Why & How Chains Work
Chains are one method useful when training power and speed, or velocity, on a barbell with a heavy load. Applying chains to an exercise increases variable resistance, also known as accommodating resistance.
Why & How it Works:
Loading chains is most beneficial with exercises such as barbell squats, deadlifts, or bench press, where force is produced through ascension. The loaded chains require increased force production through extension because the load decreases while the bar descends and increases as the bar ascends.
This means that at the lowest portion of an exercise the majority of the chains, and therefore weight, is on the ground. For example, at the bottom of a back squat, an athlete perceives the weight as lighter and therefore easier because the weight was transferred from the bar onto the ground. On the contrary, as the individual under the bar starts to stand up, the chains progressively ascend and end up off the ground again.
There are biomechanical advantages in each joint and angle of human anatomy. Variable resistance allows coaches to alter these biomechanics to put different volumes of stress on the body in different phases of each exercise. This ensures the enhancement of the force-velocity relationship with a given load over time with proper programming.
Chains can also promote mobility and stability aspects of a lift which are often overlooked. The variable resistance encourages a full range of motion while reducing the tension and force required to get out of a sticking point. Additionally, the chains add a challenging aspect of stability to maintain control of the bar, weight, and athlete’s own body in space. This promotes maximum muscle recruitment and total body proprioception for a successful lift.
How to Use Chains:
According to Bobby Congalton of Elite FTS and their documentation of maximizing the utilization of chains during strength training, the chains should not be hung linearly from the bar, but rather looped (Congalton, 2013). This can be achieved through various mechanisms, but at Bullett Performance Training, we use small chain links that are connected with the carabiner (reference the image provided below). The length of the chains is dependent on the qualities desired for training. Typically, we will set our chain length with the chains touching the ground at lockout. However, if increased stability is desired, simply raise the chain length setting.
Congalton, B. (2013, May 13). Benefits of lifting chains. Retrieved March 19, 2021, from
Landshoeft, P. (n.d.). Bench press with chains or bands? [article, video]. Retrieved
March 19, 2021, from