When to Use Open or Closed Chain on Total Gym?
Simply put, open chain exercise is where one end is fixed while the other end is free. Raising the arm up overhead or knee extension are open chain exercises. A closed chain exercise is when both ends are fixed. For example, push-ups and squats are closed chain exercises. Open chain exercise is easier to implement when isolating a single joint. For example, the elbow joint is isolated with biceps curl and the knee is isolated with hamstring curls. In rehabilitation, when weight bearing, strength and range of motion are impaired or injury is acute, open chain exercises may be easier to implement. With that said, open chain exercises can place greater shear, stress, on a joint, making closed chain exercise more desirable.
Closed chain exercises increase joint stability, decrease acceleration forces, and increase muscular activity to help resist large forces. Due to nature of the exercise, closed chain exercises tend to incorporate more joints. For example, a squat involves movement at the ankle, knee and hip. A push up involves movements at the wrist, elbow and shoulder girdle. Due to increased muscular and joint activity in closed chain exercises, stability in a joint may be enhanced. Thus, in rehabilitation, closed chain exercise may be a more ideal exercise in clients with instability. Note instability may be present with swelling or post injury as in the case of a knee ligament tear.
If weight bearing is not restricted, squats may be an optimal way to help with stability and increase range of motion. In a fitness training, closed chain exercises are a great way to address a multitude of muscles in a small amount of time.
Closed chain exercises can also provide a great way to increase weight bearing on to bones, which is important in the prevention of osteoporosis.
Understanding the Rationale
So when constructing your workout or rehab routine, what should you do more of…open chain exercise or closed chain exercise? Unfortunately, it is client dependent. However, if you can understand the why behind a philosophy then you can decide what exercises work for you. Note that most routines have a combination of open and closed chain exercise. Here are some examples of exercises, general rationale and open or closed chain in nature. To watch the exercises, click here.
About the Author
Elizabeth Leeds, DPT, owner of Seaside Fitness and Wellness, combines her background in physical therapy, personal training and Pilates in her practice and teaching. As a pelvic floor physical therapist working at Comprehensive Therapy Services in San Diego, her passion for pregnancy and postpartum is seen in her mission to empower women with knowledge and understanding of their physical changes, and how to address them to prevent future issues. Additionally, Elizabeth is a Master Trainer and developer for Total Gym’s GRAVITY education.