comeo, you decide to take a long, hard look in the fitness mirror and find out if your bottom half is sagging. We’re talking about testing your “quad dominance,” which is whether your legs are able to effectively recruit your glutes and hamstrings, or if they over-rely on your front half.
Why does this matter? “The muscles in the front of your legs (quads, which we call the ‘anterior chain’) and the back of your legs (glutes and hamstrings, which we call the ‘posterior chain’) exert control over the pelvis, directing its position with the ribs,” says Tim. Landiko, CSCS, is a trainer on the at-home fitness platform Tonal “So if your posterior chain strength isn’t equal, you can’t control your pelvis in a way that truly maximizes trunk stability.”
Trunk stability is important because it affects our posture and can lead to lower back pain if our pelvis is not in line with our ribs. Basically, the all-important core energy begins in the lower body. Yet many of us have relatively weak hamstrings and glutes from sitting for so long, which means our quads take over when we move—and therefore get stronger.
Quadrilateral dominance, and trunk instability by proxy, can affect our activity. Distance running requires the ability to engage your glutes and hamstrings to maintain proper form. Strength training requires “appropriate range of motion,” Landichow explains.
“When it comes to lower-body strength training, good trunk stability can help you access more range of motion in your hips, knees, and ankles, thanks to better positioning of your ribs and pelvis,” says Landichow. “When you increase gluteal and hamstring strength, you get a better pelvis position. A better pelvic and rib relationship leads to better trunk stability, which leads to better range of motion and better force production during your lifts—meaning more power!
How can you assess whether you need to change your training to work the anterior and posterior chains in harmony? A viral Instagram reel by running coach Kyla Morgante aka @bodkick raised the issue by posting about the “death chair” quad dominance test. Here’s how to do it: Stand in front of a chair with your knees close to, but not touching, the seat. Then lower yourself into a squat. The farther you can go without your knees touching the chair, the less quad dominant you will be.
“Many of us assume we are quad dominant but this test will tell you exactly how much,” Morgant wrote. “The farther you can go before your knees touch, the better the adhesive recruitment you have.”
Landichow agrees, and sees the test as a useful tool for checking how effective your workouts are. “You can use the chair test to determine if the exercises are actually moving you in the right direction (ie, can you sit down over time?),” he says.
Bringing the lower body into balance means lengthening and strengthening, says Landichow: “Make length Front (our quads and hip flexors), and build strength Through the back (our glutes and hamstrings).”
He suggests progressing from more beginner-friendly steps to more advanced options. To stretch the quads, start with a standing quad stretch.
Next, try a kneeling quad stretch.
Finally, progress to the sofa stretch.
To strengthen the hamstrings and glutes, Landichow recommends multiple glute bridges. Start with a glute bridge hold.
Then move on to glute bridges with hip dips.
Adhesive bridge march progress.
Finally, tackle the most advanced variation, the single leg glute bridge.
Incorporate these moves into your workout routine regularly, and the chair of death will eventually be no match for you!
Our editors independently select these products. A purchase through our links is good + may earn a commission.