Do Chest Expanders Really Work?

chest expanders
February 15, 2023 0 Comments

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In this article I will be answering the question “do chest expanders really work?”. Chest expanders are an old school piece of equipment that were used by many great natural bodybuilders decades ago.

They were a very effective tool for building up a muscular physique – in particular the upper body. Since those days they have largely fallen out of favour as resistance bands and cable machines have gained in popularity. 

This article will explore the use case of chest expanders and their effectiveness. 

Do Chest Expanders Really Work?

The simple answer is they do work and the results speak for themselves. The early bodybuilders that used these tools would develop incredible separation in their upper back muscles and a much better developed torso.

Fred Rollon for instance was a bodybuilder that had developed an incredible physique back in 1905. He swore by chest expanders and they were his primary tool for training. Although the chest expanders he used then were of far greater resistances than the ones sold today. 

The big benefit of chest expanders is their versatility. Not only can you use the expanders to work your chest and increase size, you can also improve your traps, rear delts and arms with this tool.

They are arguably slightly superior to resistance bands in terms of the strength curve and are very tough once you get to 5 springs or more. 

Recruits More Than Just Chest Muscles

A big benefit of chest expanders is that they recruit more muscles than just the pectorals. Whilst they are marketed as a chest training tool, you can improve the size and strength of other muscles with this tool.

The chest expander is a fantastic way of training the upper back and traps. It is also brutally hard with heavy resistances and a unique way of stimulating the upper back muscles.

The old school bodybuilders who used this tool would very often have incredible upper back development and separation of the muscles. This is one of the reasons why chest expanders are so great.

chest expanders

Big Jumps In Resistance

One of the drawbacks with the chest expander is that the jumps in resistance can be too big for some people. It is therefore advisable to hit at least 12 reps on an exercise with one spring setting before jumping to add another spring for the exercise.

This will ensure progression, you will have to spend more time increasing the reps with a given spring setting. It would be good to have smaller increments available, one way of getting around this is to buy multiple chest expanders with different resistances. 

The same problem can be seen with resistance bands as well. Often there are big jumps between bands. This is not a major problem in general, it just requires more patience in your training to make progressions.

Alphadestiny Views

There is a very informative video from Alex at Alphadestiny that can be viewed below. In the video Alex provides some good background into the chest expander and the utility of this training tool.

I largely agree with the points that he raises, namely how versatile the chest expander is. You can develop a very thick and sinewy physique as he puts it with constant use.

The average five spring chest expander that is sold today has a tensile strength of 30kg. This is a lot less that the tensile strength of the chest expander that Rollon used decades ago in his training.

There are also heavy duty chest expanders on the market today that have seven springs. Though you will not find an expander that was as tough as the one that Rollon used. 

He also makes a very good point in the video about how calisthenics athletes could benefit more from the chest expander. If you are already training in a gym with a combination of free weights, machines and bands, you will get less utility from the chest expander.

The chest expander can still be an incredibly useful tool for some unique stimulation, a different strength curve and for hitting your muscles from different angles. 

Calisthenics athletes or people who train at home with minimal equipment can benefit the most from the versatility afforded to you by the chest expander. This tool can fill in a lot of missing gaps for you that would otherwise be filled by dedicated machines or cables. 

Injury Risk

It is important to cover the injury risks of using the chest expander. It is very important to ease in to your training with lighter resistances. This is so that you can get a feel for the tool and reduce injury risks.

In addition, you have to be careful with heavy resistances. When you are close to nearing fatigue, there is a risk that the tool could fly out of your hands and pose an injury risk. You have to pay careful attention to this. 

Stay in control when using the chest expanders and be smart about your training.

Alternatives To The Chest Expander

Simple alternatives to the chest expander would be to use cables in the gym. You can use the cable pulley station to hit exercises like pec flyes and rear delt flyes.

In addition you can also target your upper back using bands or cables. I believe the big advantage of chest expanders is that they allow you to perform so many exercises with a great deal of efficiency with a single tool. 

Resistance bands can also be a very effective way to train and they are very cheap. You can use heavy duty bands and get a similar benefit. 

Final Thoughts

Do chest expanders really work? I hope my article has provided you with a good insight into this tool. Chest expanders are very effective and the results they can give you speak for themselves.

Many old school bodybuilders swore by chest expanders and for good reason. Just because machine and band training became more popular doesn’t mean that training with chest expanders is redundant or doesn’t offer any utility.

Chest expanders are most useful for calisthenics trainees or people who train at home in a home gym with less equipment than they would have access to in a commercial gym.

If you have any comments on chest expanders, please leave them below. As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!

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