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Chain Training - A Guide

Often we will hear trainers talk of ‘farmers strength’ rather than ‘gym strength’. What is meant here is the ability to be strong and powerful in any position or for any movement. These skills used to come from the background development of our players, and gym work if any was used to top-up raw power. Now of course we are having all too often to develop this ‘farmer’s strength’ from scratch and we are finding that a typical gym layout simply fails to provide for these needs. We need to get back to training this ‘farmer’s strength’ and working out how to do this in a training environment. This is where ‘Chain training’ comes into force.

Specifics of chain training

Training with chains satisfies a number of important ‘farmers strength’ training requirements;

  • Chains attached to an Olympic bar get heavier as they get further off the floor. Thus for example replicating the struggle that an opponent may put up when you try to move them.
  • Chains act as an unstable system to lift, they can be awkward and force the trainer to work hard to make the movement. The movement is less predictable and the forces required may change across the movement.
  • Chains can be manipulated to add weight in specific parts of the movement. Thus the movement may be manipulated to be harder at certain phases. This can be great for getting through ‘sticking points’ found with traditional free weight systems.
  • Chains can be used in isolation or with bars and pulleys. There is a lot of scope for the use of chains. They can be used as a single system or with attachments as an augmentation of other weight systems.
  • Chains can be used to create resistance from a number of differing start points within a movement. We are trying largely to replicate the demands of real life performance issues and the complexity of how chains can be used assists greatly with this solution.
  • Chains can be used for training with increasingly complex movement patterns. Again, the movements replicated in the real world are often more complicated than those easily produced in a gym or typical training environment. Chains are part of the solution of increasing that complexity.
  • Effective training with chain may require some thought and planning. We are making things more difficult, so you may need to think more about what you do. This planning time and increased complexity can be a major advantage as the basis of training is to stress a system and get an adaptation. By training in the same old way week after week, it becomes increasingly unlikely that there is any need for the system to adapt as it quickly becomes used to the stresses put on it. By planning and adding some new exercises combined with the unique aspects of training with chains themselves, chain training can be a major part of how you can ‘tweak’ the system into further adaptation.
  • Effective training with chains does not necessarily mean you will be doing the same as everybody else. If you train the same as everyone else, do not necessarily expect to get different results, a little thought and cleverness may be the deciding factor in the effectiveness of your training.
  • Chain training can be very hard work. Of course, it is stimulating the system, in a slightly different way each time you lift. It is harder to train in a rut or using the same old habits with chains as they ask something slightly different of you with each movement.
  • Chain training can be one method to move through those sticking points. Adding weight at critical points through the movement can help you push through those dead zones of training.
  • Training with chains may mean that you have to attempt to move with more speed to achieve movements. In performance speed is king, speed is a critical component of power, and the delivery of power through technique is a critical physical factor in genuine elite performance.
  • Training with chains may mean you engage more stabilisers around a movement to control the movement that with traditional weights. You are making the body work as a whole, forcing coordination and helping to teach the body to work as a complete system rather than as a series of discrete muscle groups. Effective training should focus on the quality of movement as well as the forces being generated.
  • Training with chains can be used to enhance your standard workout. Add 10% chains to your training, see the difference to the workout and to your results.