We can all get a little bit complacent sometimes. It’s just human nature. But one place you shouldn’t allow yourself to slack off is during your spin class at STAX. Your instructor isn’t shouting at you to stand up just to torture you. There’s a good reason why we want you to get up out of your saddle. Posterior chain activation, baby!
If you’re wondering what the heck is a posterior chain, we’re not surprised. And we’re here to fill you in! If we tell you the method behind the madness, will you get your butt out of that saddle a bit faster next time?
Use It or Lose It - Booty Edition
Despite how things are today, our bodies just weren’t designed to be sitting at a desk all day. We were supposed to be constantly on the move. But many of us now lead a relatively inactive life thanks to our jobs, among other things. As the largest muscles in our body, our glutes are meant to be in action all day. So when we let them fully relax sitting behind a desk all day, they get lazy.
“Working at a desk compresses your spine when you’re slumped. The back muscles are forced to overwork, and the glutes become lazy, so you get a complete mismatch. We’re going from two extremes - sedentary to asking a lot of them.”
Posterior Chain, Activate!
Okay, so now we understand why our lifestyle can impact our glute strength, what can we do about it? We can combat this issue by lifting up out of our saddles to activate our posterior chain. The posterior chain is basically all the muscles that make up your backside - namely the glutes, hamstrings, calves, and back.
Your posterior chain is responsible for tons of your daily movements - from things as simple as lifting your arms, picking something up off the ground, or jumping. Perhaps even more important than that, a strong posterior chain:
Helps prevent injuries and premature wear and tear on joints
Boosts your athletic performance
Helps keep your body in the correct posture
Even boosts your metabolism
The posterior chain does a lot for you, so you should take care of it too. So, get up off your glutes!
We Know It’s Hard - Reasons You Should Get Your Butt Up
The main reason we encourage everyone to get out of the saddle is to help strengthen the posterior chain. By standing up, we shift the activity into our quads, glutes, and calves. We can help correct the imbalance that so many of us have between our anterior and posterior chains by targeting these muscles.
Not only does getting out of the saddle strengthen our posterior chains, but it also increases our performance on our bikes. When we stand up, we automatically shift our weight slightly forward. This helps us get more leverage for those intense climbs during class. You can also maintain a much higher rhythm when you're out of the saddle. A higher rhythm means a higher power output.
On top of increasing your rhythm and power output, this position helps engage muscles that you might not be utilized otherwise. In this position, you'll be forced to engage your upper body and your core, as well as your glutes. Plus, you can give your tooshy a break from being sat on.
Tips For Hardcore Activation
We've covered the why, but you may still be confused about how. The first part is easy - when your instructor says stand up, you stand up! But we have a few tips to help you get into the proper position for the ultimate posterior chain activation.
Crank that resistance: To simulate climbing a hill, turn that sprint shift all the way to the right. With the resistance up and pedaling in the standing position, you can hit that higher rhythm and maximize your power output.
Don’t lean too far forward: While we want to shift our weight slightly forward from the seated position, you want to avoid overdoing it. The ideal position will have your weight directly over the pedals.
Keep your glutes back over the seat: An excellent way to make sure that you're not leaning too far forward is to make sure your glutes are above the seat. Again, be mindful of your posture and keep your knees bent and your weight evenly distributed.
Other Ways to Strengthen Your Posterior Chain
If you’re having issues relating to having a weak posterior chain, there are other exercises you can go on top of riding standing up to help strengthen it. Workouts that extend and contract the muscles along your backside can help with this. By doing these exercises alongside your spin classes (hello, Staxables), you’ll see a significant improvement in posterior chain strength.
These five exercises for your posterior chain can strengthen your muscles, reduce pain in the back, and help your posture.
Single-leg glute bridges
So, next time your instructor calls for a heavy climb, get up and out of the saddle and work those posterior chain muscles!