Sports Training & Conditioning Zone!

Chain Reaction Training

By Ingrid Marcum, Battling Ropes Director of Programming and CSCS

John Brookfield’s innovative methods of training have taken on a new form in the Chain Reaction program, only released within the last year.  You won’t be disappointed in the performance improvements you’ll see using his latest approach to training the mind and body to work together.  The training system consists of using heavy chains for unique and challenging drills that are guaranteed to develop and greatly enhance your strength, power, speed, endurance, work capacity and fortitude in a way that will apply to anything you want to do. 

Entirely different from traditional methods of training with chains, the Chain Reaction drills are sure to challenge you physically and mentally, testing your limits with exercises that include things like the “never ending nightmare” and the “core thrasher”.  While some aspects of the Chain Reaction program share concepts also seen in the Battling Ropes training system, the chains are a separate and complete system; Chain Reaction provides a level of intensity and challenge that even goes beyond the Battling Rope training exercises and introduces a whole new element to your training. 

Chains that work best for the Chain Reaction drills are 25, 30 or 35 feet in length and ½” diameter.  These lengths can accommodate and challenge anyone, no matter their fitness level.   As the length of the chain increases, so does the difficulty of the exercises.  At the same time, you can make any of these chains more difficult simply by changing your hand or body placement or choosing a more difficult drill; in effect, you have the equivalent of a rack of dumbbells all in one piece of equipment – and all it takes is one chain!  The system of progression allows you to increase the difficulty of the exercises as your ability improves, thereby creating a program that you will never outgrow. 

One of the main Chain Reaction program concepts is strength endurance, or pulling.  This concept of Chain Reaction is also known as the never ending nightmare - and for good reason.  The never ending nightmare involves constant hand over hand pulling while also working against the pull of gravity, significantly increasing your workload.  Limited only by your own work capacity and never by your equipment, these exercises require constant output and will provide substantial gains in your overall fortitude in addition to your work capacity and your ability to sustain intensity and strength. 

To experience the nightmare, wrap the chain around a horizontal bar and link the two free ends of the chain together to form one continuous loop.  Stretch the chain out straight and stand at the end of your chain.  Grab the side of the chain that comes off the top of the bar to prepare for your pulling drills.

A great drill to start with for pulling is the forward pull, shown in the video clip.  Maintain a solid athletic stance with good joint positions and pull the chain hand over hand toward you.  As you pull, you’ll also feel the weight of the chain, forcing you to resist the pull of gravity and hold it up in position as you pull. 
Continue pulling hand over hand for the duration of your exercise.

One of my favorite chain pulling drills is in a push up position.  To do this drill, place yourself on your hands and feet at the end of your chain, either in a push up or bear crawl position.  Reach forward and grab the top chain with one hand and pull it toward you.  Release the chain and repeat that movement without coming out of position.  Of course, you also need to repeat that movement using the other arm.  To increase the challenge, go as long as you can on one arm and switch while staying in your push up or bear crawl position.
In addition to the pulling movement and the weight of the chain, your core and shoulder have to work hard just to stabilize in that position.  With each pull of the chain, you also have to fight to maintain your position and not get pulled over.  Your entire body is working together to complete this drill.  Even just a few short pulls of this exercise will leave you out of breath and your muscles fatigued!

Although you can use similar drills in the never ending nightmare that you would use in the Battling Ropes pole system, there are elements that make them distinctly different.   First, when pulling with a rope, after you pull the rope through its entire length, you have a short period of rest as you re-wrap the rope around the pole each time.  When pulling with the chain, you have one continuous loop that allows you to continue pulling with no need to stop, facilitating an increase in work capacity, functional grip strength and strength endurance. 

In addition, the weight of the chain will create about 20-25 lbs of pressure pulling the chain toward the ground while you also work to continue pulling - forcing the body to multitask.  Though our bodies are required to multitask in many performance activities and in life, there are few training methods that prepare you to perform well under those conditions.  The never ending nightmare will do just that.

A second concept of Chain Reaction Training is power generation.  John has created some extremely beneficial exercises that really train the body to explode as a functional, cohesive unit – just as it needs to function for any sport or activity. The length and weight of the chains combine to create a very unique tool that is unlike anything else you’ve done.

My favorite power generation exercise in the Chain Reaction program is the “core thrasher”.  Make sure your chain is now unlinked and find the middle of your chain - you’ll hold your hands around this mark just a link or two apart.  Stretch out one end of your chain on either side of you so that you have a small pile at either end of the chain, with you standing in the middle. 

Hold the chain about waist level with both hands and lean slightly forward to start in an athletic position – knees slightly bent, torso solid and feet firmly planted a small distance apart.  Begin your movement by transferring your weight explosively from one leg to the other, following through with your arms as if you were trying to throw the chain directly to the side.  Immediately reverse direction, transferring weight to the opposite leg and bringing the arms forcefully through to the other side.  Continue moving back and forth in this fashion while maintaining power and intensity. 

When you generate enough force in this movement, you’ll see that power transferred down the entire length of the chain all the way to each end.  As you move from side to side, the entire chain will be in motion.  There is nothing that quite compares to what you’ll feel performing this drill.  To successfully move the chain properly, your entire body will be working like crazy!

The Chain Reaction system truly allows you to push yourself like never before – you’ll find yourself gathering every ounce of physical and mental toughness you have to keep yourself on task.  Learning to push through and continue working when it gets tough allows your body to adapt – both physically and mentally - to handling stress and continue performing through fatigue.  This program gives you the tools you need to accomplish your goals and succeed in all you do - both on and off the field.