No Chains, No Gains: 6 Exercises to Transform Your Strength Training

man lifting a barbell with chains
Do you even lift with chains, bro? (Image: Travis McCoy/LIVESTRONG.COM)

Chains. They can be used on tires and fences, to lock doors — and to work out! Yep, chains can be used as a form of variable resistance training that can develop your body in so many beneficial ways.

Resistance in any form — chains, dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, etc. — have numerous physical benefits. These include muscle tone, cognitive ability, preventing and fighting disease and greater stamina.

Need more proof you should add chains to your workout? Here are four reasons to put some extra heat in your fitness regimen with chains.

1. Chains require increasing strength to lift.

To put it scientifically, “chains have a linear mass-displacement (i.e., length-load) relationship.” Simply put, it means that the higher the chain is lifted, the more weight you’re lifting.

Chains get heavier link by link as they’re lifted off the floor. That means you need to recruit more and more muscle fibers throughout your lift. And who doesn’t want to get stronger faster?

2. Chains activate your stabilizer muscles.

If you’ve ever looked at a hanging chain, you already know it sways and twists when it’s lifted. So when doing barbell exercises, this affects both the bar and body. It forces your core and stabilizer muscles to engage even more to help build stability in the muscle groups being used.

3. Chains have both concentric and eccentric benefits.

With squats, bench presses and deadlifts, the primary benefit is coming from adding weight as you lift (the concentric phase). But the other way this can benefit you is on the way down (the eccentric phase).

At the top, you’ve generated so much force and tension that it’ll be harder to control the bar down as you start to descend. Since the weight is constantly changing, you’ll need strength and focus to lower the bar with control rather than dropping the bar at an unsafe pace.

6 Exercises You Can Add Chains To

man doing Zercher Squats with Chains
Here’s the proper form for Zercher squats with chains. (Image: Travis McCoy/LIVESTRONG.COM)

What Do YOU Think?

Have you ever worked out with chains before? Does your gym or CrossFit box have chains? Do you think you’ll add them into your routine now? Which of these exercises do you want to try? Are there other exercises you do with chains? Share your suggestions and questions in the comments below!


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