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What Are Closed Kinetic Chain Exercises?

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  • Written By: Alex Paul
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 17 March 2014
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Closed kinetic chain exercises are a form of exercise performed with the hands or feet stationary on a solid surface. Unlike open chain exercises, closed chain exercises often work muscles from multiple joints. This means they are usually more effective at training for real-life situations, especially for athletes. It is thought that closed chain exercises are less likely to cause damage to joints, such as the knees, compared to open chain exercises. This is because the exercises cause a compressive force rather than a shearing force.

"Kinetic chain" is a term used to describe how the body’s muscles and bones are connected. When a person performs a simple task such as walking or picking up an object, multiple joints are required to move in the correct way. This is achieved through the muscles of the kinetic chain contracting and relaxing. All parts of the body are connected, so every movement uses the kinetic chain.

Closed kinetic chain exercises are movements in which the feet or hands are placed onto a solid surface and remain in a fixed position. If, for example, a person performs a single leg squat, then this is a closed kinetic chain exercise, because the foot is planted on the ground. Open chain exercises allow the feet and hands to move.

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The main difference between open and closed kinetic chain exercises is the number of joints involved. In most cases, closed kinetic chain exercises work several joints and the corresponding muscles at the same time. Open chain exercises often only work muscles attaching to a single joint. This is why closed chain exercises are thought to be more effective for athletic training, because movements in sport often require multiple joints.

Another advantage of closed kinetic chain exercises is that they are usually less stressful on the joints. Knee extensions, for example, are open chain exercises in which the quadriceps muscles are used to lift a weight by straightening the knee. This puts a lot of stress through the knee joint that can cause permanent damage. A leg press machine, which requires the person to push a platform away from the body against resistance by contracting the quadriceps, is a closed chain alternative that’s less damaging to the knee joint.

There are a number of examples of closed kinetic chain exercises. Push-ups, for example, are closed chain exercises, because the hands are placed on the floor. Pull-ups, squats and lunges also are all closed chain examples.

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