How to Use Lifting Chains for Speed-Strength Development
Accommodating resistance implements like chains can become a valuable tool when trying to improve power output in ascending strength curve exercises like Squats and Presses.
The way most trainees use chains is by adding 10-20% of RM load added to the barbell, for example:
5RM load = 200 kg
10% of 200 kg = 20 kg
20 kg / by 2 chains = 10 kg per chain
10 kg per chain added to 200 kg barbell
Even though this method can be useful for hypertrophy purposes (by increasing the load as the force demand decreases through the resistance curve), this loading technique becomes highly inefficient when the goal is the improvement of speed and power.
A more effective way to load lifting chains is to manipulate the implement to bar ratio to allow for an increase in barbell velocity.
Use chains weighing 20% of RM load combined to the equivalent load difference with the barbell. Here is an example:
5RM load = 200 kg
20% of 200 kg = 40 kg
40 kg / by 2 chains = 20 kg per chain
200 kg (5RM) - 40 kg (chains) = 160 kg
20 kg per chain added to 160 kg barbell
The trainee is still using his 5RM load, but the bottom of the movement (weakest point) is de-loaded by 20%. This allows the athlete to create better compensatory acceleration through the concentric contraction.
As a general rule, avoid performing more than 8 repetitions when using chains for power development. Performing too many repetitions will negate the training effect by inevitably leading to slower concentric velocities as the time under tension extends beyond the 30-second mark. The ideal range is between 4 to 8 repetitions.
A key element with chains is making sure you use chains with a lead-chain system. The long straight chains attached to a shackle are rather useless as there is minimal variable resistance occurring since only a few chain links are engaged in the range of motion of the exercise.
By using the appropriate set-up, you can significantly improve the training effect of lifting chains for speed-strength development.