Over the last few years a ton of training material has been trying to promote posterior chain training as much as possible. Being “quad dominant” is now the biggest sin of them all. Glutes and hamstrings are good. Quadriceps are bad and only losers feel them when they squat. Legend has it that every time you feel your quads working hard somewhere a mad fitness guru breaks something.
“You gotta use your ass,” said the guru and slapped the gluteus maximus of his apprentice.
This posterior chain madness has created and spread peculiar guilt among lifting enthusiasts who now tend to feel guilty when optimal usage of their glutes is not accomplished during lower body exercises. People fear that if a little more quadriceps strength is used to stand up, they will be sent straight to hell for disrespecting the rules of the lifting world.
The glute hysteria is spreading faster than ever thanks to a specific group of people – the Glute Brahs. Those are guys who promote all kinds of glute exercises such as low bar squats, hip thrust a.k.a. barbell fucking, kettlebell swings a.k.a bell humping, donkey kicks and many more. The list is long, the repertoire extensive.
Of course, this phenomenon has been coupled with immense online attacks consisting of memes showing the bubble butts of “gifted” females. The memes come with slogans such as: “She squats.”, “If you want an ass like that, squat.” It goes without saying that similar material receives mad love on social networks. But, this is only a small side effect of the posterior chain era.
The case becomes even more interesting when the the subject of “glute activation” is brought up. People who can make their glutes “fire” properly are considered master magicians and those who can’t need to be coached by the gurus how to develop effective relationship with their own glutes.
“Sensei, show me the way. Tell me how to use my glutes more efficiently when I squat,” said the apprentice.
The end result from this mania is a bunch of people sticking their butts as far as back as possible when they squat. Those guys look around at the gym with an expression on their faces saying: “I am using my glutes. You mad, bro?”
Ironically, it’s hard to find a quad exercise, besides a few such as the leg extension, that does not require the use of your hips. Even when you are performing movements like Hack squats and front squats, the glutes are working pretty hard along with the quads. That’s because in every squatting motion there is an element of hip extension which cannot happen without the glutes contracting and moving the hips forward.
Therefore, being afraid that your quads are eating your ass makes no sense. The only muscle group that participates less during pushing exercises would be the hamstrings a.k.a. leg biceps, but that muscle group was never supposed to be as dominant in the first place.
The biceps are very important for the bench press, but there is no denying that the shoulders, chest and triceps are the main movers. It’s the same here. Quads and glutes do the work during squats while the hamstrings come secondary (unless it’s a powerlifting squat).
That’s why if you want to do more posterior chain training, it makes sense to focus on the weakest links (the hamstrings) by performing dedicated exercises such as deadlifts, swings, sprinting, good mornings, leg curls…etc. Stealing from your quadriceps is not an option. You shouldn’t have favorite muscles, sorry. They all love you, love them back.
So, is being quad dominant that bad?
“Push you hips down and back like you mean it, motherfucker,” said the glute obsessed trainer.
No. In fact, being quad dominant is natural in squatting exercises. The main difference between the squat and the deadlift is the degree of knee involvement. When you squat the knee bends much more compared to the deadlift. The more the knee bends, the more leg dominant an exercise becomes. It’s unavoidable. There is nothing unhealthy about being quad dominant in movements that are….quad dominant by nature.
The posterior chain appreciation is also caused by a powerlifting bug according to which people should be squatting only to parallel with a wide sumo stance. This squatting variation reduces the role of the quadriceps even more. When you have developed the needed skill to squat in this fashion most of the work is done by the glutes, hamstrings, and inner thighs (adductors). The quads are left for dead. That’s why many powerlifters have proportionally smaller quads.
The main reason people use such squatting levers is to lift more weight thanks to being in a mechanically advantageous position, not to get stronger. Thus, one of the biggest reasons for this posterior chain madness is the ego, not performance or health.
The truth is that the quad is not evil. It’s the biggest leg muscle for a reason. Therefore, as a leg exercise the squat is supposed to work the legs, not just the hips.
Ironically, the quadriceps has enormous potential for growth and strength. Olympic weightlifters are a good example. They always squat high bar and have very well developed legs. Always. Many of them outsquat powerlifters high bar style, which means they could squat even more low bar, provided that technique is not a problem. This is more than enough evidence that insane strength can be developed while using a quad dominant squatting style.
In the beginning the idea to pay more attention to the posterior chain was fine, given the fact that many people don’t know the difference between hamstrings and quadriceps. However, it has turned into complete lunacy.