Barbell Chains

You have surely seen someone doing squats or deadlifts using rubber bands. They are especially common in fitness classes when it comes to the “power part” of training. Or maybe you saw people using those heavy steel chains attached to the bar or coiled around their necks. But have you ever wondered what’s point of all that? Well, if you could imagine the mechanics of how our muscles work, you would guess that such kind of equipment shifts any exercise to a more dynamic side and creates a so-called “variable load.” In all kinds of resistance exercises, the starting and ending points are much more challenging than the mid-movement. The reason is in the fact that when our joints are flexed, it is harder to build maximum strength in your muscles. That is how our body works from pure biomechanics standpoint.

But what about barbell chains? Are they as good as rubber bands, and do they serve the same goal? Yes, practically they do the same thing, but still, have some fundamental differences.

Barbell Chains

The advantages of using olympic chains

  • Safety
  • Weight
  • Resistance

Roughly said, these are three things that come to mind quickly. Now let’s see what those mean in detail.

Safety Issues

It may be hard to believe, but to some extent, barbell chains are much safer than bands. The thing is how they are attached to the bar. If you have never seen how rubber bands suddenly detach from their mounting points, you are a lucky person. It really hurts even just watching. But this can never happen to barbell chains. They hardly ever come attached to the floor and usually are securely fastened to the bar with carbines or special barbell chain collars. Besides that, steel chains are nearly impossible to break, so you don’t have to be afraid of their sudden failure.

Weight Manipulation

This is obvious – barbell chains are heavy, while bands are not. So you can choose how heavy you want your chains to be. But since rubber bands do not offer added weight, you still need to use discs for your bar. It’s all up to you if you think that’s a flaw, but the ability to reduce the number of discs on the bar is more of an advantage. Chains are a nice load themselves, and that is why many people love them.

Resistance Options

As mentioned before, barbell chains have a different effect than rubber bands even though they share the same idea. That’s because the mechanics of how both of those tools work is a little bit different. The main trick is that barbell chains can be stacked in various configurations. You can put more weight to the bottom to make the movement harder at its top, or vice versa, make the bar heavier and leave a little room for resistance fluctuation. Or simply let your chains hang as is to make the load gradual and almost similar to how rubber bands work.

The chain weight to own body weight ratio

Another reasonable question that is worth mentioning is when a beginner can start using chains and which weights to apply? Well, here is a little hint based on classic powerlifting exercises given here for reference.

Body Weight

Chain Weight

Bench Press



150-200 lbs.

50-100 lbs.

100-150 lbs.

100-150 lbs.

200-250 lbs.

150-200 lbs.

200-300 lbs.

200-300 lbs.

300+ lbs.

250-350 lbs.

350-450 lbs.

350-400 lbs.

Don’t take it as a guide. Many things will depend on how you want to use your chains, which configuration you prefer, and so on. But still, this may be a starting point for your experiments.

About Victor Meadeu

“A hard body and sharp mind,” Victor says. As our crossfit instructor, he remains the main source of motivation for our team to use weightlifting chains in all kinds of routines. He keeps creating new methods and approaches to training with the only goal – to gain the maximum possible progress. Yep, he is a hard nut, bold and uncompromising, yet very sensitive to his clients’ needs. If you wanna build up your stamina and get a better body – allow Victor to be your guide. Sweats, gains, and fun are included!
If you have questions to Victor, just ask your question using the form.

Barbell Chains Reviews

Submit your review

Create your own review

Weight Lifting Chains
Average rating:  
 3 reviews
by Clark Ruffey on Weight Lifting Chains
Location (City, State): Baltimore, MD

Since I hit the plateau I started looking for anything that could help me break through with at least a minimum progress. Luckily I found chains. Worked great for me and helped me get back on track.

by Joseph Lembell on Weight Lifting Chains
Location (City, State): Portland, OR

I never took those things seriously. I thought nothing beats the classics. But attitude can change, so I am getting into chains and I enjoy it so far.

by Steven on Weight Lifting Chains
Location (City, State): Houston, TX

Some guys used them for squats at Iron Oak. First thought it was just another way to show off. Until I tried chains myself. Now I can't imagine my workout without them.

Questions & Answers

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *