4 Brutal Backside Exercises

Posted on by Ben Bruno

For the past few months I’ve been using a higher frequency approach to training my lower body, and more specifically, my posterior chain. In the past I’ve usually followed an upper/lower split where the lower body gets worked twice a week, but now I’m doing a little something for my lower body in each workout, which is 3-5 times a week (usually four).

To adjust for the increased frequency, I’m doing less work in each workout (usually just one exercise, sometimes two), though the overall workload is still slightly more than when I train lower body twice a week. I’ve had a strength goal in mind that I want to get, and I am seeing how this approach works to help get me there (more on that later).

So far it’s been great. One important thing to take into consideration though is that while the glutes and hamstrings can handle a big workload, many of the traditional “big rock” exercises—squats, deadlifts, lunges, etc.—can take a toll on the lower back and knees. So while you’re muscles may be able to handle, your joints might not take to it so well.

As such, I’m only doing heavy bilateral lifts once a week to spare my lower back and knees (and even then I’m keeping it on the lighter side and using higher rep ranges) and using non lower back intensive exercises on the other days to work the posterior chain without hurting my back.

My two lifts of choice are single leg hip thrusts and sliding leg curls.

I’ve written about Mastering the Single Leg Hip Thrust before, so check that out if you haven’t already to give you an idea of where to start.

I’ve since progressed the exercise in several ways. One such way is to add chains the barbell, which provides accommodating resistance (i.e. it gets heavier the higher up you go), which forces you accelerate through each rep and also overloads the top of the rep to make for a killer contraction.

Like so:

Another progression I’m using is to increase the range of motion by elevating the feet and using “1.5” reps. These are tough to load, but I haven’t found the need to load them yet because they’re really hard as is. All I’ve got to say here is…holy butt burn!

As for sliding leg curls, this is fast becoming one of my favorite exercises. They may seem a bit wussy (I’m even using pink Vaslides, ha!) but I can assure you they’re not.

I wrote an in-depth article on T-Nation called Leg Curls 2.0 that discusses different variations, but I’ve since progressed to making them even harder as my posterior chain gets stronger. I’m just adding load via a barbell.

I’ll do them single leg at times, doing only the eccentric portion of the rep.

And I’ll do them bilaterally too, using full reps. These are freakin’ hellacious on the ole’ hammies.

I can’t do the full version single leg (yet), so that’s something to shoot for.

Just wanted to share a little of what I’ve been up to.

I have a ton more training clips to share, but you can subscribe to my You Tube page to check those out.

Also, for any of you that are aspiring fitness writers, be sure to check out How to Get Published from Lou Shuler, Sean Hyson, and John Romaniello while it’s still on sale for a few more days. You can also check out my post from yesterday to see my thoughts about it, but so far I’ve heard nothing but good things from everyone that’s got it and I think you’ll really learn a lot of stuff.

Have a great day and finish the rest of the week strong!

  • Jake

    Interested to hear how you’e organized your training to whatever goal it is you have at the moment

    • Ben Bruno

      Hi Jake, I will try to post something about how I’ve been setting up my training soon. Thanks!

  • Josh

    Ben, do you not think that all of the above exercises have a tendancy to create lower back stress; especially if they are not taught correctly?

    I totally see where you are coming from trying to add variety, but having to teach someone the movement from fresh and making sure their technique is correct may be counterproductive if you have limited contact time with the athlete.

    What are your thoughts?

    • Ben Bruno

      Hey Josh, these are more advanced variations and I would not recommend people jump into them without learning the previous steps, which is why I also shared links to previous posts and articles I’ve written showing progressions. I agree with you that these exercises could put stress on the lower back if done incorrectly, so I think progression is very important. I also think almost every posterior chain exercise out there has the potential to put stress on the back if done incorrectly (i.e. deadliftts, good mornings, GHR, back extensions) and these exercises are safer in comparison. Thanks for the comment.

  • Bryan

    Stupid question. Should you feel your glutes contracted during the entire movement or is it more of a passive contraction? I don’t feel it in my lower back so I know I’m not just substituting back extension for leg extension. Any thoughts?

    • Ben Bruno

      Hi Bryan. If you don’t feel it in your lower back and your hips are elevated, I’d saying you’re probably doing it right and your glutes and engaged. Good job!