Your extension, or posterior, chain is made up of almost every muscle on the back side of your body. The primary muscles include your calves, hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors and the back of the neck. Even the muscles in the bottom of your feet are part of this chain.
Extension Chain Exercises
Bridges and hip extensions are the most popular bodyweight exercises that use your extension chain. Some variations focus on the extension of the hip, while others are more about the extension of the spine. All exercises work the entire chain to at least some degree.
While the extension chain may not be the most popular set of muscles in calisthenics, it is one of the most important. Nearly every movement you do involves some of the muscles in your spine and hips. Even minor injuries or weaknesses along this chain can severely hold you back.
Your extension chain also effects the functional strength and health of every other muscle in your body. This is why improving the strength and function of your posterior muscles can make your whole body stronger and more resilient.
The biggest benefit of extension chain work is it reverses the detrimental effects of chronic sitting. While sitting weakens the back of your body and tightens your front, extension chain work strengthens your back while stretching your front.
I recommend starting off with lying bridges to wake up sleepy muscles in the back of your body while stretching the muscles in the front. This isn’t meant to be an extremely difficult move, it’s more of a functional mobility movement.
While lying bridges do involve pushing your feet into the floor, they are also a pulling exercise. It helps to think about squeezing the floor between your shoulders and feet as you lift up your hips. This is in contrast to trying to push the floor apart which doesn’t work your extension chain as much.
I also recommend practicing some sort of bridge exercise on a daily basis to counter the effects of sitting in a chair. If you sit every day, do a bridge exercise every day. It doesn’t have to be a full bridge workout or anything fancy. Even laying on the floor and arching up for 10 seconds each day can do wonders.
The book Convict Conditioning is one of the best books on progressive bridge exercises. Al Kavadlo’s Pushing The Limits is also a great resource for not only bridge exercises but also push-ups and handstands. You can also check out these videos for basic bridge progressions and tips.Videos on Extension Exercises