• Chains For Gains


      by Charles Poliquin Bodybuilding.com

      Q What is your opinion about lifting chains? Powerlifters like them, but are they good for increasing muscle mass?

      Lifting chains works for bodybuilders for three reasons: 1) They help match the resistance curve of an exercise with the strength curve of a muscle; 2) they prolong the time under tension of an exercise; and 3) they increase the intensity of an exercise. Let's explore.

      A strength curve, or force curve, is a mathematical model that represents how much force an individual can produce at a specific joint angle. This is in contrast to a resistance curve, which is how difficult an exercise is at specific points of the exercise. There are three basic types of strength curves: ascending, descending, and ascending-descending. An ascending strength curve refers to being able to display more force when you extend a joint, a descending strength curve refers to being able to display more force as you flex a joint, and an ascending-descending strength curve means you can display more strength at the midrange position of a joint. Lifting chains are best used for exercises that involve ascending strength curves so that the weight feels lighter as you get close to the end range of the exercise. Examples include squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and military presses.


      An example of an exercise that lifting chains would not be good for is the pullup—in fact, one reason so many boot camp programs use kipping pullups is to utilize momentum to complete the movement. But just as doing cheat biceps curls doesn't necessarily enable you to do strict curls, kipping pullups (done with a hip snap) don't necessarily translate into strict pullups—plus consider the high levels of stress these Cirque du Soleil movements place on the shoulder joint.

      In effect, what lifting chains does is provide variable resistance so you can match the strength curve of a muscle with the resistance curve of the exercise. Before chains became popular, partial movements were often used as a practical way to match the resistance curve of an exercise. For example, because a lifter is stronger at the finish of a deadlift, a powerlifter might perform deadlifts in a power rack with safety rods set up so that the barbell is positioned at knee height. As such, a powerlifter doing a 500-pound deadlift from the floor might be able to use 600 pounds with the bar set at knee height. As such, chains can be considered an "economical exercise," because rather than having to perform two or more variations of the same exercise, you need to perform only one since the weight of the barbell increases as the chain links are lifted off the floor.

      The feedback I get from lifters is that exercises with chains feel "smooth" throughout the entire movement. Another advantage of using chains is that they slow down the concentric portion of the exercise, prolonging the time the muscle is under tension. It has the same effect as doing dropsets, which serve to increase the time a muscle is placed under tension. Generally, to stimulate maximal muscle growth, a muscle needs to be under tension for 40-70 seconds, another important factor in using the variable of workout intensity to your advantage. Intensity is defined according to how much an individual can lift in relation to how much weight they can lift for one repetition. High levels of intensity are necessary to work the fast-twitch muscle fibers, which must be activated for a bodybuilder to achieve the highest levels of muscular hypertrophy. Because lifting chains increases the amount of weight lifted during certain portions of an exercise, the intensity of the exercise is higher.

      Chains also help trainees squat lower. If you want to achieve maximal muscle size in your lower extremities, you need to squat rock-bottom. Chains work on your subconscience to get you to squat lower, because the weight feels lighter as you go deeper. As a general guideline, you want to use chains that are roughly 10% of the barbell weight (bar + plates + collars). So if the loaded barbell weight is 100 kilos (220 pounds), each chain should weigh 10 kilos (22 pounds). But don't get too detail-oriented—even a 15% chain will do.

      What is the best exercise for triceps mass?
      In my opinion dips are the quickest way to massive triceps. What, no pressdowns? Have you looked at the triceps of powerlifters and strongman competitors recently? They are plenty massive, and very few of those guys waste their time on pressdowns. Or look at gymnasts—they have massive triceps developed from many reps of dips and pressing motions. Yet, like the very demanding squats and chins, dips rarely make it into other fitness magazines—you know, the ones where the model always purses his lips for the picture. Too bad, because electromyography studies clearly show that dips activate the greatest amount of motor units in the triceps brachii.


      To start the exercise, hold the handle bar and boost yourself until you are stabilized at arm's length over the handles, then lower your body as far as possible in between the bars; during this eccentric portion of this exercise you want to lower your body until your biceps make contact with your forearms—your triceps must get fully stretched. Once you reach the bottom position, press yourself back up by extending the elbows; try to stay as upright as possible throughout the range of motion. Don't lean too far forward because this will increase the recruitment of the pectoralis muscles.

      If you can't lower yourself under control until the biceps make contact with the forearms, go back to collecting stamps—or you can perform the decline close-grip bench press until your elbow extension strength is sufficient. Doing an incomplete range in triceps dips is a complete waste of your time. And please do not go for the El Dweebo version, where you put your feet on a bench in front of you and put your hands behind you. That exercise, along with Smith machine pressing exercises, is one of the major causes of shoulder impingement syndromes in the bodybuilding community.

      At first your body weight will probably suffice as the sole means of resistance. As you get stronger, you can increase the resistance by holding a dumbbell between your legs or hooking a plate or dumbbell onto a specialized chin/dip belt. There are many variations of chin/dip belts on the market, and in my opinion, most of them are not worth the money. I have always had the policy of "buy once, and for life." That is how high the quality of what you buy should be. Tree-climbing belts are the best choice, and they are designed to take the stress off the hips.

      If you have access to the better V-shaped dipping bars, use as narrow a grip as possible, without compromising shoulder integrity, of course. And please, do not cheat yourself by doing chopped reps by not going all the way down, and by coming up only three-quarters of the way. By the same token, your elbows should go to only 98% of elbow extension to maintain maximal tension on the triceps. A great way to enhance the return on your investment in dips is to use chains to match the strength curve. Since dips have an ascending strength curve, you want more weight in the fully contracted position than in the stretched position. As you extend the arms, more chain links come off the floor, hence increasing the resistance on the triceps.

      Source: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/chai...th-chains.html
      Comments 12 Comments
      1. Spaniard's Avatar
        Spaniard -
        No love for the Smith?

        Shoot, the Smith machine has helped me be able to bench again with my shoulder...

        - Valdez
      1. Spaniard's Avatar
        Spaniard -
        Not to mention be able to lift progressive and consistent every single workout. Never depending on a spotter showing up or if the spotter even knows proper spotting technique.

        I dig the Smith, I am able to lift more weight or get extra reps every single workout, consistently.

        It has its place, Chuck.

        - Valdez
      1. Boatcop1's Avatar
        Boatcop1 -
        The Smith just isn't a natural movement. You are kidding yourself with that straight plane machine. Get rid of it and fnd a spotter. You will be better off in the long run! I also have a crap right shoulder but I will not sacrifice proven movements and lifts for something that is "convenient" or "easy". No you are not lifting more weight either.

        Regards
      1. Spaniard's Avatar
        Spaniard -
        I wasn't talking about it being heavier, I was taking about progressing. Every workout I go up in weight or add a couple of reps.

        I also rotate in DB presses at different angles. Different body mechanics - free bench annihilates my shoulder to no end. DB and Smith and its smooth sailing.

        Utilizing a Smith vs having to depend on an unreliable partner and the Smith wins. I'm a firefighter most don't work the schedule I do and those that I work with don't train the way I do.

        Lastly, I would also say that using the Smith machine is less convenient due to the fact that you have to find a free bench, move it into place etc... Has nothing to do with convenience.

        - Valdez
      1. aceroni's Avatar
        aceroni -
        Idk about you guys but doing deep dips trashes my anterior joint capsule of my delt, every time
      1. theotherone55's Avatar
        theotherone55 -
        Originally Posted by Boatcop1 View Post
        The Smith just isn't a natural movement. You are kidding yourself with that straight plane machine. Get rid of it and fnd a spotter. You will be better off in the long run! I also have a crap right shoulder but I will not sacrifice proven movements and lifts for something that is "convenient" or "easy". No you are not lifting more weight either.

        Regards
        Sorry man but I'm going to have to completely disagree.

        He said that e Smythe has let him bench press again after a shoulder injury and you basically tell him to suck it up and go with proven lifts? IMO that is absolutely horrible advice.
        I think everyone's goal in life should be to be ABLE to hit the gym for as long as they live. Injuries are something that everyone, including yourself, are going to have to deal with. If you have to change your routine in order to prolong your lifting career, DO IT.

        As of right now I can't even bench with Smythe machines. The only machines that I still feel comfortable with for chest and shoulders are Hammer Strength. And I was in the same boat as you, would NOT let the ego go and take bench and military out of my routine because "they are proven bang-4-your-buck exercises."
        After 3 reconstructive shoulder surgeries and I said **** it and took it out.

        Some guys can't do dips, if pushdowns are the only exercise that doesn't hurt then you do those...and I guarantee Charles P and any other proven trainer would agree with him here.
      1. Spaniard's Avatar
        Spaniard -
        Originally Posted by aceroni View Post
        Idk about you guys but doing deep dips trashes my anterior joint capsule of my delt, every time
        Oddly enough dips are one of my favorite and strongest lifts for my size... Last time I worked them in was hanging 85's + bw for around 10 - 15. I'm excited to work them in again.

        - Valdez
      1. aceroni's Avatar
        aceroni -
        Originally Posted by Valdez View Post

        Oddly enough dips are one of my favorite and strongest lifts for my size... Last time I worked them in was hanging 85's + bw for around 10 - 15. I'm excited to work them in again.

        - Valdez
        YeahI used to do stupid **** like that too, hanging 100lbs fir reps, then I strained my chest
      1. Boatcop1's Avatar
        Boatcop1 -
        Originally Posted by aceroni View Post
        Idk about you guys but doing deep dips trashes my anterior joint capsule of my delt, every time
        I don't usually go as low as the article describes either. I've always been under the mindset to only go to where your upper arm is parrallel to the deck. I usually hang two plates when i do them but nex time I may go BW and maybe a little deeper just to see how it feels. The nice stretch maybe an added plus.

        Originally Posted by theotherone55 View Post
        Sorry man but I'm going to have to completely disagree.

        He said that e Smythe has let him bench press again after a shoulder injury and you basically tell him to suck it up and go with proven lifts? IMO that is absolutely horrible advice. Please cite where I said this.
        I think everyone's goal in life should be to be ABLE to hit the gym for as long as they live. Injuries are something that everyone, including yourself, are going to have to deal with. If you have to change your routine in order to prolong your lifting career, DO IT.
        As of right now I can't even bench with Smythe machines. The only machines that I still feel comfortable with for chest and shoulders are Hammer Strength. And I was in the same boat as you, would NOT let the ego go and take bench and military out of my routine because "they are proven bang-4-your-buck exercises."
        After 3 reconstructive shoulder surgeries and I said **** it and took it out.

        Some guys can't do dips, if pushdowns are the only exercise that doesn't hurt then you do those...and I guarantee Charles P and any other proven trainer would agree with him here.
        Bro you are correct just like I did with my shoulder injury. My days of Bench pressing 425lbs are over. Your argument has holes in it though. If you can bench press on a smith you can bench press traditionaly is all I'm saying. If anything due to the design of the smith it's probably more damaging than beneficial due to the lack of stabilizer muscle recruitment.

        This has nothing to do with "ego"! C'mon man. Again the bench press is a full body staple that should not be substituted if one can still "bench". Ego? Bro I used to bench double my body weight and now I use 225 MAX! I have no problem with that.

        I like pushdowns as a closer but not as a staple. Decline close grips, skull crushers and dips are your big dogs.
      1. aceroni's Avatar
        aceroni -
        Bench like a powerlifter, get a big arch and tuck your elbows. Your shoulders will thank you, as will yourself because the amount you can press will increase substantially. Only way to press imo
      1. Boatcop1's Avatar
        Boatcop1 -
        Originally Posted by aceroni View Post
        Bench like a powerlifter, get a big arch and tuck your elbows. Your shoulders will thank you, as will yourself because the amount you can press will increase substantially. Only way to press imo
        Absolutley. Roll and tuck your shoulder blades on the bench and like you said keep the elbows tucked. That's a propper bench. The reason most people hurt themselves is because their form is horrible!
      1. Torobestia's Avatar
        Torobestia -
        I think the way the dip stand is made makes a big difference in comfort with dips. I've played with about 6 different dip stations, all different, and I've noticed absolutely no pain with 4 of them, and pain with 2 of them. I unfortunately can't remember what 3 of the ones looked like, but I know that of the last 3 I used, 2 had a very, very slight angle to the bars, and these caused no pain. The dip stand at my current gym has the handles coming out strictly straight (parallel to each other), and I have a lot of pain in my shoulders using those, so I don't do dips anymore.

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