Build Upper-Body Strength and Size With 4 Chain Exercises

Reap the benefits of resistance training with these exercises that use chains.

Ever wonder what the chains hanging on the wall in your gym or weight room are for? Exercises with chains can be a great for advanced training for strength or hypertrophy and as a way to vary the lifts and challenge yourself a little differently.

Chains (and bands) work on the principle of accommodating resistance. It's simple: As the weight is lifted, more links come off the ground, making the load heavier. As the weight is lowered and more links are set onto the ground, the load gets lighter.

RELATED: Exercise of the Week: Chain Push-Ups

Chains are a great way to increase the load in mechanically advantaged positions. Take the lockout on the Back Squat for example. Normally, the toughest part of the Squat is directly out of the bottom; the top half of the lift is rather easy in comparison. But add chains and the story changes. The principle can be applied to many movements.

Today, we will go beyond the basics of the Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift and offer four upper-body accessory movements that work great with chains.


  • Chains
  • Carabiner to hook the chains to the next item
  • Rope cable attachment

Hook the carabiner to the chains, connect the rope attachment and you are good to go. Adjust the length of the chains so that all of the chain never comes off the ground at the top of the movement.

Hammer Curls

Grab the rope and stand straight up with your arms straight. Keeping a flat back, curl your arms up, keeping your palms toward each other the whole time. As you curl, spread the rope apart so that at the top, your hands are just outside your face.

Adding chains to the Curl is a great way to get a good squeeze of the biceps at the top of the movement and a great way to finish off an upper-body or arm workout.

RELATED: 3 Reasons Why You Should Work Out With Bands and Chains

Chest-Supported Face Pull

Lie facedown on an incline bench with your head above the top of the bench. Reach down, grab the rope, and pull it up toward your face. As you pull, keep your elbows up and focus on squeezing your upper back tight. Slowly lower the rope down and repeat. To alter the movement, slightly change the line of pull by moving the incline higher or lower to target more of the upper back versus mid back.

Front Raise

Take a seat on a bench with your legs wide and grab the rope handles. Starting with your arms straight down, raise the rope until your arms are parallel with the ground. Lower the rope slowly and repeat. This will smash your delts as a Dumbbell Front Raise would, but with a little extra kick at the top. This movement actually overloads when you are in the most disadvantaged position, with your arms up and your hands away from your body.

Lying Triceps Extensions

Lie down on a bench holding the ropes with your elbows pointed to the ceiling. Starting with your hands behind your head holding the rope, extend your hands toward the ceiling. Try to avoid pulling your elbows down. Control the weight on the way down and repeat. Control and stability are crucial. Don't fly through the movements quickly, or the chains may hit the top of your head.

Give those movements a shot and get your upper body stronger and bigger! Check out my Instagram or YouTube channel for daily tips, technique, and workouts.

RELATED: 12-Week Resistance Band and Chain Workout

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