Tutorial #2148

Rib Placement

10 min - Tutorial


We've all heard the cue to "keep the ribcage closed" or to "thread the ribs together." In this tutorial, Cecile Bankston offers a quick guide that you can use to help maintain proper rib and spinal alignment during movement. She shows how you can breathe into the ribs and how you can work in different positions like standing or side-lying. She also demonstrates how you can work within your range of motion to keep your alignment.
What You'll Need: Mat

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Apr 19, 2015
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Hi, today we're going to be talking about the proper rib and spinal alignment within movement. Um, we like to talk about keeping our rib cage closed. You'll hear that term a lot or threading the ribs together or bringing the ribs down towards the hips. Um, so I'm gonna start off with Tyler in a position where he's got his hands on his ribs. We're gonna think about breathing laterally. So rather than up and down, he's coming to the side, he's gonna Inhale, his hands are actually going to expand with his rib cage. As he exhales, the rib cage is going to close and all the air is going to be sent down into his low abdominals. So he's going to inhale and as he exhales, everything comes down. Okay. Now from the side, let's have him go sideways. Um, as he inhales, if he does it correctly, his rib cage is going to come up and his chest is going to come out. And what you'll see is, is a little bit of an arch and the thoracic spine here.

So what we want to try to do is open all this up, keep this nice and flat and not let the rib cage affect all of that. So as he inhales, nothing changes here as he Hales is air is going down towards his low abs. Do it wrong. So inhale, his chest is going to rise up and that's what we don't want to see. You're going to, you want to keep your chest out of it and keep all of this wide. Keep the rib cage closed is what you'll hear us talk about a lot of times. Okay, let's go on to lying on the back.

This is when it becomes more complicated. So lying on his back, I'm going to have him. This is just lying, still not doing any movement yet. Show the wrong position of the rib cage. So his back is arched, his ribs are sticking out. You can see that very easily. Um, the way that we want to bring all this down in [inaudible] we talk about, um, keeping a neutral spine without tucking the pelvis. But the other thing that we forget to talk about a lot is the ribs staying closed and together.

So I like to have people put a hand on the shoulder and a hand on the opposite hip. And so as he inhales, those hands are going to stay where they are. But as he acts, Hales, the hands are going to actually draw closer together. So his rib cage is coming down and his hands are drawing closer together. Inhale and exhale. Everything comes down and together. Alright, so now hands go down. Okay. His ribs are nice and flat.

His spine is in a great position. He's not talking his pelvis to keep that spine in alignment. Now I'm going to ask him to slightly slide his hands down as if he were going to curl forward. It's going to slide his hands down towards his heels, bring his head, neck and shoulders up and the rib cage stays closed. Okay, now this is a big mistake that all of us tend to do. As we relax back down, we allow our rib cage to open up. Okay, what we, that is not what we want to do. So do it correctly. Deep breath in, exhale, and he's going to bring the ribs closed. Hands forward.

He's keeping this close. Now as he lies back down, he's going to keep that rib cage closed. Okay, so that's just a curl forward. Put your hands behind your head. Take a nice deep breath. Now just the simple action of putting hands behind the head made him his rib cage. So again, we're going to try to close the ribs. We often talk about threading your ribs together, so it's as if you're literally trying to pull the red both sides of the rib cage together. So deep breath in. Exhale, let's curl forward. He's going to curl forward. What a lot of us do when we curl forward, when we think about the rib staying close, we tuck our pelvis and we think we getting further forward. By doing that.

We don't want to do that. We want to drop the pelvis into that neutral spine position. Curl forward. The ribs are nice and closed as he goes down, he's gonna keep them closed. Okay, so if we have a problem doing that was to the arm and legs slide, we're going to put hands down first. You can try to just raise your arms up to the ceiling. Now take the arms back only as far as you can without the rib cage moving.

So wrong would be here. If he takes him all the way back, his ribs are going to come up. Okay, so for him, he's got to come just to here. That's as far as he can go. Keeping the rib cage in place. All right, bring the arms back down. Now the next thing to try, if you're having trouble with this is an arm and leg slide. So he's going to take one arm back, take the opposite leg out, because once we start moving the legs again, it gets complicated. The back wants to arch the ribs. Want to open up.

So we're going to do that again and we're not going to let that happen. Deep breath in. Exhale, he's going to keep all of this tight, which requires oblique work, your low abdominal work. Good. And come back together. Try the other legs, side, arm and leg out. And you only go as far as you can with that rib cage closed and come back together. Good. Good. Okay, now we're going to go onto his side. So sideline, when you're doing your mat work sideline, a lot of times we talk about keeping a breath of air underneath the red cage.

Okay? So I want to be able to slide the c just a little bit of air under there. Okay. So he's got to really pull these guys in and together and up. Okay. Now if he were doing it wrong, he's, he would be lying down on the mat. His back's gonna. Actually you can't see it, but his back, what is actually arching a little bit and his ribs are poking out.

So I'm gonna ask him to pull all that back, lift up a little bit. So I see that breath of air. Okay. A lot of it has to do with where your legs are as well. If you have a problem with keeping that position, your legs may be too far behind you or they may, you may not be able to do it with your legs directly to the side. We're going to bring the legs slightly forward so he can maintain this position.

Now let's lift both legs up. When he lifts the legs up, he wants to maintain this position with his ribs. Okay? And put the legs back down. The next place we get into trouble is when you're doing your sidekicks series. So if he were to lift his top leg and he's going to kick it to the front. Good. He's holding this now as he goes to the back.

What happens a lot as we roll forward on this hip, we allow the ribs to go and the spine to arch. Okay, so again, I'm going to ask him to bring that leg slightly forward when he kicks it where each forward, keep the rib cage close. Good. You can go pretty far now as he goes back, he can't go nearly as far as that without affecting all of this. So he's only going back to here. Okay. So that he can hold onto that position. Good. Okay. Now let's do the more advanced position in our sidekicks series where we were up on our elbows. So when we talk about being, this is an option a lot of times when you're doing your side line work, so this becomes more complicated again, because ribs want to come out and poke out like this.

We don't want that. We don't want to shoulders up. We want to shoulders down with the red cage down and together that lots of air under there. So this becomes much more complicated as he lifts the leg up and he takes it front. You know, he's got to keep all this together and as he takes it to the back, he's going to control all of this. He's got a really uses oh obliques to keep that under control and come back and together. Good. Good. Alright. Okay, let's go on into quadro pit position. So I'm going to have him on all, okay.

Now what? Let's do a cat cow movement. So we're going to curl the spine. Okay. What a lot of us do is we think about, I know I do a lot of times I think about the upper back. I think about rounding my back and it's really my upper back that does most of the arching and what I really want is I want the upper back and the lower back to arch.

So a lot of times what you need to think more about is your lower back arching. Yes. Now the ribs came way up and in, okay, and flat back. Now go to a slight arch. When we tell you to go into that slight arch, this is, this is the position we want to go into. We don't want to go so far into that arch that he's just dropping everything down. His ribs, his stomach and his back is very pronounced into that arch. He's got to pull all this up so that he's maintaining even more a flatter position. More good.

Now we're going to do the same exact thing we did lying down. We're going to do the arm and legs slide so you can take an arm and a leg out and try to maintain that position. Okay. This is very difficult for some people just right there to hold that position. I want to ask him to keep this in alignment so that this back arm didn't drop down, that shoulder didn't drop down. His hips need to stay even. Okay, now come back in. Let's try the other leg slided out. And what he did that was beautiful is I didn't see him shift over to that one leg. He's staying in the middle.

Stomach is pulled in and up. Rib Cage is closed. Now let's see if we can lift the leg up. So we're going to lift his leg up again. This is wrong and he's allowing his back to arch his rib cage to poke out. He's going to pull the ribs up, pull the low abs up, and I want to get him to get his hip bones nice and even pull this up and that's a good position there and come back in. Good.

So that is, that is a quick guide on some things you can practice to keep your rib cage close within movement.


Hi Cecile,
great video, thanks for that. Can you explain what are all the reasons we need to have ribs in proper alignment? What are consequences caused by incorrect position of ribs while exercising?
Hi Silvia, thanks for your question. One of the main reasons is because when the ribs begin to "flair out" it usually causes the thoracic or middle of the back to over arch creating an incorrect position of the spine.

Another big reason, especially in a curling forward and then lying down movement like a sit up or a roll up is that once again the spine gets out of alignment when one lies down allowing the ribs to flair, then when the person begins to come back up the usually are having to fix the ribs to begin the movement which often means that a good part of the upward movement is caused by using the back rather than the abdominals.

Hope this helps!!
Thank you Cecile!it really helps!very nice and understable explanation.
2 people like this.
very nice explanation cecile, especially the part regarding the cat stretch....all of my clients arch a lot the thoracic spine and not the lumbar spine, and i always cue them about it....i find that sometimes there's a lot of misunderstanding about closing the ribs, because most of the times people try to do it with too much effort, and the only result is that they become stiff , and they don't need that at all...the softer way sometimes pay more than the strong way, but it's very difficult to teach that to people looking only for fast results...
...and sorry for my english, i don't practice it very much here in italy...
Thanks Fillipo, I'm glad it came across as clear. I agree with you it's still hard to get people to do this without getting over focused on it. It just takes time, but hopefully some of this helps.
Great tutorial, the exercise with the arm crossed has worked great with my clients to get a sense of the ribcage being closed. Thank you!
1 person likes this.
Loving your hair!!!
God this has been helpful for all!
Hi Cecile,
one more question sorry for bothering!
at min 5:13 that's as far as he can go...
is it because his ribcage is not elastic enough?
Thanks a lot!
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