The Importance of the Posterior Chain in Training

December 11, 2016

If you are a martial arts instructor and haven't been educating your students about the importance of training the posterior chain for martial arts performance, then read on.  This is a critical, yet easily understandable concept that will make you a better instructor and your students better as well.

 

The posterior chain is an anatomy term that refers to the combination of the gluteals muscles, the ham strings, and the erector spinae (a set of muscles that straighten and rotate the back).  See image below.  Some defitions include the calves as well.  For this discussion, the calves will not be included.  We'll discuss those in a later blog.  The calves are important to our training like all our muscles, but they do not contribute as critically as the others in the posterior chain.  

 

 

When a kick is executed, your foot is planted on the ground while the leg is extended to strike.  The power of the kick at this point comes almost entirely from the hips and legs.  No matter how strong your upper body, without strong hips and legs, your kicks will be sub-optimally powered.  The more powerful the hips and legs, the more powerful the kick.  If you are a grappler, then the glutes are a key part of bridging. Hip flexors are critical in the shrimping maneuver.  The erector spinae support your upper torso throughout; without a strong back supporting your spine your techniques are nothing.  Moreover, you risk injury.  The development of the posterior chain creates this strength for universal powerful performance in martial arts.  

 

The serious MMA professional spends hours in working out these muscles alone.  Training each muscle from different angles.  If you have that time, do so.  But assuming you do not, which this article does, there are plenty of exercises that you can -- that you need to -- incorporate in your warm up routine and/or your personal training that you do out side of class.  Here are three of them, that do not required special equipment, to get you started.  More to follow in other posts.

 

JUMP SQUATS:  There are a variety of squat exercises that are highly effective, but none is as anti-cheat proof as the jumping squat.  If you're not going it right, your feet don't leave the ground.  If your feet don't leave the ground, then you're not doing it right.  

EFFECTED AREA:  Overall conditioning of posterior chain.  Contributes to cardio ability.

PERFORMANCE:

1.  Stand with feet shoulder width apart.

2.  Squat by bending your knees until your upper legs are parallel with the ground.  Do not arch your back, "hinge" at the waist).

3.  Launch yourself into the air.  First contracting your glutes and hamstrings, extend ankles to bring calves into the exercise, then as you are nearly fully extended, raise your arms in the air to assist in generating momentum in the exercise while also flexing your shoulders.

4.  When you land, PAUSE, then repeat.  The pause is critical to maximum muscle use, and not relying on momentum to complete the exercise.

VARIATIONS

Hold some weight, a bag of sand or rice, a medicine ball, other, to provide resistance to your shoulders.

 

 

LATERAL JUMPS

1.  Stand with feet shoulder width apart.

2.  Squat until upper legs are approximately 45 degree angle.  Push off the ground to launch to the LEFT, landing about three feet from your starting point.

3.  Squat until upper legs are approximately 45 degree angle.  Push off the ground to launch to the RIGHT, landing about three feet from your starting point.  

4.  THIS IS ONE REP.

5.  Repeat until your desired level of reps is achieved.

3.  Launch yourself into the air.  First contracting your glutes and hamstrings, extend ankles to bring calves into the exercise, then as you are nearly fully extended, raise your arms in the air to assist in generating momentum in the exercise while also flexing your shoulders.

4.  When you land, PAUSE, then repeat.  The pause is critical to maximum muscle use, and not relying on momentum to complete the exercise.

VARIATIONS

Hold some weight, a bag of sand or rice, a medicine ball, other, to provide resistance to your legs.

Place a towel, a focus mit, a small step stool, or other obstacle to your left, to provide a target to jump over.  The higher the obstacle the more difficult each rep will be.

 

WEIGHTED WALKS:  A traditional exercise that works the posterior chain before it was even called the posterior chain.

1.  Place weights just over shoulder width apart.  Traditionally these are clay jars like the picture below, but it can be dumbbells, bags of sand or rice, books.

 

 

 

2.  Squat to down with your legs, grasp the weights firmly, and extend your body into an erect position.  DO NOT BEND OVER.

3.  Walk forward 10-20 steps.  

4.  Squat (DO NOT BEND OVER) down and place the jars on the ground.  

5.  Turn around, squat (DO NOT BEND OVER), pick up the weights and walk back to starting point.

6.  You have completed one rep.  Repeat.

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I'm a business executive full-time.  I love my work, but my second passion--well it's a way of life--is karate.  I am Chief Instructor, Renshi, 4th Degree Black belt at OCIGK in southern California.  I look forward to sharing with you as I do with my students every day.  

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