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What Is Kinetic Chain Exercise?

author image Hannah Mich
Since 2007 Hannah Mich has written e-newsletters and been published in the "Missouri Journal of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance." She has a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Truman State University and a Master of Education in applied kinesiology from the University of Minnesota.
What Is Kinetic Chain Exercise?
The pushup is one of the most common closed kinetic chain exercises for the upper body. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

All exercises involve the kinetic chain, which the National Academy of Sports Medicine defines as the relationship or connection between your nerves, muscles and bones. The kinetic chain is broken into two categories, the open kinetic chain and closed kinetic chain, and is used to help describe or classify exercises.

Kinetic Chain

The idea behind the kinetic chain is that every part of your body, including muscles, joints and nerves, must work together to produce movements. For example, when you perform bicep curls, the kinetic chain of this exercise is about the muscles and nerves of your arm and shoulder working together to achieve elbow flexion, and not just about your biceps muscle, which is often your primary focus with this exercise. One of the main purposes of identifying exercises' specific kinetic chain is to help professionals determine the best rehabilitation or sport specific exercises for you.

Open and Closed

Open kinetic chain exercises are usually performed in a nonweight bearing position and allow your involved limb to move freely. Resistance is often applied at the end of the limb and movement commonly occurs at one joint, but not always. Closed kinetic chain exercises are performed in a weight-bearing position with movement of multiple joints. Closed kinetic chain exercises are considered more dynamic in nature compared to open kinetic chain exercises. However, both open and closed kinetic chain exercises are important in every exercise routine and rehabilitation program.

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Upper Body

Most upper body exercises are considered open kinetic chain and include bicep curls, lateral raises, triceps extensions and shoulder pendulum. Upper body open kinetic chain exercises play an important role in your weightlifting routine, sport-specific exercises and in early rehabilitation. Because your shoulder is not considered a weight-bearing joint like your hip, closed kinetic chain exercises are often overlooked, but provide many benefits. They are exercises when your hands and arms are in a weight-bearing position and include push-ups, forward planks and ball stabilizations on a wall or table. Closed chain exercises help improve joint stability, reduce your risk of injury and assist with proper healing of sprained ligaments.

Lower Body

Lower body open kinetic chain exercises include knee curls and extensions, and hip abduction and adduction. These types of exercises are low-impact and often target or isolate specific muscles and joints. Therefore open kinetic chain exercises for the lower body are used in weightlifting programs to promote muscle growth and in early rehabilitation to increase muscle strength without pain and further injury. Closed kinetic chain exercises, on the other hand, play key roles in sport-specific training and simulating activities of daily living during advance rehabilitation.They include squats, lunges, stair-climbing and single-leg balance, which are more dynamic and advanced than most open kinetic chain exercises for the lower body.

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