Using chains to add resistance to weightlifting exercises has largely been the result of their use by Louis Simmons of the Westside Barbell Club in Columbus, Ohio. According to an article by strength coach Rob Haan for Elite Fitness Training Systems, titled “The Science Behind Bands and Chains,” starting in 2002, articles that Simmons wrote on the subject began spreading throughout the powerlifting world. The benefits of these revolutionary tools are now well regarded in the strength sports world.
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Haan noted in his article that a study demonstrated that the strongest part of any lift was the top third of extension. Using chains that add resistance to this portion of the movement, while not interfering with the weaker, low portion of the lift, will allow you to strengthen that exercise movement pattern more readily. You will not be held back by your weakness in the lower movement range.
In an article for CriticalBench.com, powerlifter Ben Tatar cites the ability to increase explosiveness in lifts as his reason for implementing chains into his weightlifting program. Tatar states, “The purpose of chains in the bench press is to build speed (accelerating quickly off your chest) and learning how to explode the weight as you hit the lockout (the finish) of the bench press.”
By allowing you to push harder with less resistance in the beginning, while requiring increased effort at the top of the range of motion, the addition of chains develops the neural pathways needed to lift the lighter weight more quickly. Since one of the key elements to the Westside Barbell Club training philosophy is the necessity for explosiveness during competitive lifts, this is an enormous benefit.
Because lifting with chains increases the strength of the strongest portion of the movement pattern, it leads to complete strength gains in any particular lifting exercise. As an example, if you use two 25-lb. chains, one for each end of the bar, and load your barbell with 200 lbs., then by the top of a lift, you’re actually pushing 250 lbs. Increasing a lift by 25 percent is an impressive increase to most weight lifters and strength athletes.
This ability to break through the sticking point of a lift, leads to new personal records. In a 2002 article entitled “Chains for Gains,” Westside Barbell Club athlete Ken O’Neill cites powerlifters claiming 50-lb. increases in their personal records on lifts in as little as two months while using chains as a training tool.