Chains are a very versatile and effective tool in training. They also admittedly, look super cool and hardcore. However, that is not the intention of the chain. Many may not know the practical application and benefit of incorporating this tool in to your training program. Here are my top 5 uses for chains.
1.) Accommodating resistance to overload the human strength curve. Physics tells us that when lever lengths increase, torque power increases. As one moves through the concentric(the lifting portion) of the movement, we gain mechanical advantage. Simply put, the movement gets easier as you progress though the lift. Using the bench press example, the lift is easier from half way up to the lockout then it is from the very bottom. Using chains can help to overload this strength curve. At the bottom of the lift, most of the chain links are on the floor. As the bar is lifted, the links come one by one off the ground, and thus the weight is increased throughout the lift.
2.) Decelerating the bar for dynamic effort work. Dynamic effort work involves using lighter weight while moving the bar as fast as possible. This method is beneficial for improving explosiveness or de-loading the body while still working at high intensity. The chains are great in stopping the bar in a controlled manner at the top. Using just bar and plate resistance, the bar can be out of control at the top when one explodes through the movement. Using chains in this method gives a great incentive to actually accelerate through the entire movement while stopping the bar at the top sine the weight is much heavier at the end.
3.)Instability and Oscillating Kinetic energy implementation. A common issue amongst trainees is a lack of joint stability. In order to train heavy under a bar, you need to have control over your entire kinetic chain. Hanging weights from the bar can create an incentive to brace and create tension within the surrounding muscles of a joint to maintain control of the movement. This works extremely well for core stability in the squat and shoulder/scapular stability in the bench press.
4.)Creating more joint friendly exercises by de-loading strenuous joint positions. One of the best things you can do in your training is to ensure the longevity of it and keep yourself injury free. Chains can play a major role in accomplishing this. Our joints are in the most stretched and stressed positions in the bottom of the lift. By using chains, we can make the resistance less in these positions while overloading the lift in more joint friendly positions. Let’s look at the bench press as an example. Shoulder issues are very common the in the bench press. As you lower the bar to your chest, the GH(shoulder joint, undergoes a great deal of external rotation. Many can experience pain in this bottom position. If we take 60 pounds of chains on the bar, we can make the bar much lighter at the bottom position, but keep the weight heavy towards the top.
5.)Strengthening lock out positions. Some lifters experience weakness in their lockout positions including locking the elbows in the bench or locking the hips and knees in a squat or deadlift. Because the chains cause the bar to get heavier throughout the lift, the lifter needs to work that much harder to lock the bar out. This is a great way to push past plateaus in training.