Yikes, we have a problem...
Every waking moment, whether standing or sitting, your posterior chain muscles – those running on the back side of your body from your heels to the base of your skull – work against the force of gravity. Despite their importance, these muscles are chronically weak and largely ignored in fitness programs. Most life activities involve forward flexion of our joints -- over and over and over again. The result? Joint imbalances, degeneration leading to permanent damage, and plenty of pain. The solution? The opposite of flexion... extension.
Whew, there is a solution!
There are many examples of effective posterior chain (extension) exercises. The glute bridge (as it is known in fitness; 'setu bandhasana' in yoga) is just one of them. It strengthens the extensors of your spine and hips (mid back, low back, core, and posterior legs). It also opens and lengthens the entire front side of the body; which, good news, helps fix the hours and hours of sitting slumped in office chairs and vehicles each day. A little glute bridge goes a long way in your fitness regimen and/or yoga practice.
Here's how to do an amazing glute bridge...
- Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Place your arms alongside your body, palms down.
- Press into your feet and arms and lift your pelvis off the floor. Hold for about 30 seconds, more or less depending on your current fitness level.
- Intensity level one: Only lift your pelvis a little bit, mostly using the legs.
- Intensity level two: Bring in more upper body involvement. Press strongly with heels, palms, and arms into the floor, deepening the active spine extension and creating more of an arc.
- Intensity level three: Interlace your fingers and squeeze your shoulder blades together, bringing the shoulders more underneath your torso. Careful not to push yourself into a backbend that is beyond your range of motion. (Check out the image above.)
Here's a tougher challenge for you...
So, tell us... How do YOU work your posterior chain muscles?