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How Can I Stop Flaring My Ribs

Q: I have a hard time pulling my ribs in. I love to flare them. How do I overcome this? How do I help my students to keep their ribs down?

A: Let's look at a little bit of anatomy first. Which muscles attach to the rib arch? Internal obliques, external obliques, rectus abdominis and the transversus abdominus.

As you can see we’re talking about more than just one muscle. At least one of these muscles must be weak in your body so you don't have the muscular endurance to keep the rib arch narrower.

I know that you have been working on this for quite a while, by taking mat classes for two years. You’ve also almost completed the mat teacher training. I know that you know what you're supposed to be doing. You're not starting from scratch but obviously you are probably at a point in your practice where you have to change your approach to get better results.

The transverses abdominis muscle stabilizes the spine in a neutral position. To increase the challenge to this muscle put yourself on an unstable surface such as a foam roller or soft squishy ball, while performing arm or leg movements, for example Toe Taps, Single Leg Stretch, or Arm Arcs.

Internal and external obliques are responsible for rotation, lateral flexion, and spine flexion. They also prevent those movements when working isometrically by stabilizing the spine in neutral.

By increasing the challenge to your spine on the transvers or frontal plane, you can challenge those muscles more effectively. Examples of exercises on the mat are Side Plank, Side Kicks, Side Bending, such as Mermaid, Side Kneeling Oblique Work.

I would also highly recommend working on the Pilates apparatus. Exercises such as

- Side Sit Ups on the Ladder Barrel or Reformer,

- Side Balance/Lateral flexion on the Chair,

- Side-lying Spring Series on the Trapeze Table,

- Side Pull-ups on the Chair,

- Side Arm Twist on the Chair.

Finally make sure you use a strong exhalation with much mental focus on closing that rib arch. Make it your top priority for a few weeks in every single exercise, allowing yourself to postpone fixing other body parts later on.

We tend to focus on too many things at once which results in not putting all our effort into one part. If you give your ribs 25% of your energy because you are giving the other 75% of your energy to your shoulders or your leg or foot alignment etc. then you will also only get 25% of results.

Pick a single focus for yourself for the next two weeks and see what happens.

Hope that was helpful.

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