Updated: Dec 25, 2017
With the holidays, comes different work-out routines, intensities, and settings for most (if you workout at all!) For me, it became apparent how easily it is for the general population to become quad dominant while working out at corporate gyms. To begin, let's be honest, many people don't exercise their lower body or will do the minimum amount of work needed! In addition, many gyms discourage posterior chain exercises, such as dead lifts, glute-ham devices, and single leg work. Conversely, quad dominant exercises such as leg press and leg extension are emphasized throughout the gym. With shortness of time, inadequate knowledge of proper movement, and low levels of motivation it's easy for people to pick the "go to" leg exercises. However, this disproportionate selection of exercises leads people down a road of potential pain and pathology. Here's three potential problems of becoming quad dominant. Hindered walking/running mechanics.
The muscles of the posterior chain are primary muscles for hip extension. During gait, hip extension is a pivotal motion that helps us generate power and explosiveness. However, with generalized weakness (not to mention positional variances) the anterior chain takes over and becomes hyper-active. As a consequence, these anterior muscles compensate and assume the roles of the posterior chain. The new found compensatory movements comes at the expense of acute overuse and pain which turns to chronic conditions.
2. Pain and Dysfunction. There are numerous studies showing people with posterior chain weakness such as gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus having increased symptoms of chronic low back pain. However, through my experience in weight rooms and physical therapy clinics in plain and simple terms, people with posterior chain inhibition have dysfunction. In most cases, the moment the posterior chain is activated and the anterior chain is inhibited, symptoms are often dissipated.
3. Function and Performance. Another influence besides failing to exercise the posterior chain comes from sitting. Sitting creates an environment of posterior chain inhibition. Think about it, what does your posterior chain need to do when you are sitting on a chair with support? The entire posterior kinetic chain becomes disengaged as the body falls into a forward head posture, rounded shoulders, and a posterior pelvic tilt! Now take this and look at the average day of someone. Wake up, sit and have breakfast, sit while driving to work, sit for 8 hours, go to the gym and sit on equipment, work anterior chain muscles if working lower body, sit while eating dinner, sit on the couch and watch television, lay down to go to sleep, and repeat. Now take that and multiply by someones life time, yikes! Obviously, a result of this comes with a decrease in functionality and optimal performance. The imbalanced life-style leaves us with no chance to perform at our best level. If properly positioned and strengthened, the posterior chain is much more functional compared to the anterior.
Creating an environment of posterior chain dominance is going to give you the ability to feel, move, and perform better. In many situations, life style changes are going to be needed in order to break these dysfunctional patterns. As always, proper position must be established before proper strengthening can be ever be obtained. With all else being said, don't forget your posterior chain exercises!