Why Do You Add Chains to the Bar?
The purpose of adding chains to the bar is to overload the strongest portion of a lift. We are generally limited by the load we can lift out of the bottom position, so the top half of the movement doesn’t get worked as hard as it could.
By adding chains, you can overload both parts of the lift more effectively. The chains start to pile up on the floor on the way down, which lightens the load, then on the way up, as they unravel, the load increases throughout the range of motion. This makes you have to accelerate through the entire range of motion and makes the top portion heavier than the bottom.
So, if you had 20kg of chain weight on each side of the bar, that would mean the load is 40kg heavier in the top than it is in the bottom position.
Louie Simmons recommends to use about 10% of one’s squat weight to be added with chain.
The chains also move around a bit, so they challenge your trunk muscles when squatting and your shoulder when pressing. When you use a regular weight after using chains, you feel a lot more in control of your lift and can keep the bar path a lot more efficient, you are a lot more stable.
You want to use chains in extensor movements, squats, presses, and deadlifts for example.
Also, it is important to set the chains up correctly. They should be set up so that one or two links are touching the floor at the top, and as the load is lowered, the chain weight should be completely on the ground. This is what people mess up a lot. One, because they lack the know-how, and two, because they are lazy. When you set the chains up correctly, write down, or mark, how many links you have on each lift so you don’t have to play around adjusting them every single session. This is why it is near impossible to use chains when training in a team environment. With different size athletes, some will be set up effectively, and others will be nowhere near. You could try and group the athletes into height to get around it, but just know that it takes a lot of planning.
So, chains will help you stabilize and they will help you accelerate the bar throughout the entire range of motion. Just make sure you take the time to set them up correctly to get the maximum benefits.