Chuck Sipes (Mr. America), Reg Park (Arnold’s rolemodel) and the father of bodybuilding ‘John Grimek’…They all used and included chest expander in their training routine! The following article was written by John Grimek around 1960 (published in S&H)! And don’t forget to use my tag-system below for more great articles about cable training! – Mr. Berg
“Chest expanders have long been favored by many people as a fine medium for developing larger muscles. This seems particularly true among those who indulge in some form of calisthenics. Many of these people apparently lack certain fundamental knowledge about resistance in exercise, such as weight training, and are often frightened by the thought of handling weights at this stage of their training. Yet these people exhibit little or no fear of using chest expanders, which as regular users know, can be increased almost to any strength simply by adding more strands to the handles.
Most of the people who follow some type of calisthenics will, in one of their more ambitious moments, yearn to try something that will provide their muscles with more work, and almost instinctively are drawn to chest expanders. To them, somehow, chest expanders are not associated with the strain that they feel toward weights, so they accept expanders and enjoy using them in their workouts.
Of course any calisthenic trainee who begins to use expanders in his training will start out by using the lightest resistance available, which is proper. But most any good expander set is adjustable so that even the weakest individual can start out with one strand, and adding more as his strength increases. Needless to add, almost any type of chest expander will provide more work for the muscles than any free hand calisthenics will.
There are many avid cable pullers who employ chest expanders for muscular development almost daily. And because the expanders are so compact, they can be taken anywhere one goes.
Cables have another outstanding feature. They are noiseless. They can be used anywhere at any time without disturbing anyone, even late at night when everything is dead silent.
So in this respet chest expanders do have an advantage over the weights. And this, no doubt, is one of the reasons why cable training is so popular with bodybuilders while on vacation or when travelling.
Chest expanders of varying types have been on the market for years, but York sold, and still sells, an exclusive type of chest expander.
It’s made of all natural, flat rubber bands. These bands come in varying strengths, from number 1, which could be used even by women and children, to a number 5, which is strong enough to give even the strongest expander puller a terrific workout. And in recent months we’ve been able to have narrower rubber strips made that can be added to the regular flat bands and thus increase the tensional strength of the cables more gradually.
With these newer narrower strips anyone can obtain precisely the right amount of tension he desires, thus aiding the muscle to develop maximum size and muscularity. The muscles seem to accept this small added resistence without strain or any imposition in any way, and so seem to improve rapidly.
Lots of bodybuilders who train with weights will often use chest expanders to supplement their regular bodybuilding exercises, or when they are away on trips.
When Hugo Labra drove from the West Coast to York, for example, he knew he wouldn’t have the oportunity to do much training enroute, so he brought along his chest expanders and had his workout when he stopped to rest for the night. As a result he retained most of his size and muscularity as some of the accompanying pictures show.
However, none of these photos do him justice and he must be seen in person to appreciate his muscularity. He even employed expander exercise while he was training here, using cables on his alternate training days. I’m sure that the fact that he uses cables on his alternate training days has something to do with his wide-spreading back, his thick arms and massive deltoids.
Some of the weight-trained men who haven’t used expanders in their training are somewhat skeptical about the results that can be expected. I’m aware of this because questions of this sort turn up quite often. A few questions regarding chest expanders are:
Do cables offer a practical substitute for weights? Can one get a good workout with cables? Will the musccles respond to regular cable training? Can muscularity be acquired through cable training?
Having used chest expanders myself I can readily admit to their effectiveness and truthfully say that chest expanders do provide the muscles with a terrific workout if enough resistance and repetitions are included. This is especially true in regards to the arms, shoulders, chest and back. In fact I don’t believe anything pumps the arms and shoulders like chest expander movements. Of course there is a reason for this.
Expanders continue to increase in resistance as they are stretched so that at the completion of the movement the greatest tension is obtained. And this is what makes certain muscles of the body respond better…this extra resistance at the conclusion of the movement.
In most barbell and dumbbell exercises when the movement is completed there is less resistance involved than at the start. With cable exercises this is the opposite; the tension is relatively mild when the movement is first started but begins to increase as they are stretched to complete the movement.
This principle has definite advantages. However, I am not suggesting to give up weight training in favor of chest expanders exclusively, although I do feel that by combining them both better muscular development can be acquired.
Another detail worth remembering is that when you don’t have the facilities of a gym at your disposal, or are not carrying your weights along, cables can afford a cery fine substitute and give the muscles a good workout.
As already mentioned, they are not a transportation problem and can always be packed away within a small area of your suitcase. What’s more they offer a delightful change in training, something you’ll enjoy and look forward to. And as far as developing muscularity with cables is concered, I think you’ll agree that any avid cable puller has remarkable muscular definition of muscles, and shows exceptional development of the shoulders, arms, back and chest.
One other feature that is not often mentioned in relation to expanders is that the whole set doesn’t weigh much. Naturally, to the average rugged cable puller this means nothing at all. But to an individual weakened because of a heart condition or paralysis, etc., this factor is very important because there isn’t any strain involved while holding the cables in any position. For example, when the expanders are held out in front of the chest prior to stretching them, there is absolutely no strain or effort to maintain this position.
But try holding out a pair of five-pound dumbbells in this position and the tension is greatly increased because of leverage. Yet more exercise can be had from pulling the expander than with even 10-pound dumbbells. So this factor is very important to the heart patient who must exercise but is unable to stand any strain.
Most of these exercises shown here can be done while standing, lying or sitting down with equal effectiveness. Moreover, the expanders can readily be used as a wall pulley simply by anchoring one end securely to a wall or some spot and using the other end as a pulley.
And this is easier and more efficient with the latest, narrower strips than with the wider bands. These narrower bands have greater elongation power so provide a long range of stretching.
Of course these newest strips are readily combined with the wider flat band that York sold exclusively for years, and these narrower strips were purposely designed to be used separately or along with the wider bands. Their main purpose, however, was to supply only a small, additional tension when needed in some exercise, which was lacking in the wider bands.
These natural flat rubber expanders and the latest narrower strips are by far the safest of all expanders on the market today. Even if one of the bands did slip, because it was not fixed in the handle properly (which seldom happens because of the rubber design), all that can be expected is a hard slap without any dangerous metal fittings coming loose to injure you.
This factor alone is worthy to mention and should be considered by those who use expanders regularly. And if you’re planning on buying an expander set, try either the wide flat bands or the newest narrower strips. They will serve you well and help you develop bigger muscles! – John Grimek