Note: My above partial definition is only a starting component of what I mean by functional fitness and will grow and evolve as I develop my thoughts in this blog.The idea of open chain v. closed chain exercise is possibly most easily recognized in the Squat versus the Leg Press. In the squat the feet remain fixed against the ground and the weight moves through a combination of leverage from the hips and knees, as a whole body movement. Conversely in the leg press your butt is seated and your feet move through the air against a platform, the activity occurs from the hips down guided by the machine rails with no full-body stabilization component.
Closed chain movements are typically compound movements using many muscle groups to both lift the load and to stabilized the body. Most open chain exercises (machines) provide the stabilization for you, eliminating that very functional component of the movement.
Movements that require you to move you body through space(closed chain exercises/movements) involve a higher level of neuromuscular activation, balance and core stabilization than those where you are simple moving your limbs(open chain exercises/movements).
Closed chain exercises typically:
- use more muscle groups than open chain.
- require much greater motor control and neural stimulus (To be discussed in much greater detail in a future post)
- more closely mimic natural movements and those we perform in our everyday lives
- may be safer for joints as agonist and antagonist muscle group action (To be discussed in much greater detil in a future post)
- more closely relate to our activities of daily
It's something we do every day of our lives when we sit or stand in a chair, get up or down off of the toilet, pick up a load with our arms or shoulders, etc.
Why do so many people think that they cannot do squats?
Look, for example, at the seated leg press, there is a comfy chair angled at typically 45 degrees to match the guide rails which are similarly angled. At 45 degrees the guide rails take HALF of the load off of you. You are in effect moving 1/2 of the load horizontally not vertically against gravity. Because of this, people can often leg press(I wouldn't exactly call it lifting) MUCH more weight than they can truly squat. It looks very impressive until they are stuck somewhere without the chair and guide rails and actually have to lift a load with their legs, with their back, hips and core lacking the stability that would have been trained in a propoer squat.
Why physically do people(who want to do squats) have trouble with squats?
Upcoming Part 2 Squats, General Mechanics and How to do them SAFELY
Starting Strength 3rd ed.: Chapter 1 & 2, Mark Rippetoe
Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performanc
Additional Related Reading
8 Reasons to Do This Misunderstood Exercise