Lifting Chains
Changing the Strength Curve
by James Bullock

Get Strong with Lifting Chains

In the strength world, using lifting chains or bands for added resistance to compound exercises is called accommodating resistance.

In the bench press, for example, as you lower the weight to your chest, the chains will gather on the ground (deloading the chain at the bottom).

Once you begin to press, the chains will slowly add more weight throughout the entire lift. At lockout, the load will be the heaviest. Due to the increase of weight during the lift, you MUST accelerate as fast as possible to not stall at a specific joint angle.

Utilizing lifting chains is very demanding on the central nervous system (CNS) and should only be done a few times per training cycle. Strength increases from using them are a direct result of neurological changes: the CNS becomes more efficient at moving heavier loads with greater speed.

I am not personally a fan of doing high reps with chains unless they are used as accessory movements. Reason being is that with a significantly higher load at lockout, you also have a much greater risk of CNS burnout and injury.

So what do the chains teach you?

  • To accelerate through the entire lift.
  • To handle greater loads in a full range of motion.
  • To store more kinetic energy on the eccentric (lowering) phase of a lift, allowing you to explode through the concentric portion of the lift. To maintain force production in spite of an increase in load during the movement.
  • Better inter-muscular coordination and motor unit recruitment, resulting in more power and strength.

Primary exercises with chains added:

  • Bench Press and variations
  • Squat and variations
  • Deadlift and variations
  • Military Press and variations
  • Push Press
  • Push Jerk
  • Bent Over Rows

Rogue Fitness Chain Kits

Rogue Fitness' Chain Kits offer you the ability to add and take off chains with ease. Get up to 40lbs of chains in one kit. Made in the USA. Check them out in the link below. 

Rogue Fitness Chain Kits

One of my favorite ways to utilize chains is as follows:

  1. Pick an exercise and work up to a specific bar weight.
  2. Once you hit that specific load, you simply add a pair of chains after each set until you reach a desired number of reps or specific load in your session.
  3. This can be done in the deloading fashion or you can simply hang the chains, not allowing them to touch the ground (depending on which exercise you choose), causing greater stress to your stabilizers.

Chains can be expensive to buy, but the benefits of using them are completely worth the cost. My athletes and I have had tremendous gains adding them into our strength cycles.

James Bullock

Strength and Honor


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About the Author

James Bullock is the head coach for Irondom Performance Systems and Combative Sciences. He's written programs for athletes and non-athletes alike, including numerous world record holders in various sports. Combative Sciences was found in 1999 and is the culmination of decades of martial arts training. 

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