While many of you probably have not heard of open vs. closed chain exercises, chances are you are doing them both all the time. However, it is important to understand the difference between the two and which of these types of exercises tend to be the safer and more productive option.
To begin, the “chain” that these terms refer to is the kinetic chain of the body, which simply means that all of your bones and muscles are connected in this
“chain” which allows us to create movement (See figure, left).
Open Chain Exercises: Put simply, during an open chain exercise, your hand or foot is free to move. These types of movements tend to isolate a single muscle group and a single joint. Open chain exercises can be done with or without added weight, but when weight is added, it is usually placed at the distal (far away) portion of the limb. For example, a chest press, bicep curl or leg extension.
Closed Chain Exercises: During these movements, your hands or feet are in a constant, fixed position (usually on the ground) during the exercise. Closed chain exercises work multiple joints and multiple muscle groups. They can also be done with body weight
alone or with added weight—however when external resistance in added, it is usually rested across the back of the shoulders or the front of the chest, which is considered a much safer approach than the open chain exercises. Examples of closed chain exercises would include push-ups, pull-ups, squats and lunges.
In general, fitness experts, physicians and trainers agree that closed chain exercises are
generally better than open for 2 reasons:
1. Closed chain exercises better mimic activities of daily living improving your functional fitness. This is especially important for athletes as sports will always require multiple joint and muscle movements to happen at once. (Very few movements in real life or in athletics isolate joints and muscles like open chain exercises do).
2. The force involved in closed chain exercises such as lunges and squats is compressive, meaning it will actually stabilize the joint while strengthening it whereas open chain exercises such as knee extensions produce more of a shear force that is more likely to result in injury.
At Santiago Chiropractic, you may have noticed a new piece of equipment in the
Biomechanics Lab—the CKC (Closed Kinetic Chain) Fitness System. This patented
weight training frame is uniquely designed to allow its users to exercise against closed
chain forces while developing the proper form needed to prevent aberrant motion patterns.
This system uses elastic bands that can be applied both to offload body weight allowing
individuals to perform movements they would not otherwise be able to do OR to add
resistance for those who are functionally strong and require a greater challenge. Stay tuned for more information about the
CKC Fitness System and how you can have an opportunity to use it to help with your recovery/fitness!