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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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 www.gaglionestrength.com or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.