The chest expander is traditionally associated with old-time circus strongmen and the bodybuilding ads in the back of comic books, but this underrated piece of exercise equipment has a real upside. The chest expander is a cheap, effective and versatile device that has many advantages over traditional weights. It presents few drawbacks.
What is a Chest Expander?
The chest expander is a deceptively simple piece of exercise equipment that consists of two handles connected by cables made of elastic tubing or metal springs. The cables offer varying levels of resistance, generally within the range of five to thirty pounds apiece. There are three cables, which means even with five-pound elastic tubes, you're still getting fifteen pounds of resistance every time you stretch the expander.
Despite the name, the chest expander works out far more than the chest. It can provide excellent workouts for your biceps, triceps, shoulders, traps, deltoids and upper back muscles in addition to the pectorals. By looping one handle around your foot and holding the other one in your hand, you can even use it to get a good workout for your legs. Its potential uses are only limited by your imagination and flexibility.
The chest expander has many advantages over traditional weights such as the dumbbell and barbell. For one, it is relatively cheap. A standard set costs between $20 and $50. It also takes up very little space and can be carried practically anywhere. Anyone who has tried to take a barbell set on a plane can understand the advantages of a device made with lightweight elastic tubes.
The cables of the expander offer steady resistance. With standard weightlifting, there are "dead zones" in the range of motion when you reach the upper or lower end of each movement. With a chest expander, however, the resistance is always present and actually increases as you stretch it, giving you far more control over the level of resistance in your workout.
While the chest expander can mimic almost any workout you can get from a dumbbell or exercise machine, it has the additional benefit of being able to work your muscles from any angle. This means the chest expander not only builds up your strength, it also increases your flexibility.
Injuring yourself while using a chest expander might be less likely than when using a dumbbell or kettlebell, which you could drop on yourself, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. The resistance loads in the elastic tubes can be quite high, and having a handle unexpectedly snap back can be a painful experience. Chest expanders that use metal springs instead of elastic tubes have an additional element of danger, as the springs can pinch your skin and get caught in your hair, depending on how you use it.
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