One of the major issues I have been working on with patients (and myself) is the great epidemic of rib flare.
What I’m calling rib flare is the lower front ribs popping upward. This can be seen at a lot of gyms and running trails. It is the inability of the abdominal core to maintain neutrality while the limbs are moving. This often places a lot of stress on low back with excessive lumbar extension.
There are several reasons for this. One may be abdominal core muscles that aren’t trained to maintain position. Another is a tight thoracic and ribcage that will not allow extension in the upper back portion so the entire thorax moves as a solid block. Upper chest shallow breathing also hinders the lower ribcage from engaging. Tight hips also play a part in that if they are restricted in movement, the lumbar has to try to extend to make up the lost motion.
Gymnasts have practiced keeping this core maintained with a variety of training exercises that include hollow body rocks. We will look at a simpler, but highly effective exercise we use in our corrective rehab programs for low back pain and dysfunctional running and lifting.
The exercise is called a “Dead Bug” because it resembles a bug on its back with legs in the air. The key is to maintain a spine with head on the ground, lower front ribs down and pelvis neutral. Keeping the lower front ribs from popping up requires several techniques including contracting the abdominals to pull the lower front ribs and pubic bone together.
Another technique is to think of pulling the ribcage as a cylinder down to the pelvis like a “French press” coffee maker. The pelvis is neutral when the front points of the pelvis, the ASIS, are in the same plane as the pubic bone relative to the floor. That is, a line drawn from ASIS to front pubic bone will be parallel to floor. Try to maintain this position while your arms and legs are overhead. Then slowly lower the legs point where the lower front ribs lose their position then bring them back up. Over time, you will be able to maintain abdominal core position while moving arms and legs.
Here is a link to some of our videos including Dead Bug:
Start watching for rib flare in yourself and others, it will surprise you how common it is.
To you in good health!
-Dr Mike Van Antwerp
Disclaimer: Before starting this or any exercise program, please consult with a qualified health care provider.
Share this post: