What is Rib Flare and Exercises to Help

Rib boobs.

That’s what I’ve heard them called.

When your ribs are sticking out, they’re out of alignment. They should lay flat inside your torso. This rib flare is a sign that your core muscles aren’t doing their job. Specifically, the deep core stabilizer, the transverse abdominis, and obliques.

If the external obliques and/or transverse abdominis muscles are dysfunctional, the ribs can flare out. The muscles should be pulling the ribs down in place, but may be too weak to properly pull on the bones.

If you have a diastasis, there is a good chance that you have a rib flare as well. Diastasis recti usually comes with multiple symptoms including rib flare and muscle weaknesses.

Additionally, if you have an anterior pelvic tilt, chances are your ribs are popping up.

Core Anatomy

Have a look at the picture of the external obliques. They attach up on the ribs as well as low near the pelvis.

Now look at the inner thigh muscles pictured in blue below.

We don’t often think of the inner thigh muscles being part of the core, but they are connected to the abs via fascial lines. Look at where the inner thigh muscles attach on the pelvis. It’s very close to where the obliques attach.

If you imagine an X on the front side of your body, that would connect the left external obliques and the right inner thigh muscles. And the right external obliques and left inner thigh muscles.

The center of the X is where your two pubic bones come together.  This point is called the pubic symphysis.  It is the connection point for this oblique muscle line.  There are ligaments here that hold the bones close.

The break in this line of muscle could be the obliques, the ligaments at the public symphysis, or the inner thighs.

Exercises for Rib Flare

Getting your muscles tested will be the best way to determine your exact corrective exercise strategy.  But here are some exercises that may help!

Twisting Crunch

Your obliques rotate the torso. So taking your left shoulder towards your right hip will strengthen the external oblique muscle.

Dead Bug

One of my all-time favs! There are dozens of variations of the dead bug exercise. So, I’ll share the current one I’m loving.

Squeeze the stability ball with both your arms and your thighs. Keep your arms straight. This engages your lats (on your back) as well as the deep core stabilizer: the transverse abdominis.

Pay attention to alignment. When you’re doing any exercise lying on your back, feel your ribs staying connected to the floor. When you’re reaching overhead, be aware of what your ribs do. Can you keep them down?

Keeping your ribs over your pelvis locks in your abdominal muscles and minimizes any rib flare.

Incorporate Breath

Exhaling will help your abdominal muscles contract.  While doing the twisting crunch, exhale as you lift and twist; inhale as you lower.

During the dead bug, make sure the breath.  Focus on long, slow exhales.  Holding your breath will reduce tension in your abs.

Summary

You may not have noticed a rib flare. That’s okay!

What you may be noticing is lower back pain, weak abdominals, tight hamstrings. All of those could be symptoms of having a rib flare. Again, this is not an isolated muscle issue. Many core muscles influence rib position. This is one approach to getting your ribs to sit over top of your pelvis.

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