Critical Bench has introduced you to training with bands, but as we become more educated in our bench press quest we discover that it takes more then just bands alone to be the best bench pressers that we can be. As we go further we learn about systems like the Conjugate method and the importance of adding multiple systems into our routine. Along with mastering technique, we start to learn about boards, rack lock outs, floor presses and bands. In order to make the most out of our training we also should have access to chains. In this article we will show you why chains are so invaluable to your training.
1) The Introduction to Bench Press Chains
The purpose of chains in the bench press is to build speed (accelerating quickly off your chest) and learning how to explode the weight as you hit the lockout (the finish) of the bench press. As we bring the weight to our chest all the chains should just role into a pile on the floor. As you press the weight up, the chains then come off the floor with the bar making the weight heavier.
In regular training the weight is always the same weight, by adding chains we learn how to accelerate from the start of the lift and work on our lockout at the finish. This is something that we can't accomplish with regular old conventional training. Meaning (just the bar and plates).
2) How much resistance do chains provide?
The typical Westside Chains are 45lbs each, causing a total of 90lbs of extra weight at the lockout. For example if you have 225 on the bar with the Westside chains, you will be holding 305 at lockout and only 225 off your chest. As the weight comes up to the 25% phase of the lift you should be moving 250, at the half way point 275 and at the finish 305. You are literally overcoming "EVERY" sticking point during the full range of motion of the bench press.
You see normally in benching off our chest, we lose speed coming off of our chest and it hurts our lockout. With chains we are now forced to build explosion off our chest and greater lockout power. And using chains on other exercises like the squat and deadlift are no different.
3) Hooking Chains from the top of the rack
You can do lockouts off of chains much like you can off a power rack. I suggest the power rack first though. You can also do hanging Chain Presses. In order to do hanging chain presses, instead of hooking the chains to the floor they must be hooked to the top of the rack.
What happens during the hanging chain press is that you have to pull the weight down since the chains want to hold the weight up. As you pull the weight down the chains shall give you some explosion off your chest, but as you move the weight up the chains will assist less forcing you to develop greater lockout power. This is a lift where you probably can use 90lbs more than your regular bench so you will get in the habit of learning how to lift bigger weights.
I strongly suggest using bands on this lift over chains though.
4) Why don't we hear as much about chains as all the other training methods?
I think that it's because strength training is sooo much more evolved than supplements and bodybuilding. Since training with the usage of chains is more revolutionized then standard bodybuilding we need to tell our friends to start incorporating them into our routines. Studies have actually shown that isokinetics (the maximum force and speed performed in an exercise) are superior to isometric contraction (similar to conventional training). The lifters that use these techniques are stronger generally then those that don't use them.
5) Chains on all exercises
I have seen chains used on many lifts. You can do skull crushers with chains, good mornings with chains, deadlifts with chains (either hooked from the ground or the top).And using chains on other exercises is not that different from benching. For example do a trap bar deadlift with chains anchored to the ground? What happens? It's the same weight as what you have on the trap bar, but every inch you lift the bar the tension increases. This makes you strain extra hard to finish the weight and it makes you stronger.
6) The advantages of chains over bands and the advantages of bands over chains
Chains and bands have pros and cons. So the trick is that you need to know when you should use bands and you also need to know when you should use chains. In this tip I will provide you some insight so you know when bands and chains should and should not be used.
Why are chains better than bands?
Chains are better than bands because chains won't take as much of a toll on your body as bands will because chains are less effective than bands and since chains are less effective than bands, they are also less hazardous than bands are. Therefore, if you were to use bands and chains with the same intensity, you would over train with bands faster than you would over train with chains.
Why are Bands better than Chains?
Bands are better than chains because bands are more effective than chains and bands will get you stronger faster than chains will. Although bands work better than chains, be careful because that also means that you would have to use bands less and you would need to give yourself more recovery time with bands than you would with chains.
So, if chains and bands have pros and cons, then how should you train with both, to get the most out of both systems?
You should train with bands for 3 weeks and after you train with bands for 3 weeks then you should switch to chains and you should then train with chains for 3 weeks. Finally, always remember that if you train at over 90% intensity for over a 3 weeks period of time, you will over train and therefore you should take a week off or take a week off to ensure recovery. By getting your recovery, will help you get stronger in the long run.
Why else is it good to train with bands for 3 weeks then switch to chains for 3 weeks?
By training with bands, then chains will not only prevent over training, but by training with bands, then chains with confuse your body and you will be forced to get stronger. Also lifters hit plateaus, by constantly using bands then chains you won't plateau, and if you do plateau, you will overcome your plateaus very quickly.
Training with bands and chains at the same time-
You also can train with chains and bands all at the same time, if you really want to go intense. Just make sure you recover after. Another thing that you can do is use bands and chains during the same week. At the West Side Barbell they will use chains on maximum effort days and bands on speed days. (Speed day meaning moving a lighter weight fast for 3 sets of 8 or 10 sets of 2 with 30 seconds or a minute rest between sets) and 72 hours later during the week the lifter will have a maximum effort day, meaning training very heavy for low reps with rest periods consisting of less than 5 minutes.
Chains and Bands periodization (conjugate method) the way to go-
Although the Westside uses a speed day and a maximum effort day with both bands and chains, they still train periodization, however, their periodization is called "conjugate periodization", instead of linear periodization. Linear periodization is a segmented program (generally blocks of training developed within a specified number of training season periods) with individual blocks oriented towards specific goals. For example an early season block is generally allocated to aerobic training , then hypertrophy and then the final power stage. When you use bands and chains, it's no longer linear periodization. Instead it's called "conjugate periodization". Conjugate periodization trains speed, hypertrophy and power all at the same time. Again, Conjugate periodization trains speed, power and hypertrophy at the same time, instead of in individual phases. The Russians believe in conjugate periodization because this way the lifter is always getting the best of all worlds of strength from speed, power and hypertrophy, maximizing their gains that much more.
In conclusion don't train with bands over 90% intensity for 3 weeks. You also want to switch from bands to chains to confuse the body and the nervous system. Also combine them together every now and then to confuse the body. Also hook the bands up to the top of the rack to get a feel for heavy weights in a shirt. Finally, By changing things up without over training, will allow you to not plateau and to help you overcome plateaus faster! Follow tip 6 by integrating chains and bands properly into your routine. If you think back to about 5-10 years ago, you will realize that these are the training methods that have produced many 500,600, and 700+ benchers before the bench shirts were as evolved as they are today.( Back when strength was more natural). Remember, these techniques should only be applied by advanced and serious lifters.
Honestly, better is often a paradox term, a double edge sword, because the polar opposite is often true. Well, CHAINS are BETTER than bands because they don't take a toll on the body as much as bands do. Since chains take a greater toll on the body than bands you can recover from them faster. However, since bands take a greater toll on the body then they are a lot more hazadarous than bands. At the same time, even though bands will fatigue you faster they are also more effective. So you need to find BALANCE between using chains and bands. And this balance usually means working bands for 3 weeks then switching to chains and occasionally using both bands and chains.
Also since these training methods can be very intense, to prevent overtraining to every 4th or 5th week off. Take weeks off depending on how your body feels, this will prevent you from hitting a plateau and causing rapid+ fast progress.
7) How chains can help you in a shirt or a new raw bench attempt
Our tendons, muscles and nervous systems can only take so much. But chains teach us to accelerate even when we are beyond our limits. So even if our body is gone, chains have just taught us to accelerate through a sticking point, even when we appear to be stuck. This will help us in a maximum effort attempt, anywhere and anytime because chains teach us how to fight a weight even when our bodies are shot.
I remember a year and a half ago I had 300lbs on the bar with chains. After I got past 3 reps, I started to struggle. The weight started moving in slow motion as I hit rep number 4 and 5. As I started to struggle, I discovered how much stronger I was becoming. I could never have done this without the use of chains or bands.
You can also put 205 on the bench press in bar weight and then add 200lbs in chains to really increase the lockout. So you can adjust the chains however you want. Of course as you head into 405 you will have more speed since you are only starting with 205. This is if you use a lot of chains for tension.
8) Chains with dumbbells and kettle bells
You can also use chains on exercises like dumbbells and kettle bells. It's simple, grab a pair of smaller chains and attach the chain to the dumbbell or kettle bell. Then what you do is STEP onto the chain with your foot! So the top of the chain is hooked to the dumbbell or kettle bell and the bottom of the chain is under your foot. See the pattern; it's just like performing a bench press with the chains.
Now do your basic dumbbell/kettle bell overhead presses and what you have just discovered is that the kettle bell or dumbbell has gotten heavier every inch you moved it. This has just taught you how to accelerate faster and finish bigger weights doing bodybuilder lifts or athletic lifts. Maybe, we will soon be using chains on powercleans.
9) How Chains work in Westside training
Westside often uses chains on speeds days and maximum effort days. The speed day is where a lifter will bench a weight for 8 sets of 30 reps resting 30 seconds between sets using a weight 40-50% of ones max. This lift should take a total of 3 seconds to perform. 3 Days later they will then do a maximum effort lift. A maximum effort lift is lifting as much weight as you can for a single repetition. This should take 3 seconds in total to perform. This is generally how the Westside barbell trains with chains, but the program is of course modified to ones weaknesses. As the saying goes "make what is weak stronger and you become stronger" and you always have to keep surprising the body with all the exercises.
So use chains to give yourself more options and with more options you won't over train as easily and you will constantly be making gains.
My experiences with chains
We have to remember that chains come in all different colors and sizes. There is far more to chains then just the 90lbs westside chains because not every man can train as heavy as the great benchers that you read about. I remember personally in the year of 1999 I would go to a specialized athletic gym where only selective members could go. And I would load the bench press bar to 135lbs. As 135lbs was loaded to the bar we would add additional 10lbs of green chains. Then we would add more little chains and more and more until I was nearly maxed out. I remember having 135lbs of bar weight on the bar and eventually the weight would become as heavy as 150lbs of chains on top of that. So that is another way you can use chains.
CONCLUSION- So now go to the construction store and get some chains. You will find your training experience a lot more exciting and now that you have more training weapons, you will be able to destroy all the big bench presses that you meet along the way!
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