Chest Expander Exercises

Circus strongmen

The chest expander is an old-fashioned piece of exercise technology that consists of a rubber or elastic tube with handles on each side. There are several models of this equipment. While the handles are mostly uniform in design, the tubes themselves offer a variety of resistance levels that should suit everyone from the beginner to the very advanced. With several built-in advantages over traditional weightlifting machines, chest expander exercises are a low-cost and effective way to build strength and flexibility.


The chest expander is a basic exercise device that uses the inherent resistance in rubber or other elastic material to build muscle. The device consists of two handles attached to the foot or wrapped around a stationary object like a door corner. Between these handles are one to three rubber tubes, which generally range in resistance between 10 and 50 pounds apiece but can be considerably more. This simplicity allows for a variety of workout options, as the resistance can range in any combination from 10 to 300 pounds. The array of exercises is only limited by the physical capacity of your own arms and legs, as you can stretch the tubes at angles impossible for normal weight machines. Chest expanders are ideal for anyone interested in improving both strength and flexibility, from wrestlers to tennis players to archers. Chest expanders are also highly cost-effective, as the cables generally range in price from $10 to $30 apiece.

Strength Training

Chest expander exercises are excellent for strength training. The motion of pulling the cables apart places a tremendous amount of tension not just on your muscles, but on the often-ignored tendons and ligaments that support those muscles. Additionally, the resistance in the cables constantly increases as the cable is stretched with no empty spots in the movement, allowing for a smooth, challenging exercise. This consistent movement allows the chest expander exercises to provide you with a distinctive and satisfying "pumping" sensation with each successful pull, which has the additional benefit of flushing the muscle with blood and removing metabolic waste. An excellent example of a strength-based chest expander exercise is the biceps curl.

Stand with one end of the chest expander wrapped around your right foot and the other end gripped in your right hand, with your elbow tucked in and your palm facing upward. Exhale, then raise your right hand to your shoulder. Make sure to bend at the elbow only and not the shoulder or wrist to maximize the workout on your biceps. Hold the handle at your shoulder for a moment, then inhale and slowly lower it back down to the original position. Repeat as necessary, with an equal number of repetitions for your left hand.

Flexibility Training

The chest expander works the arms, legs and shoulders from angles that traditional weights can't get to. With weights, your muscles are working against the resistance provided by gravity, which only pulls in the downwards direction. The rubber cables, however, can be stretched at any angle and any direction. By working out tendons and ligaments in tough-to-reach areas, you not only build more muscle growth but tremendous flexibility as well. One example of a chest expander exercise to improve flexibility is the standing cable rotation .

Stand with your feet hip-width apart with one end of the chest expander anchored around a stationary object such as a door, and the other end grasped in both your hands. Position your hands just below chest height and close to your body. Keep your back upright, your abdominals tensed and your shoulder blades pulled down and back throughout the duration of this exercise. Exhale, then slowly rotate your head, chest and torso in one unit away from the stationary anchor with your elbows bent and your upper arms close to your body. Hold this position for a moment, then inhale and rotate back to your original position. Repeat as necessary, performing an equal number of repetitions while facing the opposite side.

Advantages Over Weights

The elastic rubber cables in the chest expander provide variable resistance based on the strength and length of your pull, while traditional weights provide a fixed, static resistance based on gravity. Thus the chest expander can make exercises easier or harder, depending on what you are trying to achieve through your workout, and can therefore more efficient. With weights such as dumbbells, your body uses a lot of unnecessary energy supporting both the dumbbell and your body weight. Chest expanders, however, are relatively light and don't pull your body weight down into the floor. Only the muscle that is actually being exercised is using up your energy, allowing for longer workouts with less overall fatigue.