Bench Press Chains
by Ben Tatar
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 Conjunction method and the importance of adding multiple systems into our routine. In addition to mastering technique, boards, bands, and the mind we must also master chains. In this article we will show you why chains are so invaluable to your training.
1) The Introduction to 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.
We can't do this with regular training and that is why chains are such an important source.
2) Bench Press Chains Resistance
The typical Westside Chains are 45lbs each, causing a total of 90lbs of extra weight 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 reverse Chain Presses. In order to do reverse chain presses, instead of hooking the chains to the floor they must be hooked to the top of the rack.
What happens during the reverse 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. Also I suggest using chains on the floor instead of hooked to the top of a barbell or the rack somehow. These are a good technique to try every once and awhile.
4) Are Chains A Secret?
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 & Other 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) Chains Can Help Your Raw or Shirt Bench
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.
7) Chains With Dumbbells or 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. Cool, huh? Soon I bet we will be seeing chains used on power cleans. Maybe they are, and I just don't know it.
8) Chains & Westside
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!