The toe bone connects to the foot bone, which connects to the heel bone. We all have James Weldon Johnson to thank for the fun little Dem Dry Bones song that helped us understand the kinetic chain right in our childhood. The song perfectly explains the basis of the kinetic chain workout, which comprises open and closed-chain exercises. “By incorporating kinetic chain exercises into your workouts, you can increase overall strength, improve balance and coordination, and reduce the risk of injury,” says certified personal trainer Hannah Shine.
Depending on how geeked-out you are about working out, you may or may not know about kinetic chain exercises. However, if you wish to level up your gym game and impress everyone around you, considering the kinetic chain is the way to go. Here’s a breakdown of these movements and how to include them in your next sweat session. Let the scrolling begin!
- Frequency: 3 times per week
- Benefits: Improve joint stability, enhance muscle strength, increase functional fitness, and promote strength and muscle gain
- Equipment Needed: Barbells, weight bench, dumbbells, lever machine, incline bench, and a pull-up bar
- Space Required: Big area
- Assistance Required: Yes, for certain exercises
- Who Should Avoid: People with cardiovascular conditions, chronic joint issues, or balance problems
In This Article
What Is Kinetic Chain Exercise?
Kinetic chain exercises are those movements that follow the mechanical engineering concept of kinetics. This kinetic chain notion believes that the joints and segments in our body are interrelated. The movement of one of these starts a chain reaction that affects all the neighboring joints and segments linked to it. During kinetic chain exercises, your body’s distal segments are either fixed or move freely in space. To understand the kinetic chain better, let us consider how your body moves when you perform wall throws.
- Firstly, you plant your feet firmly into the ground, tighten your core, and bend your arms slightly for the exercise.
- Doing so helps your legs, abdomen, and arms generate a force to start the throwing motion.
- Ultimately, your arms move to release the ball.
All these steps occur as a chain reaction helping the exercise target the upper body muscles. It makes the moment a perfect open kinetic chain exercise.
The kinetic chain notion forms the basis of kinetic chain exercises. Wondering how they are further classified? Let us take a look at their types.
Types Of Kinetic Chain Exercises
Kinetic chain exercises can either be “closed” or “open,” depending on the moment of the body parts farthest from the body’s center. These distal parts like your hands and feet may be fixed or free to move.
Closed kinetic chain exercises are those in which the distal points of a given limb remain fixed. In these activities, the distal parts can either be on the floor or anchored on an unmoving object like a Plyo box or a bar. Push-ups are a perfect example of kinetics exercises of this kind. When performing them, you anchor your hands and feet to the ground, and the rest of your body moves. Similarly, a pull-up is a closed-chain exercise as the hands in this activity are fixed to the bar.
These exercises may or may not involve gym equipment or weights. According to a 2021 YouGov survey, bodyweight exercise, which doesn’t require any equipment or weights like in push-ups, is the most popular type of personal workout in the United States (15%) and in Britain (11%), while bodyweight exercises with weights are favored by 13% of Americans and 9% of British.
Another thing about these exercises is that they are all compound movements that work on multiple muscles and joints. Therefore, they provide a higher metabolic response as more energy consumption is involved. Hence, these exercises work best for individuals wanting to improve their body composition.
The exercises during which the distal point of a given limb moves freely in space are open kinetic chain exercises. For example, when you perform overhead tricep extensions, your hands do not rest on the ground or are stationary. Instead, they move the dumbbell up and down. Other open kinetic chain exercise examples include bench press and bicep curls.
Unlike closed-chain exercises, these workouts are not compound movements. Instead, they work on a single joint and recruit only the muscles associated with the body part during the activity. With open-chain exercises, you can isolate and strengthen specific body areas. These exercises are a perfect choice for bodybuilders and people undergoing physiotherapy.
Now, we know that there are two kinds of kinetic chain workouts. However, how different are these open and closed kinetic chain exercises? Let us take a look.
Open Vs. Closed Kinetic Chain Exercises: The Differences
|Closed Kinetic Chain Exercises
|Open Kinetic Chain Exercises
|End Of The Chain (the body part doing the action)
|The end of the chain remains fixed on the ground or a stationary object.
|The body part doing the action is free to move.
|The movements work multiple joints and muscle groups at once.
|The movements usually isolate a single joint or muscle group.
|These exercises need more energy and can burn more calories as they target many muscle groups simultaneously.
|These exercises need significantly lesser energy expenditure that burns fewer calories as they target a single muscle group.
|These exercises mimic activities of daily living and can help you improve your overall functional fitness.
|These exercises help with good movement alignment and strengthening specific muscles.
|Push-ups, lunges, and squats.
|Bench press, bicep curls, leg extensions, and chest fly.
Wondering what the benefits of open and closed-chain exercises are? Well, here are the major advantages of incorporating these kinetic workouts into your daily routine.
Major Benefits Of Kinetic Chain Exercises
- May Improve Joint Stability
As per a study, both kinetic chain exercises provide favorable results for individuals with anterior cruciate ligament (that stabilizes the knee joint) injuries (1). Since closed-chain movements involve fixed distal ends, they emphasize joint compression and stabilize joints. Further, open-chain exercises share the load with the neighboring muscles. Numerous physical therapists use open and closed-chain exercises for kinetic chain physical therapy.
- May Improve Functional Fitness
Inculcating kinetic chain exercises in your fitness routine can help you immensely with your functional fitness. Closed-chain exercises can positively impact the dynamic balance (2) needed while performing actions that require displacing oneself. Both closed and open kinetic chain movements are a part of our daily movements. Whether you are squatting down to pick up something, placing a jar on the top shelf of your pantry, or walking up the stairs, there is kinetic movement everywhere. This is why it is crucial to work on these everyday abilities that make your life better.
- May Improve Muscle Strength
Functional fitness and muscle strength go hand in hand. Be it open or closed-chain exercises; both have a positive impact on muscle strength (3). Further, open-chain exercises following Anterior Cruciate Ligament reconstruction may play a crucial role in knee function (5). They target specific muscles for specific movements. This way, they help keep your activities aligned. That said, open-chain movements alone are not enough for joint stability. Your workout should be a healthy mix of open and closed-chain moments to boost kinetic chain mobility, joint and muscle health, and overall fitness.
- May Improve Metabolic Rate
Closed kinetic chain exercises include everyday moments like push-ups, squats, and lunges that work on multiple muscles simultaneously. These moments require a lot of energy expenditure that, in turn, boosts the metabolic rate and helps burn fat. Further, open-chain movements work on specific muscles to strengthen them and help perform closed-chain activities better to spend extra calories.
- May Promote Strength And Muscle Gain
As per a study, open and closed-chain pulley machine exercises positively impact the muscle strength of the trunk area (4). This area includes your chest, abdomen, pelvis, and back muscles. Since they help build better strength and muscles safely, kinetic chain movements are perfect for recreational athletes who wish to utilize their bodies in the best possible way for their sport.
For instance, if you are a softball player, exercises that mimic the throwing motion, like wall balls and lunges with a rotation, are highly beneficial. Balancing open and closed-chain movements is the key to getting the best workout for kinetic chain strengthening. You should focus more on closed-chain exercises as they target multiple muscles simultaneously.
Like every other exercise, kinetic chain exercises have certain downsides too. Keep reading to learn all about them.
Downsides Of Kinetic Chain Exercises
- May Cause Wear And Tear
Open and closed kinetic chain exercises are great for planning your workout smartly. However, the most prominent mistake people tend to make is focusing only on one of these movements. For instance, if you are performing only bicep curls to build your arms, you may have better closed-chain choices. Since the movement lacks a fixed point, it lacks stability and leads to a greater chance of shoulder strain. With this, you may end up with bigger biceps. However, there is a high chance of experiencing wear and tear in the shoulder region. You can easily avoid this by ensuring that your workout plan has many closed-chain exercises with a few open-chain movements.
- May Cause Joint Injuries
Performing kinetic exercises hastily and with poor posture can strain the joints, leading to injuries. It can also happen if your movements are not aligned. For instance, a bad posture can lead to badly strained knees when you perform a squat. Therefore, before you perform exercises like deadlifts and squats, ensure that your movements are well-aligned and you can hold your balance. Tests like a closed kinetic chain upper extremity stability test can also help you check the functional performance of your joints.
- May Interfere With Rehabilitation
Doing closed-chain activities after an injury may interfere with the rehabilitation process after an injury. During an injury, the dysfunction of the injured area is quite normal. Performing closed kinetic chain activity during such scenarios is not a great idea due to the swelling, pain, and limited rotation of motion. Instead, you must start with open-chain movements to target and strengthen specific muscles in the injured area.
If performed with care, kinetic chain movements can be a great addition to your daily schedule. Here are the best open and closed chain exercises you can easily include in your workout plan.
12 Best Open And Closed Kinetic Chain Exercises
Open Kinetic Chain Exercises
1. Bench Press
Bench press mainly targets the pectoralis major, which is the largest muscle of the anterior chest wall. This open-chain kinetic exercise also works the triceps and shoulder muscles.
- Weight bench
How To Do
- Lie on the bench with your eyes roughly aligned with the front of the rack that holds the bar.
- Keep your feet wide and flat on the floor, ensuring your spine is not arched or rounded.
- Draw your shoulders behind you and firmly grab the barbell with your hands. Your thumb should be outside of your closed fist.
- Keep your upper arms at an angle of 45 degrees to the body and ensure they are slightly more than shoulder-width apart.
- Lock your elbows and remove the barbell from the rack.
- Inhale deeply, and lower the bar to your chest. It should align perfectly with your nipple line.
- Exhale and extend your arms to press the bar above your chest.
- Lower the bar again to complete the first rep. Start the next rep from here.
- After you end a set of reps, place the bar back on the rack and lower it to the barbell rest. Your elbow should be in a locked-out position while doing so.
- Perform 3 sets of 3-5 reps if you use heavy weights. Increase the number of repetitions to 6-10 if the weight is low.
- Never move the barbell too low across your neck and face to avoid unwanted injuries. Only drive it to and fro between the chest region.
- Avoid arching and lifting your hips off the bench to avoid back pain. Instead, keep them firmly against the bench.
2. Bicep Curls
Bicep curls target biceps brachii, brachialis, and brachioradialis, the muscles at the front of your arms. This open-chain kinetic exercise is perfect for building more arm strength.
How To Do
- Stand with your feet firmly on the floor and about hip-width apart.
- With your core engaged, hold one dumbbell in each hand. Keep your arms relaxed at the sides of your body and your palms facing forward.
- Relax your shoulders, inhale, and bend the elbow to lift the weights. Keep your upper arms stable while doing so and as the dumbbell approaches your shoulders.
- Exhale and smoothly lower the dumbbells to the starting position.
- Perform 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions with a weight you can control.
- Avoid lifting weights too fast to avoid unwanted injuries. Instead, take your time to raise and lower the dumbbells smoothly to make the most of your time during the workout.
- Do not swing your shoulders to gain momentum to avoid taking the focus away from the biceps. Try maintaining a tall, upright spine, a tight core, and relaxed shoulders.
3. Seated Leg Extensions
Seated leg extensions are open-chain quad exercises. It means they work the front thigh muscles. Along with this, these also work as open-chain knee exercises by strengthening the knee ligaments.
- Lever machine
How To Do
- Sit on the lever machine, so the pad is at the top of your ankle region. Choose a moderate weight. You can also perform this kinetic movement on a chair without weights.
- Keep your knees at an angle of 90 degrees and hold the handlebars.
- Inhale and lift the weight until your legs are completely straight. Do not arch your back or lock your knees at any point in the movement.
- Exhale and lower your legs back to the starting position.
- Do 3 sets of 8-12 reps each.
- Avoid locking your knees at full extension to avoid knee pain or strain. Instead, bend them slightly to get maximum benefits from the open-chain exercises for the knees.
- Going too fast during the movement will eliminate the effect of an isolation exercise. Go slow for proper muscle engagement.
4. Chest Fly
The chest fly exercise mainly targets the pectoral muscles of the chest. They also have an impact on the arms and shoulders.
- Incline bench
How To Do
- Lay on an incline bench lowered to 30 degrees with your back flat.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand and bend your elbow. This is your starting position.
- Then, bring your arms to the chest level, ensuring your elbows are bent and pointing outwards.
- Exhale and lift your arms above your chest, keeping your form intact.
- Inhale and smoothly lower your arms to the starting position.
- Perform 3 sets of 10-15 reps.
- Avoid doing this exercise in case of back, shoulder, or arm injury. It can worsen the damage even more.
- If you cannot move the dumbbells smoothly, consider using lighter weights. Lifting weights you cannot handle can lead to unnecessary wear and tear.
5. Hamstring Curls
Hamstring curls specifically target the back of the leg. It includes the hamstrings and calf muscles.
- Leg curl bench
How To Do
- Lie with your back flat on the leg curl bench.
- Stretch your legs, so the roller pads lay just above your heels.
- Hold the support handles on both sides. This is your starting position.
- Exhale and pull your ankles close to your buttocks by flexing your knees.
- Hold briefly, Inhale, and slowly return to the starting position.
- Perform 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
- Avoid placing the roller pads too high on your calves. Doing so can put pressure on the tendons that link the heel bone to the calf muscles and reduce your range of motion.
- Do not perform this workout if you are recovering from a back, spine, neck, knee, or hip injury. It can worsen the condition and cause excessive pain.
6. Lateral Pull Downs
Lateral pull-downs target the Latissimus Dorsi muscle, which significantly stabilizes the neck, back, shoulders, and hips. They also work the biceps and traps to some extent.
- Cable pulley machine
How To Do
- Sit on the pull-down seat with your feet lying flat on the ground.
- Adjust the height of the pulley bar so that your outstretched arms can grasp it comfortably.
- Grasp the bar firmly, keeping your torso stationary and the core engaged. This is your starting position.
- Exhale and pull it down until it reaches your chin level.
- Squeeze the shoulder blades together, inhale, and slowly return the bar to the starting position.
- Perform 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions.
- Keep your back erect while performing the movement. It will protect you from lower back injuries.
- Only lower the bar to the chin level. Lowering the bar further can put excessive stress on the shoulder joint and injure it.
Best Closed Kinetic Chain Exercises
7. Push Ups
One of the functional exercises, Push-ups work the chest, arms, shoulders, and core muscles. These closed-chain shoulder exercises help build both upper-body and core strength.
How To Do
- Get on the floor on all fours.
- Place your hands firmly on the ground, ensuring they are under your shoulders.
- Keep your back straight such that you form a plank-like form. This is your starting position.
- Inhale and lower your body towards the ground by bending your elbows. Your body should be in a straight line from head to toe.
- When your elbows form a 90-degree angle, exhale, push yourself back upwards, and return to the starting position.
- Perform 2-3 sets of 10 reps, maintaining a proper form.
- Avoid locking your elbows at the top of the movement, as it can lead to excessive joint strain and injury. Instead, keep them slightly bent.
- Do not keep your hands farther out from your body. They should be under your shoulders to avoid any negative impact on the shoulder joint.
Pull-ups work the upper back, neck, shoulders, and spine muscles. They help improve overall body strength and fitness levels.
- Pull-up bar
How To Do
- Stand under the pull-up bar.
- Extend your arms overhead and grip the bar with both palms facing away from you.
- With your hands shoulder-width apart, start squeezing your shoulder blades together.
- Cross your ankles and lift your feet off the ground. This is your starting position.
- Then, lift your chest slightly and pull your elbow close to your body to ensure your chin reaches above the bar.
- Slowly lower yourself back to the starting position.
- Perform 3-4 sets of 6-10 reps.
- If your chin cannot reach above the bar, do not try to force it, as it may strain your neck muscles. Instead, use an assisted pull-up machine to practice.
- Do not try perfecting the pull-ups as a newbie. Instead of going straight for them, try hanging from the pull-up bar for 10 to 30 seconds. It will help prevent injury and strengthen your arm and back muscles for the pull-up technique.
Squats are the most famous compound closed-chain exercises. They target multiple muscle groups like the glutes, calves, and quadriceps.
How To Do
- Stand firmly on the ground with your feet slightly wider than your hips and toes pointing slightly outward.
- Pull your arms out before you, bend your elbows, and join your palms together. Keep your back straight and core engaged. This is your starting position.
- Inhale and squat down by pushing your hips backward and bending your knees. Ensure your knees are in line with your feet.
- Squat until your hip joint is lower than your knees and you are in a parallel squat position.
- Now, exhale and use your legs to push the ground and rise back up again slowly.
- Perform 3 sets of 12-15 reps.
- While performing the squat, your knees should always be behind your toes. Ensuring this can prevent knee and spine injuries.
- Always complete the range of motion of the squat to reap its full benefits. Not lowering your hip enough can also increase injury risk.
Lunges are among the top closed-chain hamstring exercises. Along with the hamstrings, they also target the quads, glutes, hips, and calves. Thus, lunges help you strengthen nearly every muscle in your lower body region.
How To Do
- Stand with your right foot before the left to form a split stance.
- Hold kettlebells in both your hands and rest them against your hips on each side.
- Keep your back straight, core engaged, and shoulder back and down. This is your starting position.
- Inhale and bend your knees to lower your body. Keep your back knee a few inches away from the floor.
- Simultaneously, keep your front thigh parallel to the ground.
- Exhale and return to the starting position, ensuring that weight moves from both legs to the front foot’s heel.
- Perform 2-3 sets of 10-12 repetitions per leg.
- Avoid putting too much stress on the knee during the movement. To ensure this, never let your knee joint extend the toes.
- Keep your balance during the movement. Losing it may rotate the back knee and injure it.
Deadlifts are among those few compound exercises that work the entire body. The major muscles they target include the hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, and lower back.
How To Do
- Place the barbell on the floor in front of you.
- Position your feet shoulder-width apart, keeping them under the bar and pointing straight.
- Keep your back straight and tighten the core. Squat down to grasp the barbell just outside your knees. This is your starting position.
- With all your muscles engaged and back straight, push the ground with your feet and pull slightly at the barbell.
- Inhale deeply and pull up the bar, ensuring it almost grazes your shins.
- As you stand straight, the barbell should reach your thigh level.
- Hold for a few seconds and exhale while lowering the bar back to the starting position.
- Perform 3 sets of 5 reps.
- Avoid rounding or arching the back at any point in the movement, as it may lead to back and spine injuries. Instead, keep your hips down and out to keep the back straight.
- Avoid using heavy weights as a beginner, as it can strain your muscles. Instead, pick up lighter weights and practice the deadlift form first.
12. Leg Press
The leg press exercise mainly focuses on the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. It helps build the key muscles in your legs and makes them stronger.
- Leg press machine
How To Do
- Sit on the machine with your feet hip-width apart and on the footplate. Rest your back and head comfortably against the seat.
- Hold the handles and brace your abdominal muscles. This is your starting position.
- Exhale and use your heels and forefoot to push the platform away slowly.
- Once your legs are straight, inhale, and return to the starting position.
- Perform 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
- Avoid placing your hands on your knees, as it can break your form. Instead, grip the handles firmly with both hands.
- Do not jerk your head forward during the movement to avoid strain. Ensure it lays comfortably against the seatback.
Now, let us find out which of the two is more effective.
Closed Vs. Open Chain Exercises: Which Is More Effective?
Most gym experts and trainers often prefer closed-chain exercises as they are multi-muscle exercises in their kinetic fitness programs. Since these are compound movements, they are more effective than open-chain exercises. Irrespective of that, open-chain movements are essential. A well-designed kinetic training plan should mix both exercises with upper and lower target chains. If your fitness goals are more strength-based, have a higher ratio of closed-chain exercises in your routine for increased benefits. Alternatively, if you wish to focus on a specific muscle group to make it pop, opt for an open-chain exercise that targets it along with the closed-chain ones.
Suzanne Kasparson, a blogger, shared her experience of integrating open and closed chain exercises into her workout routine on her personal blog. She writes, “As time has passed, I have learned that, while closed chain exercises have shown to be slightly more beneficial for rehabilitation and fitness goals, integrating both types of exercises have benefits (i).”
Infographic: 6 Effective Open And Closed Kinetic Chain Exercises
Both open and closed-chain exercises are available for most muscle groups. The open kinetics are better at isolating a muscle, while the closed chain movements are more functional and target multiple muscles. So, instead of wondering which ones to choose among the open chain vs. closed chain exercises, your training plan should be a mix of the two. Scroll down to the infographic below for the 6 best open and close kinetic chain workouts.
To Sum Up
Open and closed-chain exercises are perfect if you want to plan your workouts smartly. A well-planned kinetics training program comprising the two can help you gain lean muscles and strength. These kinetic chain movements can also assist you with your daily activities and functional fitness. Further, these activities are also a part of physiotherapy and help stabilize joints and gain body balance. Some effective open and closed-chain movements that you can add to your sweat session include bench presses, bicep curls, seated leg extensions, chest fly, hamstring curl, lateral pull-downs, push-ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges, deadlifts, and leg presses. While doing these exercises, maintain proper form and follow all safety measures. It will help you gain maximum results without straining the joints and muscles.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is kinetic chain control physiotherapy?
Kinetic chain control physiotherapy is a body-oriented therapy that uses open and closed-chain movements to re-balance your kinetic chain. As a result, it promotes joint stability, releases tension in soft tissues, and enhances daily activities.
Is walking an open-chain exercise?
Open-chain exercises allow the movement of the distal ends. Since your feet move while walking, it is an open-chain exercise. It is also considered as one of the best weight-bearing exercises.
Is swimming an open or closed-chain exercise?
Swimming is a mix of open and closed-chain exercises. In it, every movement except the beginning and end are open-chains.
Is yoga a closed-chain exercise?
Yes, yoga is a closed-chain exercise. Most yoga asanas require a position with the distal ends of the body fixed.
Are isometric exercises closed chain?
Yes, isometric exercises are a type of closed kinetic chain exercise in which the muscles contract without changing their length, and the joint angle remains constant. These exercises are often used for static strength training and can be performed with or without external resistance. Isometric exercises are beneficial for improving muscle endurance, stability, and proprioception. Examples of isometric exercises include planks, wall sits, and glute bridges.
Are stability exercises open or closed chain exercises?
Stability exercises are closed kinetic chain exercises that focus on improving balance, coordination, and joint stability. These exercises are often used in rehabilitation settings to prevent injuries and improve functional performance. Examples of stability exercises include single-leg balance, Bosu ball exercises, and stability ball exercises.
Are proprioceptive exercises considered closed chain exercises?
Yes, proprioceptive exercises are closed kinetic chain exercises that aim to improve proprioception, which is the body’s ability to sense its position and movement in space. Proprioceptive exercises are often used in rehabilitation programs to improve joint stability, balance, and coordination. Examples of proprioceptive exercises include balance boards, wobble boards, and foam pad exercises.
- Kinetic chain exercises can be open or closed-chain movements.
- In closed-chain movements, the end of the chain is fixed throughout the exercise, whereas in open-chain movements, the end of the chain is free to move.
- Closed-chain exercises are compound movements and target various muscle groups, whereas open-chain movements target a specific muscle.
- Together, these exercises can give you a well-planned fitness routine to build strength and improve functional fitness.
Learn how to strengthen your quadricep muscles with this easy-to-follow video tutorial. Get ready to improve your strength and mobility with these physio exercises!
Personal Experience: Source
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- The Effect of Open and Closed Kinetic Chain Exercises on Dynamic Balance Ability of Normal Healthy Adults
- Effects of open and closed kinetic-chain exercises on the muscle strength and muscle activity of the ankle joint in young healthy women
- Effects of combined open kinetic chain and closed kinetic chain training using pulley exercise machines on muscle strength and angiogenesis factors
- Considerations with Open Kinetic Chain Knee Extension Exercise Following ACL Reconstruction