How to Measure Chest Expansion

young woman measuring young man's chest with a measuring tape

A normal adult chest should expand about 2 to 5 inches when the subject takes a deep breath. The inability to expand your chest normally may be an indication of a lung problem, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or a spinal issue. Have your chest expansion measured to spot any potential problems that may require medical intervention.

Locate the fourth intercostal space, between the fourth and fifth ribs on the front of the subject’s chest. Have the subject place his hands on his head, then position the tape measure around the subject’s chest at the level of the spot you located.

Ask the subject to breathe in as far as possible. Take your measurement.

Instruct the subject to breathe out as far as possible and not to breathe in until you tell him to do so. Take your measurement, then note the difference between this number and the number you noted in Step 2. The difference between the two numbers represents the subject’s chest expansion.

Repeat the measurement process and record the larger number.


Your chest expansion measurement should be within 1 inch of the expected norm for your age and gender. Between 25 and 34 years old, for example, a man’s chest should expand about 3 inches, while a woman’s should expand slightly over 2 inches.


Seek medical attention if your chest expansion is outside of the normal range.