Open Chain vs Closed Chain Exercises

What are the differences between closed chain exercises and open chained exercises? And what it means for your workout routines.

Open Kinetic Chain Exercises are movements where the furthest body parts are free to move while your body remains fixed. Usually it’s your hands/arms and feet/legs moving.

Examples:

  • Leg Press machine, only legs moves to lift the weight.
  • Leg Extension machine, only lower leg moves to lift the weight.
  • Bench Press, only your arms move to lift the barbell.

Closed Kinetic Chain Exercises are exercises where your hands/arms or feet/legs are fixed and your body moves.

Examples:

  • Squats, feet are on the floor and don’t move. The weight is on your back and your body moves to lift the weight.
  • Deadlifts, feet remain in place while torso moves to pick up the barbell.
  • Kettlebell swings, feet don’t move, hips lift the weight.
  • Push-ups, your entire body except your hands and feet move.
  • Chin-ups, the bar and your hands are fixed, body moves up and down.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Both closed and open chain exercises have their unique advantages and disadvantages.

The major advantage of open chain exercises is their ability to target specific muscles. Since one joint is isolated you can concentrate on any muscle group you like.

If your biceps aren’t growing they way you like, adding some open chain exercises like biceps curls are a better option than pull-up variations.

Since your body remains fixed and your arms move this makes it an open kinetic chain exercise.

Closed chain exercises are generally compound exercises meaning that they use more than one muscle group to complete a lift.

While they’re not as targeted, they are more time efficient.

In most circumstances, closed chain exercises are your first option.

Open chain exercises fill in any gaps or circumvent limitations.

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