Understanding how to isometrically brace the spine serves us a lot of good. If the core muscles aroud the spine can understand how to ‘brace’ then we can progress more confidently into the next stages of training- that is, integrating the extremities of the body. First, we have to understand how to not flare our ribs out.
Who is at risk?
The short answer is, all of us. Some of the people who will experience a ribflare are tightly wound and anxious people, because they are always breathing in and essentially stuck on their inhalation. Also, anybody with an important job or high-stress career, typically because they have to keep their chest up and head high. This leads to leaning back into the spine, thus creating a flare of the ribs forward.
What is rib flare?
Rib flare is when the ribs unnecessarily elevate, tilt backwards, extend forward, and scoop upwards into what is called a ‘posterior tilt’ of the ribcage. This can often be accompanied by an anterior tilt of the pelvis, though it doesn’t have to be. When the rib flare happens, it stresses the low back out and immediately decreases the efficiency of your breathing. Secondly, it stretches your core muscles into a long position, where they become slackened and struggle to engage, or draw inward.
Why you need to care
First off, if you can’t breathe well (due to poor rib position), everything else you do will suffer. Understanding how to ‘un train’ a rib flare means understanding how to fully exhale stale air and brace your core muscles. Second, if your ribs are over-extending, there is no communication between your diaphragm, core muscles, and pelvic floor. Instead there is a lot of ‘guessing’ going on in terms of how to move your spine and the rest of your body. This leads to more inefficient breathing, weird postural patterns, and unnecessary friction on the joints. Thirdly, when the ribs flare out, it pulls the low back anteriorly into an excessive arch, typically leading to a shift and tilt of the pelvis. So now you have an ‘open scissor’ position (see below image).
The longer you go without addressing this postural inefficiency, the more difficult it will be down the road to make this correction. It is advantageous for us to look at our ribcage position because it could make a big difference in our breathing, movement, sleep, posture, and overall health. Remember, the ribcage is the house to all of your major organs, and it is the home to your main respiratory muscle- the diaphragm. An ‘off’ ribcage could lead to all sorts of shoulder, neck, spine, or even hip issues down the road. I’ve seen people get injured (and I’ve been injured) all because of a lack of ribcage awareness.
Below look at a basic example of understanding spinal bracing- the deadbug. Check out Part 2 for more details about the Zone of Apposition.