Monday, January 23, 2012

Chains Plates and Barbells - Here's Why and How

What's Up With Chains - EFTS

Ever wonder what a gym full of plates and barbells needs with chains?  I used to see this box with 5/8 inch chain - which by the way looks very cool and darn sure should be put to some use - and wonder "WTF?"

Short version - it provides a way to vary the stimulus of a movement.  As Louie Simmons says, "Once you spell your name right, you can only spell it wrong."  Which is to say, to get the body to keep adapting, you have to present a stimulus.  What was a stimulus yesterday is not a stimulus today; you already know this, because you know if you lift 50 pounds for ten reps every day, it will not help you lift 100 pounds some day.  This concept is termed "the law of accommodation."  If you want your body to adapt, you have to present a stimulus to which the body is not already accommodated.

"So why not just lift more today than yesterday, won't that cause an adaptive stimulus?  After all, that's how Milo lifted the bull ("He was said to have achieved the feat of lifting the bull by starting in childhood, lifting and carrying a newborn calf and repeating the feat daily as it grew to maturity")"

Yes, it will, with beginners.  But when have trained using linear progression long enough, gains will eventually slow.  At that point, you have to find a new way to stress the body in order to continue to make gains.  That's why, both with Westside Barbell, arguably the most successful gym in the world for competitive power lifters, or CrossFit, variation is continuous.

Chain attached to a barbell allows a lifter to keep the weight at what is an achievable range when the barbell, and the chain, are on the floor, but makes for an increasing weight as the barbell is lifted.  So a 325 pound deadlift with 50# of chain provides a 325 pound stimulus in the start position, when leverages are low, and a 375# stimulus as the chain is fully lifted.  This is most assuredly a "different" stimulus than lifting a barbell that is plate loaded only.

Or as the article linked above puts it:
The biggest difference between chains and straight weight is the ability to add accommodating resistance to whatever lift you’re training. For those unfamiliar with the term, accommodating resistance basically means that the load changes during the lift to accommodate to your natural strength curve.

Another benefit of chains, or there accommodating resistance, is that they allow us to fully accelerate through an entire movement when working on speed.  If you are squatting a moderate rate for the purpose of moving as fast as possible under load, you have to slow down near the end of the movement - since it can be truly inconvenient to launch a heavy barbell into the lower atmosphere directly above your body.  Chains or bands, by providing increasing resistance as the barbell moves further from the ground, prevent this dilemma, allowing maximal exertion - and everybody wants that.

Most of us have no need for $150 worth of chains, we'd be better served putting that money towards coaching or bumper plates or a good pull-up system.  But it never hurts to know the answer so you don't have to be the one asking the stupid question when you see the chains in a gym!


  1. These things are necessary for gyms but unfortunately few gyms have good equipment and other are using traditional equipment.

    Tie down straps

  2. This is a fantastic content. You have moved on some really exciting points.

    load binders