What Are Kinetic Chain Exercises?

The principle of kinetic chains being applied to human movement was refined by Dr. Arthur Steindler adapted in 1955, and he described the two primary types of kinetic chain exercises or movements as open and closed.

OPEN-CHAIN EXERCISES

In an open-chain movement, the distal aspect of the extremity, moves freely and is not fixed to an object. In basic terms this usually means your hand or your foot moves, while your body is stationary.

Here are some examples of open-chain exercises:

  • Lat Pull Down
  • Leg Extension
  • Bench Press
  • Seated Row
  • Biceps Curl

CLOSED-CHAIN EXERCISES

In a closed-chain movement, the distal end of the extremity is fixed, emphasizing joint compression and, in turn, stabilizing the joints.
Closed-chain exercises are considered to be more functional than open-chain exercises, and most Suspended Fitness and body-weight exercises are closed kinetic chain – the body moves, while the hands/feet stay still.

Close Kinetic Chain exercises increase the use of stabilisers, and push joint surfaces together, while open kinetic chain exercises typically pull joint surfaces apart.

This makes closed kinetic chain exercises the preferred choice for early stage rehabilitation, as the unstable and often painful joints tolerate being pushed together rather than pulled apart.

Closed kinetic chain exercise also often result in higher core activation.

Interestingly, being very strong in an open kinetic chain movement does not always transfer to similar strength in the same movement pattern in closed kinetic chain. Ever known someone who can lat pull down enormous loads, but struggles with chin ups?

We have certainly seen this with clients who can bench press over 100kg, but struggle with Suspended Fitness chest press due to the unstable environment and closed kinetic chain nature of the exercise.

Get stronger in Closed Kinetic chain to improve the way you move in real life!

References
Ellenbecker, T.S., and Davies, G.J. (2001). Closed Kinetic Chain Exercise: A Comprehensive Guide to Multiple Joint Exercises, (1st ed.). Champaign, Ill.: Human Kinetics.

Want to learn more about functional training and biomechanics? Try our Level 1 and Level 2 Suspended Fitness courses.

Author: Owen Bowling

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