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If you are training on a regular basis to gain muscle then you will know very well that progressive overload is the only way to achieve this and that means an increase in both volume and intensity over time. But when working with chains progressive overload changes to a linear variable resistance.
Linear variable resistance training (LVRT) is done by slowly and progressively increasing the amount of resistance within the range of motion used. If we use the press from a flat bench as an example the reason one will use chains is to increase the amount of resistance the farther away the weight gets from your body.
This means that more force will be required, as you get closer to the top of the lift before lockout. With the increase in range of motion as the weight goes farther from your body more muscle fibers need to be recruited. The more muscle fibers recruited means more adaptations will happen resulting in increased muscle strength.
The same principal is used when training with bands as they will also boost the force required on the eccentric or negative part of any rep done with bands. The result is more force is required to stop the weight from crashing into you. The same as LVRT there will be a larger amount of muscle fibers needed resulting in an increase in strength.
A study done at Truman State University conclusively demonstrated that athletes using chains or bands gained more muscle than athletes using conventional free weights only. Letís briefly examine why this happens when using chains with the changing resistance coming from the chain links that are being lifted.
When bench-pressing chains attached to a barbell the chain links piled on the floor so the only weight you are lifting is the links between the bar and the floor. When you lift the bar higher more links come from the floor and increase the resistance lifted.
This does not mean that you should replace all free weight movements with free weights and use chains but it is just presented as a constructive alternative, if your objective is to increase your 1RM or your strength generally. If more force is required to move a weight you will build denser stronger muscle.
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