Things you should know - open vs closed exercises

Andrew Jansen

The older you get, the more you realise that small changes in the gym can lead to big changes in your strength and health.

You should know the difference between closed and open exercises and when to use them.


What are they?

Its pretty simple, Open - you hand or feet move the weight. Eg, DB Bench.

Closed, your hands are fixed, ie, the Pushup.

 Things you should know - open vs closed exercises


A squat is still a closed movement, your feet are fixed to the floor. Its easy to think most bodyweight movements are closed.


What is the difference?

In a closed movement the is significantly more shoulder, scapular, and trunk muscular activation than compared to a open movement.

Eg, you get more 'overall' from a dip than a bench.

Things you should know - open vs closed exercises


To be really obvious, we're not saying you get the biggest bench by doing dips, but we are saying that you will get more scap/trunk etc. This is especially true with the way we powerlifters benched, with a locked scap.


Why it matters?

In normal life, you don't always get to pin your shoulders down and back before exerting force. Many experienced powerlifters can express a extreme amount of power in the shoulder down and back position, but if asked to do a overhead press, will wiggle all over the place.


Why it may help you longterm

The 'boxers muscle' - the serratus anterior, starts at your ribs and inserts on the underside of your shoulder blade.

It moves your shoulder around (protracting, or separating your shoulder blades, and upwardly rotating them).

It allows you to actually express the strength of your musculature, whether throwing a ball, a punch or a rad high five.

Every single strong person has thrown a ball before and felt like their shoulder is going to blow up. This is bad, and not very hard to fix.


How to integrate into your workout

We think dips are one of the best accessories you can do. Just, please please, add them slowly or you will put yourself in a position where you can get hurt (ie, you get tired and drop way too deep).

Things you should know - open vs closed exercises


Work so you shoulder is slightly deeper than your elbow (as long as this is comfy) and get up to 15-20 slow good reps before you add weight.

Pushups with feet elevated are also a great option for upper pecs and shoulders.

For lower body, nothing beats single leg squats (rear foot on a bench).


    Comments (2)

    Alastair Nicol
    Bundy Morehu

    Leave a comment

    Please note, comments must be approved before they are published.