The importance of Open vs. Closed Chain Exercises

Lifting weights - open vs closed chain exercises blog featured image

The importance of Open vs. Closed Chain Exercises

Lifting weights - open vs closed chain exercises blog featured image

Joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and many other elements are the interconnecting structure that make up the body. If you had a group of people holding hands, and one person pulls to the side, this effects other people in the chain. In regards to the human body, the hip, knee, ankle and foot form a chain. This is the basis for open and closed chain exercises, where each body part has an impact on the neighbouring segment. Continue reading to learn more about open vs closed chain exercises.

Open Chain Exercises

An open chain exercise is one that allows the furthest part of the chain to move freely. For example, picking up a glass of water is an open-chain exercise. The hand affects the elbow and the shoulder as it is not fixed in place. However, it does not effect the rest of your body. To put it simply, the body is stationary whilst the limb moves.

Open chain exercises are commonly used for rehabilitation purposes or training that requires open chained movements, such as throwing a ball. Muscles are isolated by open chained exercises such as a bicep curl. For rehabilitative purposes, open chain exercises are easier to implement if the focus is strengthening, improving range of motion or there is an acute injury.

Examples include:

  • Bench press
  • Leg extension
  • Hamstring curl
  • Lat pulldown

If you hear of the gym term “Arm Day” meaning focusing on the muscles of the arms, open chained exercises are commonly used to enhance functionality and strength. The selective nature of this form of exercise is incredibly beneficial.

Closed Chain Exercises

Unlike open chained exercises, these closed-chain movements involve the body moving whilst the limbs are relatively stationary. Doing a squat is a closed chain exercise as your feet are fixed to the ground whilst your quadriceps do all the heavy lifting. These exercises are primarily weight-bearing exercises where you can use your body weight and/or external weight.

Multiple joints and muscles are targeted in closed chain exercises. It is all about taking advantage of the bodily ‘chains’ and using them efficiently and effectively.


  • Push-ups
  • Lunges
  • Deadlifts
  • Tricep dips

Open and closed chain exercises both have their advantages and disadvantages, so it is recommended to incorporate both into your physical activity regimen. Any exercise should be conducted with the appropriate technique, otherwise, you risk injuring or damaging joints, muscles and other physical components.

Contact us for more information

For more information about open vs closed chain exercises and to establish if these are appropriate for your physique and goals, whether fitness or rehabilitation, come into Pivotal Motion Physiotherapy today! Call us on (07) 3352 5116 or make an appointment online.

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