Hive Health Media

Get Greater Strength Gains with Chains

There’s a lot of talk about training with bands these days and they are a great asset to training as they can add more stimulus and since resistance increases throughout the exercise, this requires your neuromuscular system to recruit more muscle throughout the movement. In other words your muscle has to continue to accelerate through the movement as opposed to slowing the weight down.

This is a similar principle that exists with chains. By attaching chains to a barbell you can add variable weight. The key is to add the chains so that they are just barely touching the floor at the top of your movement. So if you’re setting up for squats, when the bar is on your shoulders none of the links should be on the floor.

The cool thing about chains is that they swing from side to side so they require a little increased stability. Another great thing when working with chains is that as more links are on the floor, the weight is unloaded. In other words the weight gets lighter as you bottom out in your movement. However, when you are in the concentric phase of the exercise the weight is increasing, requiring more muscle recruitment and acceleration of the weight continuously throughout the range of motion.

Working with chains is a great way to increase strength and power. For athletes it’s a must as the one thing that athletes are most interested in is acceleration. I consider everyone to be an athlete as we all need to learn to accelerate, apply power and force to move and perform better.

The one drawback to chains is that they are noisy so they can be quite unwelcome in most gym settings. Bands make a great alternative as they’re not noisy and easier to attach to equipment. Either one of these great tools will help you add new stimulus, help you increase muscle recruitment, strength, metabolic cost and get an awesome variation to your workouts.

Rich Thurman MA, CSCS, CPT is a Health & Performance Coach and Personal Trainer in from the United States, residing in Bangkok. Co-founder of Active Lifestyle Co. Ltd, Rich has worked with hundreds of people, from collegiate level athletes to every day people helping them reach their sports and lifestyle goals. With a focus on a holistic health approach, providing accountability and structured exercise programs for kids and adults, Rich has successfully helped many people transform their lives and perform better, maximizing their abilities in sports and life. Rich graduated Pre Med from UCLA with a Bachelors Degree in Physiological Science and obtained a Masters Degree in Sports Management from USF. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach with the NSCA and a Certified Personal Trainer. Author of various publications dealing with sports training and nutrition, Rich brings a high level of professionalism to the Bangkok Personal Training arena:


  1. Paul Jones

    November 17, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    Interesting I have not seen the chains as a variable weight used in our gym. I am going to ask if they will get some.

  2. Project Swole

    November 16, 2010 at 9:38 am

    I’ll agree with everyone one else here. Chains are the bomb, but they are cumbersome, noisy, take up a lot more room, and are more expensive than bands. There is no doubt however, that bands and chains develop acceleration better than any other technique I can think of. Even better than Westside-style dynamic effort lifting… oh wait… they use chains for that too. =)

  3. Aaron

    November 15, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    Another drawback to chains is the cost. Bands might be a wiser choice, not only because of how much quieter they are, but also the cost and portability.

    • Rich Thurman, MA, CSCS, CPT

      November 16, 2010 at 7:15 am

      You’re absolutely right Aaron. Cost and mobility. I had a chance to meet Jim Stoppani of Muscle & Fitness here in Bangkok in September and the chains he used were of course local, but he brought bands from the US. Of course he pointed out he could carry hundreds of pounds worth of resistance in bands through the airport in a duffle bag, yet the chains just wouldn’t be possible.

      If you travel around a lot bands are going to be the best option.

  4. Douglas Robb

    November 15, 2010 at 10:37 am

    I am a HUGE fan of bands & chains.

    Unfortunately, you are right about chains not being welcome in most “commercial” gyms. I love using them to add resistance to my bodyweight workouts.

    I drape them over my shoulders, walk to the park and start banging out squats, chins, push-ups, sprints.

    I also use them for throwing movements like explosive swing snatches.

    • Jarret Morrow

      November 15, 2010 at 8:33 pm

      It’s funny, I’m learning at least as much if not more from posts on this site as I contribute. I’ve never heard of using chains, but it makes so much sense. It’s too bad that they’re not available or welcome at my gym.

    • Rich Thurman, MA, CSCS, CPT

      November 16, 2010 at 7:10 am

      Hey Douglas, I’m interested to know more about the swing snatches. That sounds cool.

      I use them mostly for muscle acceleration training. I will drape heavy chains from my waist so that some of the links are on the floor while I’m in the pull up position and then as I pull up it gets heavier. After a few weeks I felt like I was gonna pull myself through the roof without the chains. Love em.

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