How to Use a Chest Expander

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If you’re looking for an old-school training aid to help you develop muscular strength and power, try a chest expander. The expander handles have slots, which allow you to attach rubber cables with varying degrees of resistance. Unlike weights, the expander provides resistance from many different angles and allows a wider range of motion. The number of exercises you can perform with the expander is only limited by your imagination; still, most exercises focus on your upper body.

  • Ride a stationary bicycle, take a slow jog or engage in a similar light aerobic activity before your workout. A short, 10-minute warm-up gets your blood flowing and prepares your body for the task at hand. Follow your warm-up with a few dynamic stretches such as forward and backward arm circles or side-to-side trunk rotations. The warm-up and stretches can help prevent injury.

  • Target your shoulder and upper back muscles with reverse flyes. Grab the handles and start with your arms extended in front of your body shoulder-high and your palms facing inward. Keep a slight bend in your elbows, exhale, squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull the handles as far apart as possible. Inhale, slowly reverse your movements and repeat.

  • Perform lateral raises to continue to work your shoulders. Lower and extend your arms, keep the same grip and hold the expander so it is now across the front of your thighs. This is the starting position. While keeping a slight bend in your elbows, exhale, pull the handles apart and raise your arms until they are parallel to the floor-- your body forms the letter "T." Inhale, return to the starting position and repeat. Lateral raises can also be done with the expander behind your body.

  • Raise your arms and hold the expander behind and slightly above your head to get your upper arm muscles involved. Start with a 90-degree bend in your elbows and your palms facing away from each other. While keeping your upper arms stationary, move only your lower arms and pull the handles apart until your arms are parallel to the floor. Reverse to the starting position and repeat.

  • Strengthen and tone the muscles at the back of your upper arms with triceps extensions. Grab one handle with your right hand, allow the cables to hang behind your back and grab the other handle with your left hand. Keep your left hand stationary and extend your right arm straight above your shoulder to the starting position. While keeping your upper right arm in place, bend your right elbow, drop your hand down to the back of your neck, return to the starting position and repeat. Complete a set and repeat with your left arm.

  • Slide your right foot through one handle, stand on the handle and grab the other handle with your right hand to perform a one-hand curl. Start with your right arm extended by your side with your palm facing forward. Bend your elbow, pull your hand up to the front of your upper arm, return to the starting position and repeat. Complete a set and repeat with your left arm.

Tips & Warnings

  • For strength training, engage in expander workouts two to three days per week with at least one day of rest between sessions to allow for muscle recovery.
  • Perform two to three sets of 12 reps with each exercise.

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References

  • Photo Credit Robert Babczynski/Hemera/Getty Images
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