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Chain Gang Training 101

For years the formula has been simple. You want big muscles lift big weights, period. What if lifting big weights didn’t a;ways stimulate your muscles in the best way though. What if you found a way that could stimulate certain areas of muscles better than simply lifting weights. One of theses ways is called Liner Variable resistance. Linear variable resistance is effective because the weight becomes heavier during the second half of the range of motion (ROM), where you're stronger. When you use a barbell alone, you're limited in how much you can lift because you're weaker during the first part of the movement. Some muscle groups--the bi's and delts in particular--don't fully kick in until you're nearly halfway through the rep. During a curl, for example, the load you can lift through the first half isn't enough to overload your biceps at the top. Okay so now we know not all exercises are created equal for equal muscle stimulation, so how do we fix this? How about weights that could vary the resistance at different points of the exercise. Standard weights may not be able to accomplish this but metal chains are an entirely different story.

Chains add a unique drag to the barbell creating the linear variable resistance. Picture a set of chains attached to either end of a bar. At the bottom of a squat, the chains are piled on the floor. As you stand up, they lift off the floor link by link, forcing you to move an increasing amount of weight. This makes you recruit more fast-twitch muscle fibers--the ones that contract the fastest and strongest, and grow the biggest.

You can also use chains to target specific areas of various muscle groups. Research shows that during a squat, for example, the vastus medialis (the teardrop just above the inner knee) is engaged during the top half of the exercise. Since this is where you're strongest, a bar isn't enough to overload the muscle. But adding chains to the mix increases the weight at the right time to target the teardrop and stimulate growth. By adding the use of chains some exercises become somewhat of multi joint, isolation hybrid exercises. You get the benefits of multi joint exercises but you also get to isolate ceratin muscles a little better with the chains.

A few examples of how chains can chage an exercise to better target certain areas are:

  • Squats-Targets the quads better

  • Front Squats- Targets the outer quads even better

  • Incline Presses-Not only is your upper chest hit even better but the outer part of your upper chest is hit more effectively

  • Deadlifts-Deadlifts are the kings of overall mass building but chains help add more overall pulling power and upper body development

  • Behing The Back Shrugs-Chain help place a better emphisis on the mid and lower traps but also the rear delts now

  • Good Mornings-Better isolation of the lower back

  • Bent Over Rows-By adding chains the progressive resistance actually targets the lower lats more effectively.

  • Wide Grip Upright Rows-Chains place more stress on the outer part of the middle delts for rounder shoulders.

  • Barbell Curls-Chains make it so your biceps are more isolated and hit throughout the entire range of motion.

  • Close Grip Bench Presses-To totally bomb your triceps from the bottom of the movement to the top.

  • Romanian Deadlifts-Chains shift the movement more to the Hamstring and Glute area

 

 

Chain Gang Training-

Honestly the method of training with Chains is nothing new in Powerlifting circles. Squatting and Bench Pressing with chains has been a staple in powerlifting routines for years. So say your not a powerlifter, why would chains benefit you? Like stated before fast strong muscles grow the biggest. Chains can be a plus wheather your training for Powerlifting, bodybuilding, Figure, Fitness, or a specific sport. It all comes down to changing exercise types and repetition ranges. This is where Chain Gang Training comes in. Chain Gang Training is a workout program based around the linear variable resistance principle and pumping lots of blood into your muscles. The rep ranges vary depending on what type of training your looking to do. Strength Athelets would perform less total reps, Hypertrophy Atheletes would look to perform a moderate amount of reps and Conditioning Atheletes would be looking to perform a higher amount of total reps. The Liner Variable Resistance part of the program will always be geared toward developing strength. Progressively moving more resistance through various ranges of motion is one of the fastest ways to build strength. Move strength eqautes to more muscle.. Since Strength atheletes are more concerned with strength, they want to keep their part of the linear variable resistancetraining in the 5rep range. Bodybuilders want to keep their part in the 7 rep range. Conditioning Atheletes would want to keeep their part in the 9 rep range.

The blood volume part will vary depending on your type of training Blood volume training is exactly what it says it is pumping lots of blood into muscle with a good volume of reps. The more blood you can get into a muscle the more you can stretch the fasica. This make the ability for a muscle to receive nutrients and grow much easier. As far as blood volume goes Powerlifters should be in 6-9 rep range per set, Bodybuilders 12-15 per set, and Conditioning Atheletes 15-20 per set.

Combine the two principles and you have the ground work for Chain Gang Training. Linear variable resistance incorperates more fast twitch and overall muscle fibers combined blood volume pumping pumps more blood into activated muscle fibers. More activated muscle combined with more pumped up muscles equals more overall growth.

 

 

 

Chain Gang Training Rep Range

Training Style

PowerLifting

Bodybuilding

Conditioning

Chain Exercises Rep Range

5 reps per set

7 rep per set

9 reps per set

Non Chain Exercises Rep Range

6-9 reps per set

12-15 reps per set

15-20 reps per set

It may be weird at first-

In case you have not realized it by now Chain Gang Training is not for the faint of heart. Chain Gang Training is hard and makes you work hard. There are not too many MetroFlex type gyms around anymore so don’t expect to see Chain Gang at a "Planet Whatever" gym. By the way, if you have not at least a slight understanding of "hardcore training", you might want to find another program besides Chain Gang Training. This is not a program for everyone, just those that really (and I mean really) want to bust their asses and make some serious size and strength gains.First off your going to need to get yourself some good old metal chains. Secondly your going to have to lug those chains into your gym 4 times a week. Since the idea of "hardcore" training is almost unheard of to the average Joe Gym Goer, expect some weird looks when you walk in your gym carrying some steel chains. Then thirdly your going to attach these chains to free weights to perform exercises rarely seen by most. For the first few weeks you may be repeatedly asked "What are the chains for?"You may even get a couple of snikers from onlookers Yes most likely your going to scare the shit out of "Soccer Mom Sally" on the butt blaster machine. Depending where you train you may need some thick skin but it will all be worth it to have even thicker muscles.This is when you will realize how work ethic and perserverance seperates peoplewho work hard and those that think they do.

How to use the chains-

The first rule of thumb with the chains is thicker is usually better. Back in the days I used to train with guys that actually used railroad chains for their linear variable resistance. Since most of us do not have access to ship yards or railroad chains, thick hardware store chains do the tick. 6 to 6 feet per chain is usually a good length and weight. You are also going to need a few calipeners to attach chain links together. Simply drape the chains over each end of a barbell. When the barbell is at rest the chain should be draped on the ground as you move thru a movement the chains will lift off the ground increasing resistance as you do your exercise. Generally your chains should weigh 12-17 percent of the weight on the barbell for upper body. For your lower body the weight ratio should be slightly higher. It should be around 15-20 percent. If the chain is too heavy you will not be able to get a fluid movement and keep steady reps. If the chain is too light, you will not be able to get enough steady resistance.

How Much Chain Should You Use

Recommended chains for the upper body exercises:

  

Under 100lbs

100- 200lbs - 

   200-400lbs - 

   400-500lbs - 

   500+

5-10lbs

20-30lbs 

40-50lbs 

80-90lbs 

80-90lbs 

Recommended chains for the lower body exercises:

Under 100lbs

100-200lbs - 

   200-400lbs - 

   400-500lbs - 

   500-600lbs - 

   600-700+lbs - 

   800+ - 

20-30lbs 

40-50lbs 

50-60lbs 

60-70lbs 

80-90lbs 

90-100lbs 

120 -140lbs 

Duration: The program should run 12 weeks. Due to the taxing on the CNS (central nervous system) the program is actual split into two parts. It will run five weeks with a particular group of exercises a week of active rest and then another five weeks with different exercises geared towards the same bodyparts and then a final week of active rest. After completing the program give yourself at least a month of rest before trying to do another Chain Gang Training Program.

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 The Program:

The program is built around training with chains and multi joint exercises. Muti joint exercises stimulate the most muscles per exercise. Multi joint exercises give you the benefit of hitting the muscle your targeting and also hitting secondary support muscles to a degree. Take an exercise like the Bench Press, although it is mainly for your chest, it also does a good deal of work on your triceps and shoulders. When you apply this to linear variable resistance, you will develop more fast twitch muscle fibers throughout various muscles rather than just specifically targeted muscles, like with isometric exercises. Since our goal is to stimulate the most muscle possible through linear variable resistance exercises that already stimulate lots of muscles are a more obvious choice. Good multi joint choices are:

  1. Squats

  2. Front Squats

  3. Bench Presses

  4. Incline Presses

  5. Deadlifts

  6. Romainian Deadlifts

  7. Rack Pulls

  8. Bent Over Rows

  9. Behing The Back Shrugs

  10. Good Mornings

  11. Military Presses

  12. Upright Rows

  13. Close Grip Bench Pressess

  14. Barbell Skullcrushers

  15. Barbell Culrs

  16. Barbell Preacher Curls

For Chain Gang Training, you want to have two main multi joint exercises for Each major bodypart you train. These two exercises will be your main exercises for the Chain Part of your workout. For example if you picked Bench presses and Incline presses for chest, let’s ay the first part of the program you would perform either inclines with chain then on the second part you would perform bench presses with chains.

Each week you also want to try and increase the amount of stimulas your putting your body under. On your multi joint movements try and increase between 5-10 pounds per week. If these weight jumps are too big for you from week to week then drop the increase weight anywhere from to 5 pounds per week but the key is to increase from week to week.Remeber even small increases are still increases.

Although Chain Gang Training is built around training with chains, it however does not just stop there. The pump part of the program is concerned with just that pumping blood into the muscles. For this you want to concentrate more on less multi jointed exercises and even some machines if possible for better isolating particular muscles. When you hit the pump part of the workout your muscles will already be primed and taxed so you should no longer be concerned with trying to lift maxium weights but with good pumping reps. Exercises that include supersets and trisets are also great for the pump part of the program. It would be good to try and throw in one superset or triset in your workout for weak bodyparts. Weight increases here are going to be much smaller than the strength part of the program due to the amount of reps. Try for increases in weights every two weeks so over one cycle of the program, in the pump portion.you really will only have two weight increases This type of training can be very taxing on the body so I don’t recommend more than five workouts per week. Because your body will be working the entire way through on some exercises, your body will be working harder than normal. Ideally 2on, 1off, 2on, 2off will probably work best with Chain Gang Training. How many days you rest will be just as important if not more important than how many days you work out on this program.

Sample Workout:(Bodybuilder)

Week 1

Day 1

Multi Joint exercise/ chains 4 sets 7 reps

3 exercises/ non chained 4 sets 12-15 reps

Day 2

Multi Joint exercise/ chains 4 sets 7 reps

3 exercises/ non chained 4 sets 12-15 reps

Day 3-Rest

Day 4

Multi Joint exercise/ chains 4 sets 7 reps

3 exercises/ non chained 4 sets 12-15 reps

Day 5

Multi Joint exercise/ chains 4 sets 7 reps

3 exercises/ non chained 4 sets 12-15 reps

Day 6-Rest

Day 7-Rest

Week 2-4

Repeat Week 1 but each week add 5-10 pounds to your previous weeks workout weights. If 5-10 pounds is too much increase from to 5 pounds per week.

Week 5

Active Rest Week

Week 6

Choose new multi joint exercises to use with your chains. For your supplementary exercises you can either keep them the same or choose new ones.

Week 7-9

Repeat Week 1 but each week add 5-10 pounds to your previous weeks workout weights. If 5-10 pounds is too much increase from to 5 pounds per week.

Week 10

Active Rest Week

 

Active Rest Weeks:

Active Rest weeks are just what they sound like. You will use these weeks to rest from Chain Gang Training but you will still be doing a little something instead of laying around. You will still perform your workouts these weeks but you will have a few major differences. On your multi joint exercises you will not use chains, on your supplementary exercises you will double your reps and on all your exercises you will use 50% of your 4th week workout weights. Be sure to add in the weight of the chains when your cutting your weight in half. It should be a week were you get a little blood pumping but that’s about it.

Sample Workout:(Bodybuilder)

Active rest Week

Day 1

Multi Joint exercise 4 sets 7 reps

50% week 4workout weight

3 exercises/ non chained 4 sets 20-30 reps

50% week 4workout weight

Day 2

Multi Joint exercise 4 sets 7 reps

50% week 4workout weight

3 exercises/ non chained 4 sets 20-30 reps

50% week 4workout weight

Day 3-Rest

Day 4

Multi Joint exercise 4 sets 7 reps

50% week 4workout weight

3 exercises/ non chained 4 sets 20-30 reps

50% week 4workout weight

Day 5

Multi Joint exercise 4 sets 7 reps

50% week 4workout weight

3 exercises/ non chained 4 sets 20-30 reps

50% week 4workout weight50% week 4workout weight

Day 6-Rest

Day 7-Rest

Nutrition:

I will not go fully in depth on nutrition for Chain Gang Training in this article because that can be an article of it’s own. The main things to remember for Chain Gain Training is to get big eat big. Your workload will be very hard on your muscles so you should have 1.2-1.7grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. Could you take in more protein? Sure but this range will insure that at a minimum your getting enough "building blocks" for your muscles. As far as carbs go, more reps mean more glycogen depletion so don’t skimp on your carbs. Get in a lot of carbs when they are going to be most effective so post workout get in plenty. I would even dare say get in .5grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight post workout. Lastly don’t be afraid of fat while training Chain Gang Style either. Just make sure your getting plenty of the good stuff. You want Fish Oils, Flax Oils, Nuts, Peanut Butters, Egg Yolks, Sesame Seed Oils and lots of Omega 3-6-and 9’s.

Fat is good for testosterone production and joint helth. This is one case where fat will be good.

Wrap Up:

Chain Gang Training may not be for everyone but if your looking for a new method of putting on some serious size and strength, Chain Gang Training may be your new training buddy. Chain Gang Training takes the principle of building strength through linear variable resistance, and the principle of flushing muscles with blood for hypertrophy to make one kick butt program. Wheather you’re a Powerlifter, Bodybuilder, or Conditioning Athelete Chain Gang Training can be benificial to you. Chain Gang Training may very well be some of the best 12 weeks you spend in a gym.

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All articles on this site are authored or co-authored by Jarueba Taylor. They are the copy written  property of Taylored Nutrition.