If you walked into your gym and saw a pile of big, heavy, silver chains on the floor, you'd probably think either you were in the wrong building or that your gym had changed into some sort of shipping yard overnight. As mad as it sounds though, chains may be the best training tool around to increase your strength. They're commonly used in powerlifting routines and when implemented correctly, can bring about amazing gains in strength, power and muscle growth.
Chains provide variable resistance on any exercise you add them to, notes Becca Borawski, personal trainer and managing editor at BreakingMuscle.com. To break that down, what it means is that when performing an exercise with chains added, the weight changes as you lift the bar, making the bar lighter at the bottom of your motion when the chain is piled on the floor and heavier at the top when most, if not all the chain is in the air.
You can use chains on all three of your main powerlifting exercises -- squats, bench presses and deadlfits. Set up for the exercise as you would usually, then loop the chains over either end of the bar. With bench presses, chains build strength in your triceps, as there's more weight at the top of the movement. Likewise your quads and glutes are hit harder when powering through at the top of a squat, and the chains give a great boost to the lockout at the top of your deadlift.
Don't get carried away and throw 200 pounds of chains on the bar straight away -- that can only end in disaster. You should only add around 10 to 25 percent of the bar weight in chains, observes Molly Galbraith, powerlifter and founder of Girls Gone Strong. So if you're deadlifting 100 pounds, 10 to 25 pounds of chains will be enough. You've got to keep perfect technique too -- it's all too easy to let your form slip when you add chains, but this is a definite no-no. Start light to get used to the different movement pattern and work your way up.
Powerlifting isn't just about the "big three" exercises. Lunges, ab work, rows, dumbbell presses and variations such front squats, stiff-legged deadlifts and close grip bench presses all build your strength. Chains are a fantastic addition to body-weight exercises such as chin-ups, dips and planks, strength coach Nia Shanks says. They'll send your strength through the roof, and no one in the gym will mess with you if you've got a mass of heavy chains draped round your shoulders.
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