The hip joint and the shoulder girdle are critical to the functionality of the posterior chain musculature. The musculotendinous attachments at the hip joint and at the shoulder girdle are important to engaging the core and stabilizing the spine. Because the spine connects the hips to the shoulders, ensuing movements of the limbs will reflect the stability of the core and the functional activation of the posterior chain.
Let’s start with movements that educate your awareness of the core musculature and the postural, stabilizer muscles.
These movements will teach you how to activate the posterior chain. To properly activate the posterior chain, you must engage the deep gluteal musculature and the hamstring complex while mobilizing the deeper back musculature to stabilize the spine and the shoulder joint. Bring the ball into position such that the legs are on the ball 1/3 – 1/2 the way up, from the calcaneus, along the back of the calf. Our arms, back and hips are on the ground. The arms should be positioned no more than 45° away from the side of the torso. This is the most advantageous angle for engaging the shoulder blades onto the back of the rib cage. ‘Palms facing down’ is standard arm position while ‘palms facing up’ is more challenging.
The gluteus maximus should be relatively passive during the movement. The movements will be enacted mainly through the action of the intraspinal musculature, shoulder stabilization and core engagement. As the hips lift, the spine will be articulated from the ground. In addition, the stabilizers in the hip/thigh region and the shoulder area will add to the ease of lifting the hips.
Engage the core musculature (belly button drawn in and pelvic floor activated) and keep length in the lower spine (a more lengthened, neutral spine than pelvic tilt). As the hips lift, the Iliopsoas, along with the lower back musculature, will lengthen. This will allow for better stabilization of the hips.
From the initial lifted hip position, the knees go into flexion. The hamstring complex is the prime mover in this phase. However, the stabilization that you have established through the posterior chain, thus far, will be intensified. As the hips lift, the serratus anterior will become even more active in shoulder stabilization, The deep and superficial back musculature will maintain stability and length in the spine and the thigh and hip musculature will maintain the stable position of the hips. The core will keep all of the parts of the body functionally connected as the knees flex and the hips lift even higher.
Please be aware of your limitations as you go into these movements. The deeper aspects of your musculature will be engaged intensely as you work to activate the posterior chain. You need complete no more than 5 – 8 repetitions. As you get stronger, work on adding a second set. If you have any spinal complications or hip issues, you should consult with your physician or with your physical therapist before engaging in any exercise of this type.