begin your butt-centric lifting day on.
This variation of the traditional deadlift brings the weight off of the ground. Deadlift the weight off the ground, then hold it at your waist. This becomes your “starting” position.
Squat down and lower the weight until it lowers beyond your knee, then explode back up. This keeps the tension primarily on your butt and prevents any of the resting that might occur when the weight goes down to the ground.
When you come back to the starting position move up onto your toes. This will hit your calves before moving back down so your feet are flat on the ground.
Shoot for between six and eight reps for this lift (eight if you’re going for size and six if you’re going for strength gains). You should perform three sets of this.
In terms of targeting your backside booty, few other lifts will work the way a sumo squat does.
If you’re not familiar with the particular lift, a sumo squat is like a traditional squat, only your feet are extremely far apart, similar to a sumo stance.
By placing your legs this far apart all of the tension is directed toward your butt and upper hamstrings.
With this lift, there are two methods for performing it.
You can use a barbell and load it up like you would a back squat (you’ll likely need to reduce some of the weight as you won’t have as much of your quads helping you with this squat). You can also use a single dumbbell loaded up that you hold in between your legs.
This is a good way to go if you have bad knees.
With the sumo squat, you’ll want to lower yourself further down than 90 degrees, which is another reason why you’ll want to go a bit lighter on the weight.
For the sumo squat, shoot for six to eight reps and three sets.
If you are using the dumbbell lifting method and find you’re not getting enough of a stretch (with your legs spread far apart you’ll already begin lower to the ground, and as the weight is hanging between your legs you don’t have as much space to squat) you can alter the lift.
Stand on two benches, with one foot on each and then lower yourself down.
Now that you’re a few feet off the ground you’ll have more room to squat down and increase the stretch.
Sometimes you need to ditch the stationary movements and bring on something that forces to you get about the gym.
A walking lunge is a great option for this. With it, you’ll hold either a dumbbell on each hand or you’ll hold a kettlebell on each hand.
From there, you lunge forward, making sure your back foot knee doesn’t touch the ground.
With this lift, it is important to maintain a straight back, otherwise, you might injure your lower back by leaning forward too far. While performing the walking lunge there are a few different ways to measure your sets (perform three sets).
The first is you can count. Count out 12 steps on each leg to complete a set.
You may instead decide to go by time. Lunge for 30-45 seconds to complete a set. The only problem with this option is the rest time in between lunges goes into the set time.
The third option is to focus on distance. Measure out 15 or 20 meters and lunge the distance to complete a set.
If you have the space to measure out distance this is a great option. But if you don’t and you need to move back and forth every few steps than counting steps might be the best option for you.
Kettlebell Romanian Deadlift
If you’re using kettlebells for the lunge, moving directly into a kettlebell Romanian Deadlift (RDL) is a great way to end the workout. Much like the regular deadlift, this lift begins with you standing and the weight held down by your waist.
You then squat down, maintaining a straight back, and lower the weight down below your knees.
From there, you’ll explode up to complete the lift. Even if you’re using dumbbells it is possible to perform this lift as well. You just need to hold onto a single dumbbell and lower it down below your legs.
When you explode back up to the starting position go up onto your toes. Of all your lower body, the calves are likely the least targeted muscles.
There are not a ton of lifts that specifically target the calf muscles, but as long as you toss in some toe elevating lifts, you’ll hit the calves enough to really built up the strength.
With this particular lift, you’ll want to focus again around six to eight reps and three sets.
Strengthening your lower body helps strengthen every other area of your body.
With stronger quads, hamstrings, and glutes you’ll improve many of your upper body lifts. You’ll also see improvements in your competitive sports.
So whether you play football, hockey, lacrosse, baseball or just about any other sport, the improved power generated from your lower body will go a long way in helping you gain a competitive advantage over other teams and opposing players.