Get Stronger and more Explosive with Chain Training

We can utilize the squat, bench, and deadlift in order to increase power and strength as using the Dynamic Effort Method and Max Effort Method.

Chain Training: Get Stronger and Faster

By John Gaglione

Many coaches utilize various forms of plyos, Olympic lifts, and box jumps in order to increase power, get stronger, and faster. I use many of these methods myself with my athletes, but many coaches do not have a lot of time to teach Olympic lifts(Snatch, Clean and Jerk, High Pull, etc) or may not feel comfortable teaching them. We can utilize the squat, bench, and deadlift in order to increase power and strength as using the Dynamic Effort Method and Max Effort Method. This is particularly effective with the combination of chains.

Many people think the bench, squat, and deadlift can only be utilized for building “slow strength”, but the reality is any lift performed explosively can be implemented to increase power. We can utilize what is called the Dynamic Effort method in order to develop speed and explosive power. As a general rule of thumb we can simply monitor bar speed in order to figure out what weight will work best, but I will give some percentages as mere guidelines for implementing this method.

The Dynamic Effort Method is typically 40%-70% of 1RM for 6-12 Sets of 1-3 Repetitions. In general If we use a lighter percents we will use more repetitions and more chain weight. When we use a higher percents we will use less chain weight and less repetitions.

Front Squat with Chains

We like to utilize chains with the Dynamic Effort method, since the chains on the barbell are a form of accommodating resistance. Accommodating resistance means that as the weight is lowered the chains will pile up on the ground and the load will be lighter in the bottom of the motion. As the athlete reverses the motion and raises the weight back up the chain will come off the ground and the load will be heavier in the lock out position. This accommodates for the athlete’s natural strength curve, where the athlete is normally stronger in the lock out position. This teaches the athlete to accelerate through the entire lift. When using straight weight the athlete will naturally decelerate, since the weight will be the same through the entire range of motion. Since the weight gets heavier at the top the athlete is forced to accelerate through the entire range of motion.

In this example shown below the athlete is using about 60% of their max for the Safety Squat Bar Box Squat and 80 pounds of chain weight. Depending on the strength of the athlete we will utilize any where from 1-3 chains per side, which equates to 40-120 pounds of total chain weight. Each chain weighs approximately 20 pounds each and can be purchased through Elite Fitness Systems.

SSB with Chain

The chains help build a strong lockout and a powerful start for all types of lifts. If the athlete isn’t explosive the athlete will fail since the weight gets heavier at the top of the lift. The athlete is FORCED to move the weight fast in order to lock out the weight. When setting up the chain for the squat and the bench a smaller “feeder” chain should be used in order to have most of the chain de-loaded on the floor at the bottom position. This allows for the greatest contrast of weight to be loaded and de-loaded in order to improve speed and lockout strength.

SSB Squat with Chains

For the deadlift and floor press no feeder chain is necessary I like to use special collars for the deadlift, but they can be draped over the bar at the middle link of the chain for a quick and effective set up. You can also implement the chain for strength work and go heavier than 90% as shown below.

Conventional Deadlift with Chains

When we implement loads greater than 90% for 1 to 3 sets we call this the Max Effort method. True max effort work is done with single repetitions, but with our athletes we typically utilize 5RM(Rep Max), 3RM, or 2RM loads instead. This is not to be done with beginner athletes or clients. They should have solid technique and a good base of strength and strength endurance before utilizing the Max Effort method.

Here is a picture showing how the chains can be draped over the bar for the floor press. This particular workout was done for strength and the loads were very heavy. This athlete in particular bench presses around 305 pounds so we added 80 pounds of chain weight for the floor press. Someone who benches much less than this might only use 40 pounds of total chain weight for the floor press. This is an example of the modified Max Effort method since the load is greater than 90%, but is not a single repetition.

Floor Press with Chains

Chains can also be utilized for a variety of other exercises as well that I will outline in the future. Chains can be used to improve strength, speed, and a help build a strong lock out for a variety of different lifts. If coaches are not comfortable teaching Olympic lifts, the bench, squat, and deadlift combined with chains can be used to develop an explosive and strong athlete.

Sumo Deadlift with Chain

I hope you enjoyed this week’s trainer tip! Any questions please feel free or if you would like to have more information of how to utilize or set up chains in your workout please comment below.

Educate, Motivate, Dominate

Coach Gaglione

About the Author

Coach John Gaglione is a Sport Performance Specialist out of Long Island New York and the director of strength and conditioning for Plainedge High School’s Football and Wrestling Programs. An avid strength sport athlete John also competes in powerliftering and kettlebell strong sport competitions. If you would like to learn more about John you can reach him at or e-mail him at

Author: John Gaglione

Coach John Gaglione is a Sport Performance Specialist out of Long Island New York and the director of strength and conditioning for Plainedge High School’s Football and Wrestling Programs. An avid strength sport athlete John also competes in powerlifting and kettlebell strong sport competitions. If you would like to learn more about John you can reach him at or e-mail him at

26 thoughts on “Get Stronger and more Explosive with Chain Training”

  1. Hey Guys I hope you enjoyed my first article.

    It is an honor to be a writer for the BEST wrestling websites on the web. My goal is to give you guys the BEST and most current wrestling training information available.

    I just want to point out my first few articles are more geared toward INTERMEDIATE and ADVANCED lifters. Just so you guys know I start to utilize chains with juniors and seniors in high school who have been lifting with me for AT LEAST two years. This is not to say you cannot do it sooner, but I just want to give you an idea on how much time we spend teaching technique and sticking with the basics.

    Make sure you MASTER the basics before you try the fancy stuff.

    PLEASE feel free to comment if you have any questions pertaining to the article.

    Train HARD and SMART

    Educate, Motivate, Dominate
    -Coach Gaglione

  2. Nice job John. Very interesting technique which makes a great deal of sense. I lifted when I was young and still do today, but this is the first time I’m hearing about this. So thanks for the information and most importantly thanks for helping my son both in wrestling and football. I can see the the difference.

  3. Thank you James. It is a pleasure working with your son. He worked really hard in the off season and it shows. I know the best is yet to come!

    Educate, Motivate, Dominate
    -Coach Gaglione

  4. Great Article Coach, best part about it is you practice what you preach. Looking forward to come back winter break and train hard.

    1. Thanks Bud I always try to set an example and try to break my personal records in my own training.

      I am glad you liked it!

      Be ready for some CHAIN training next cycle.

      Educate, Motivate, Dominate
      -Coach Gaglione

    1. Thank you! Look for more methods for utilizing chains in the future.

      Educate, Motivate, Dominate
      -Coach Gaglione

  5. John: Thank you for this informative article. I look forward to seeing more great articles about explosive exercises that I can use for my athletes!

    1. Thanks Barbara! This is JUST the beginning. There will be a ton more information on on to get stronger and more explosive. Remember you can apply this information to other sports as well, but all of the articles will be geared toward training methods for combat athletes.

      I am glad you liked it!

      Educate, Motivate, Dominate
      -Coach Gaglione

  6. This is true, the program must evolve and it must be consistent and sustainable as the DUTCHMAN I believe was trying to point out.

    All in all I think it is a good article. I hope that it will get many lighthouse readers down to the gym to start training.

    one other thing; John the least expensive program I see you offering is a group of 10 at $25 per person per hour?

    1. I will answer any questions not dealing with the article through e-mail. If you have a comment, question or suggestion to the content in the article I will surely answer it.

      Thank you for the interest in the article.

      Educate, Motivate, Dominate
      -Coach Gaglione

  7. Guys, I deleted some of the comments. If you want to know why, send me an email. I won’t permit this forum to turn into a competition between competing clubs. There are many other avenues for businesses to compete. Do it there, not here.

  8. Really does muscle magazine have only one writer?

    Since I got involved in wrestling media, I’ve been taken back by the small mindedness from the wrestling community that does not realize we all succeed when we succeed together.

    Instead every new entrant is seen as a mortal threat like the rival who found your secret workout club instead of an opportutnity for both of you to help each other improve and grow.

    Instead, we choose to keep the club small and lose an opportunity to grow the sport.

  9. John, I too am a fan of Mr. Ellinger and his strength training articles. In his articles, he talks about the use of chains. He also gives credit to Louie Simmons and West Side Barbell. He encourages readers to use Mr. Simmons articles in their training which is something that I have done and still do. My question to you is, after reading your article, what new information should I and others have gained? In my opinion if your intention is to use other peoples information in your articles, you should have the decency to give credit to the people that actually created and pioneered these techniques.

    1. Thank you for the comment.

      My goal for these article is give people a snap shot of different methods I use to train athletes, in particular combat athletes. The dynamic effort and max effort method are not my methods and have been popularized by Westside Barbell Club in Ohio. These methods have been popularized by Louie Simmons. Louie’s approach to training is actually based off of Russian Olympic Weight lifting and Bulgarian methods( Snatch, and Clean and Jerk). There are many lifters and coaches who have used chains before Louie Simmons he simply “spread the message” much like I am training to do and the method started to become more mainstream.

      I do not claim to have invented ANY type of method. Chances are even if I THINK I came up with something, there is a very good chance a coach has done it already somewhere else.

      For those who do not know Westside Barbell is one of the strongest powerlifting gyms in the world. Many of the methods I have mentioned I learned from many articles from Louie Simmons and Mel Siff( The Author of famous book Supertraining). Louie’s book Westside Book of Methods goes into great detail on how he uses these methods primarily for training powerlifters.

      I have made some modifications to the method for athletics (for example for rarely do max effort singles and rarely do we rotate exercises every week). The modifications are mentioned in the article.

      If you would like to know some of the references I used for the article you can shoot me an e-mail and I will give you a list of resources if you would like to learn more about these training techniques.

      Thank you for your interest in the article and I hope you got something out of it!

      Educate, Motivate, Dominate
      -Coach Gaglione

  10. Sure I can show you a few examples of how it is different.

    Also just so you and the other readers are aware these are only a few methods I implement with a select group of kids at very specific times in there training. There are many factors that go into exercises selection, modification, and programming.

    As noted in the article the rep ranges I use are different than what a typically powerlifting Westside program would call for. When using these methods I would typically use 2-5 reps.

    I didn’t mention this in the article, but these exercises can also be paired with another exercise. I will go into greater detail on this in a future article.

    The last part is the use of the special bar and exercise selection. For example there are two exercises demonstrated in the article that are particularity useful and appropriate for wrestlers with should limitation.

    As many of the readers are aware wrestlers often injure there shoulders during practice and competition. The safety squat bar allows the lifter to hold onto handles, which creates virtually no stress on the shoulder(where as a typical back squat would). I have had an athlete with a broken hand actually not even hold onto the handles and still be able to squat relatively heavy. This is a HUGE advantage since he could still get his legs very strong while injured.

    The second exercise is the floor press with chains. The floor press (for most people who aren’t extremely muscular or extremely overweight) is a limited range of motion exercise. The exercise will put much less stress on the should joint than a full range of motion bench press. This is a great exercise to still train the horizontal pushing pattern without creating extra stress on the shoulders.

    I think this is highly valuable information as stated in the introduction of the article as well because you can really turn any lift into a Dynamic effort or max effort lift depending on your population or current situation.

    I hope this clarifies a few variations of the “Westside” methods for wrestlers.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Educate, Motivate, Dominate
    -Coach Gaglione

  11. Great article ! Its obvious that the intention is to educate the combat sport community and not to claim others work as your own. Keep the articles coming !!

    1. Ed you are the man! Keep training hard bud and I will see you soon for training!

      Educate, Motivate, Dominate
      -Coach Gaglione

  12. Very informative article Coach Gaglione. Your dedication and hard work has already impacted many of the young athletes you have been training. I look forward to more of your articles in the future. Keep them coming!

    one step at a time!


  13. Thank you Karl! I am very excited for the upcoming season. See you soon bud and keep training hard!

    Educate, Motivate, Dominate
    -Coach Gaglione

  14. I am asking all my loyal followers and faithful readers to stop commenting negatively on this article both hear at lighthouse and privately to the authors email! If you know me and have a strong opinion you may contact me directly. Thank you, Coach Ellinger

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