All resistance exercises can be classified as either an open or closed-chain exercise. Each type has its own benefits and it is important to know the difference between the two to pick the exercise right for you.

During an open-chain exercise your hands or feet (depending on the lift) can move freely while your body is restricted by a machine or bench. A bench press and a lat pulldown are fitting examples of open-chain exercises. The bar in your hands can move freely from your body which is in a fixed position on the bench or on the seat.


Closed-chain exercises are the opposite of this meaning your body moves freely while your hands or feet are in a locked place. The closed-chain version of the bench press and lat pulldown are the push-up and pull-up respectively. During these exercises, your hands are fixed to the ground or stationary bar while your body moves.

Both types of exercises are very beneficial depending on what your goals are. Usually, you can use higher weight for an open-chain exercise vs its closed-chain counterpart and are used to train more for power.  Closed-chain exercises mimic more natural movements and require more stabilizer muscles to complete. For this reason, they are used more for rehab and, since you can’t load up too much weight, are generally safer.

It is important to mix in both types of exercises into different workouts. One thing you can try is super setting an open-chain exercise with its closed-chain equivalent. For example, immediately after a heavy set of bench press try to do as many push-ups as possible. You’ll feel the benefits right away!