Training the Anterior Chain Is for More Than Just the Mirror

This is Your Quick Training Tip, a chance to learn how to work smarter in just a few moments so you can get right to your workout.

The “mirror muscles” catch a lot of flak in the fitness world. Running along the front of the body, they include such heavy hitters as the pecs, abs, and quads. But because they’re the muscles most noticeable in the mirror (hence their nickname), they also tend to get overemphasized in many guys’ training plans. If you’ve ever seen someone with a chiseled chest and rounded shoulders without a balanced backside, you’ve likely caught a glimpse of someone that less-evolved lifters might relegate to the “mirror-muscle club.”

Don’t let such foolish mockery throw you off course. While you should never over-exaggerate any muscle group in your workout program without a specific reason, neither should you underestimate the importance of the body’s forward-facing muscles—also known as the “anterior chain.”

Much like the muscles of the posterior chain, the muscles of the anterior chain play an essential role in just about every athletic movement you can imagine. Acceleration, deceleration, jumping, multi-directional movement changes—the muscles of your anterior chain are critical for moving powerfully, and strengthening them will help you excel on the court, track, playing field, and everyday life. But as with everything else, balance is key—you want your anterior chain to be strong and powerful, but not at the expense of your posterior chain.

Your move: Ideally, you give all of your muscle groups sufficient attention in your training plan. But the reality is that many guys skew the balance of their exercises in favor of those that target the anterior chain, performing significantly more “pushing” exercises (think: bench press, overhead press, squat) than “pulling” exercises (think: row, deadlift, lat pulldown). If that’s you, then switch directions for a month or two, doing two pulling exercises for every pushing exercise.

Once your backside has caught up to your front, shift to a program that doesn’t play muscular favorites. Need some inspiration? Try a total-body routine like this one that will help you get ripped from head-to-toe—in both the front and the back.

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