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Anterior Chain Muscles: What They Are and How to Train Them

What is the Anterior Chain?

The anterior chain refers to a group of muscles located on the front of the body and serving as antagonists to the posterior chain. These muscles include the pectoralis major, serratus anterior, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, hip flexors, and quadriceps. Their primary functions are to extend the knees, flex the hips, crunch the torso, promote upper body rotation, and produce shoulder protraction.

A Deeper Look at the Anterior Chain

The muscles that make up the anterior chain play a crucial role in athletic performance and everyday activities. Many of these muscles work together during activities, such as the plank, push-ups, and hanging leg raises. They also contribute to walking, running, jumping, and bending at the waist.

Additionally, the anterior chain muscles play an important role in aesthetics and are often more noticeable than the muscles in the back. 

For instance, when someone wants to build a beach-ready physique, they often focus on the muscles in the front: the chest, biceps, serratus anterior, abs, and quadriceps. 

Because of their location, the biceps are also part of the anterior chain. However, many experts overlook this muscle group when talking about the anterior chain because of the biceps’:

  • Function – it is mostly isolated to arm flexion, and the muscle supports the function of posterior chain muscles (e.g., the lats during pulling movements)
  • Proximity – while located on the front, the biceps are not that close to the rest of the anterior chain, which is often discussed in the context of core training (e.g., doing planks)

4 Anterior Chain Exercises

The following five exercises train the majority of the anterior chain, often working two or more muscles together:

1. Push-Up

The push-up is an excellent anterior chain exercise that forces the transverse and rectus abdominis to flex isometrically while actively working the pectoralis major and serratus anterior.

2. Plank

The plank is an isometric movement that forces numerous anterior chain muscles to contract and maintain a rigid position for an extended period: quadriceps, hip flexors, abs (and transverse abdominis), serratus anterior, and pectoralis major.

3. Knee or Leg Raises

Knee and leg raises primarily work the hip flexors and abs. Performing them from a lying position is more beginner-friendly, whereas being suspended on a Captain’s chair or hanging from a pull-up bar forces other muscles, such as those of the upper back and forearms, to contribute.

4. Goblet Squat

Every squat variation trains the anterior and posterior chain, some focusing more on one than the other. The goblet squat is a fine anterior chain exercise because it trains the quads directly, forces the abs to flex isometrically, and involves the biceps and chest to keep the weight (dumbbell or kettlebell) in position.


1. What muscles make up the anterior chain?

The chest, serratus anterior, abs, transverse abdominis, hip flexors, and quadriceps are the primary anterior chain exercises. Given their position on the front of the body, the biceps can also be included in this group.

2. What exercises train the anterior chain?

To train the anterior chain muscles, you can do a variety of movements, including push-up variations, plank variations, leg raises, crunches, and squats.

3. Is the anterior chain more important than the posterior chain?

Neither muscle chain is inherently more important than the other. Both are crucial for good health, proper movement, and optimal athletic performance and must be trained directly through a combination of exercises.

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