Open and Closed Kinetic Chain Movements



This week’s health tip is about learning to choose exercises.

The selection of exercise should be based on movement patterns rather than individual muscles or muscle groups.  Movement patterns or exercises can be classified as occurring in an open or closed chain kinetic chain.

What is open and closed chain exercises?

Open Chain Exercises:

  1. Distal segment moves in space.
  2. Independent joint movement; no predictable joint motion in adjacent joints.
  3. Movement of body segments only distal to the moving joint.
  4. Muscle activation occurs predominantly in the prime mover and is isolated to muscles of the moving joint.
  5. Typically performed in non weight-bearing positions.
  6. Resistance is applied to the moving distal segment.
  7. Use to external rotary loading.
  8. External stabilization (manually or with equipment) usually required.

Closed Chain Exercises:

  1. Distal segment remains stationary (fixed in place)
  2. Interdependent joint movement; relatively predictable movement patterns in adjacent joints
  3. Movement of body segments may occur distal and/or proximal to the moving point
  4. Muscle activation occurs in multiple muscle groups, both distal and proximal to the moving joint
  5. Muscle activation occurs in weight-bearing positions
  6. Resistance is applied simultaneously to multiple moving segments
  7. Use of axel loading
  8. Internal stabilization by means of muscle action, joint compression, and congruency and postural control

For example, looking at the photo below.  The movement is the same but the left picture (a squat) is closed chain and the right picture (leg press) is open chain.

All movements can be open or closed chain.  The key is to train what is functional to you.

Let’s bring back the example above.  The squat is more functional because most individuals will be doing this movement everyday.  You sit down.  You pick something up from the floor.  Every time you go to the bathroom, you squat first to sit on the toilet.

And now let’s examine the leg press. How does the leg press exercise carry to real life situation and how often?  Perhaps, sitting down and pushing an object away.  This will probably happen once a week.

In this example, you will want to pick the squat as part of your exercise routine.

Most upper body movement will be open chain exercises and lower body will be closed chain exercises due to functionality.   Therefore, pick exercises based on movement patterns and make sure they are functional.

Author: Alicia Fong