How often do you train your anterior chain?
If you’re not sure what that means, I’m talking about the muscles on the front of your body.
Your core makes up part of this chain, but there are other important muscles that can help you improve your performance in all sorts of sports if you know how to train them properly.
And if you don’t, they could be hurting you instead!
Here are the best anterior chain exercises for improving performance and strengthening your core so you can perform at your best no matter how you train.
Our anterior chain often gets referred to as our mirror muscles. But the muscle groups in the front of the body are important for athletic performance not just for looking good.
The strongest athletes know that they need to work both the posterior chain muscles and the anterior muscles to avoid muscle imbalances.
So not only are we going to break down the best exercises for muscles of the anterior chain but we’ll look into the importance of a strong posterior chain as well.
Firstly though, let’s break down how to do these anterior chain movements correctly.
So here they are!
The 6 best anterior chain exercises.
And the great news is, you don’t need a whole lot of fancy equipment for most of these exercises, so let’s dive right in!
The classic core-strengthening exercise involves lying on your stomach and balancing your body weight on your forearms and toes.
Keep a neutral spine—in other words, do not arch or round your back—and try to keep a straight line from head to heels.
Don’t let your hips sag or lift off of the floor.
Try to hold for at least 30 seconds without letting your hips sag or lifting them from the floor.
When performing front squats, you’ll notice that your torso is more upright than it would be when performing traditional back squats.
This makes front squats a great exercise for strengthening your core and improving posture.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a barbell across your chest, arms hanging straight down.
Keeping core tight, push hips back and descend until thighs are parallel to the floor.
Explosively extend hips to return to start position. That’s one rep.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and lunge forward, keeping your knee directly over your foot.
Make sure that you keep a 90-degree angle in both knees and hips.
Repeat 10 times on each leg.
Be careful not to lock out or hyperextend your knees as you stand back up.
Lie on your back with both legs extended and parallel to each other.
Squeeze your abdominal muscles and lift one leg six inches off of the floor.
Hold for a count of three and lower it back down.
Repeat with the other leg and continue until you’ve completed 10 reps per leg.
Pullups are among one of many so-called anterior chain exercises.
The term anterior chain refers to a group of muscles along your torso that are responsible for pulling, including all of your abdominal muscles, hip flexors, and back.
By incorporating more anterior chain exercises into your workout routine, you can better develop these muscles while also improving core stability.
One of the most common mistakes we see with push-ups is that trainees don’t engage their core and tend to do it like a bicep curl.
Push-ups, like all exercises for your core and upper body, should be done correctly and with perfect form.
So here are some simple tips on how to perform push-ups correctly.
If you’re not familiar with what we mean by the anterior chain, let us offer an explanation.
The posterior chain is made up of muscles and tendons in your backside.
These include your glutes, hamstrings, and calves.
The anterior chain includes muscles in your stomach, shoulders, chest, and arms. These include your abs, pecs, and deltoids.
No matter how fit a person is, if their anterior chain isn’t in top shape they won’t perform well in a variety of activities.
The anterior chain muscles make up what is often referred to as your core or forward-facing muscles.
These muscles include your pec, core, hip flexors, and quads. They play an essential role in keeping us upright.
The opposite of these muscles is called posterior chain muscles, which work together to move your body forward (like when you run or walk).
The core refers to both sets of these muscle groups working together as a unit; strengthening both will give you more strength and stability.
For the best overall health, you should follow a total-body routine when it comes to your exercise.
Avoid paying too much attention to just one, this will only lead to imbalances and injury.
A good personal trainer will have you working the groups of muscles that make up the front side and the backside of the body.
The anterior and posterior chains, also called agonist and antagonist chains, respectively, refer to a group of muscles in your body that cross multiple joints.
In most cases, these muscles are responsible for moving or stabilizing a joint during exercise—the biceps is an example of an agonist’s muscle.
However, some movements can be performed by just one chain.
For example, when you’re performing a seated row with a resistance band around your ankles, you’ll primarily feel it in your back—this is a posterior chain movement because there’s no involvement from your core or shoulders.
Similarly, hip thrusts involve mostly your glutes and hamstrings, meaning they’re agonist movements.
On the other hand, bridging involves both sets of muscles: abdominals contract to support your torso while spinal erectors stabilize everything from there up.
In terms of performance training, agonists help us lift weight more efficiently while antagonists help us push or pull through a rep by providing even distribution throughout our bodies.
When we lift weights our bodies fatigue due to hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol so we must work both these chains if we want greater strength and power at heavier loads during sports activities such as powerlifting and CrossFit-style weightlifting workouts.
The muscles of the posterior chain play an important role in keeping up upright.
They make up the backside of your body and the best way to train a large muscle group is with compound movements.
A compound exercise is an exercise that uses more than one joint and in turn more muscle groups.
So the best posterior chain exercises are the following exercises.
Posterior chain work is just as important as training the muscles of your anterior chain for injury prevention and athletic movement.
So try to avoid too much focus on the mirror-muscle club and make sure you have enough posterior chain strength work in your workout program.
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1. Hip flexor sit-up: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, arms out to sides.
Keeping your lower back pressed into the floor, slowly sit up until you feel a contraction in front of the hip joint.
Hold for two seconds before lowering yourself down.
Do 10 repetitions without putting feet on the ground at any time during the set.
Rest for 30 seconds then repeat the entire set four more times to complete the workout.
Do three or four sets per week, resting at least one day between each set/workout session.
2. Single leg lunge with a core twist: Stand holding dumbbells (each side) at shoulder height, palms facing forward.
Step left foot back and bend both knees until hips are nearly parallel to the floor; right knee should be directly over the ankle and left knee slightly behind it.
Twist torso away from the left leg while raising dumbbells toward the ceiling; hands should end up facing each other.
Squeeze abs as you lift dumbbells higher overhead.
Reverse movement by stepping right foot forward while keeping torso rotated away from the body; follow the same path as taking a step backward.
Repeat for specified reps; switch legs after last rep. Perform twice weekly, aiming for 20 total reps each set. Rest at least one minute between sets.
3. Hanging straight-leg raise: Hang from a chin-up bar with shoulders relaxed, arms extended completely below you, spine straight, glutes tight and abs engaged to prevent swinging.
Bend knees halfway to pelvis level and hold the position for five counts before extending legs again to start position for another five counts.
Continue straightening/bending knees over a four-second count throughout the exercise; perform 12–15 repetitions total.
Performing three times weekly—once every few days will work best due to intensity of exercise—resting one day between workouts for optimal results that can be seen in six weeks or less.