How Chains Can Make You Stronger

Any gym worth its salt has heavy metal. Use it.

When someone sees you doing tricep dips at the gym with a big, thick, metal chain around your neck, they’re going to think three things: A) you’re a savage B) you’re the ghost of Jacob Marley, or C) you’re an extra in The Warriors 2.

It’s worth looking weird, especially when it comes to the principle of progressive overload, which simply says that you won’t gain size and get stronger unless you lift more weight and make your muscles work harder. It’s a straightforward concept but not always easy to put into practice.

There are some exercises that focus on one muscle or one group of muscles but also affect the auxiliary muscle groups that provide stability and support. For instance, one main limitation when adding weight to a goblet squat—where you hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of your chest as you do a squat—is the fact that your arms and upper back will most likely give out before your legs do. Instead of increasing the weight you’re holding in your hands, try draping a couple of chains around your shoulders. You’ll up the load you’re lifting but not the stress you’re putting on your arms and back.

Chains are also useful in exercises that you can’t easily add weight to. Chin-ups? Put a chain on top of your shoulders before grabbing the bar. Push-ups? Sling one end of the chain over your right shoulder, tuck the other side of the chain beneath your left arm, and then drop to the floor. Planks? Lay the chain across your shoulder blades before hitting your isometric hold.

Lifting chains will make you look like you’re training to be a Harry Houdini impersonator, but they’ll also increase load and help you build muscle when grabbing a heavier dumbbell or kettlebell isn’t an option.

Photos by Corey Jenkins / Getty Images