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Ribcage Opening Strategies for the Thoracic Backbone, A Silent Perpetrator in Leg Stiffness – iRunFar

Stay the CourseThe thoracic backbone and ribcage are among the many most neglected and underappreciated components of a runner.

In comparison with the remainder of the physique, the thorax — until banged and bruised by a fall — is seldom painful or injured. And whereas its utility as a respiration mechanism and coronary heart protector is acknowledged, it performs one other big function in connecting and transferring our legs, by way of fascia.

Via its fascial connections with the pelvis and hips, under, thoracic backbone and ribcage stiffness might play a serious function in decrease extremity vary of movement loss, in addition to aches, pains, damage, and reductions in pace and endurance.

To handle these essential however oft-forgotten areas, I’ve devised a collection of latest stretches for all runners to each improve thoracic backbone and ribcage mobility, in addition to optimize arm and leg mobility and total operating effectivity.

Stay the Course - Rib Cage and Thoracic Spine mobility - running

Mobilizing the thoracic backbone and ribcage may help with total operating effectivity. Picture: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

The Roles of the Ribcage

In our first-ever article about it, we outlined a number of biomechanical capabilities and influences of the thoracic backbone and ribcage throughout operating, together with:

Environment friendly Foot Strike

An environment friendly foot-under-body touchdown requires a balanced, impartial trunk.

Hip Energy

A impartial thoracic backbone facilitates essentially the most environment friendly and propulsive hip flexion and extension.

Arm Swing

An environment friendly arm swing requires a balanced, cellular ribcage, over which the shoulder blade slides.

Joe Uhan neutral and forward trunk engagement

The creator demonstrating an environment friendly arm swing. Picture courtesy of Joe Uhan.

“Quick, Lengthy, and Twist”

The thorax produces small-but-vital propulsive motions, together with aspect bends and rotations, that end in unilateral shortening and lengthening — which creates optimum propulsion and a extra cushioned touchdown.

Lung Enlargement and Oxygen Uptake

An environment friendly ribcage, utilizing the diaphragm muscle and surrounding fascia, can develop and contract the lungs for optimum breath quantity.

Optimum Organ Operate

Many important organs are saved inside the ribcage. The nervous system to them, and the organs of the digestive organs of the stomach, movement by way of the thoracic backbone.

I’m about to sound like an informercial voiceover, right here: “However wait, there’s extra!” As a result of the thoracic backbone is answerable for much more than that.

Thoracic Fascia and Its Impression on Leg Mobility

As a operating specialist of 15 years, treating — and failing to resolve — many instances of continual and cussed foot, knee, hip, backbone, and every little thing in between ache, utilizing typical treat-the-pain approaches challenged me.

Slightly than proceed to hammer sq. pegs into spherical holes, demanding extra endurance, extra visits, and extra shopper cash, I as a substitute labored exterior the field.

For native ache, I started to look at and deal with the entire physique:

Cussed knee ache required I first tackle the hip and pelvis, in addition to the foot. Treating the hip and pelvis received most knee ache higher. However not all of it.

Then I acknowledged how mobility of the intestine, which sits within the pelvis, impacts the pelvis and hip, which impacts the knee. This improved much more knee ache, however not all of it.

These buildings are all linked by way of fascia: a pervasive connective tissue that gives each connection and scaffolding construction for all tissues of the physique.

Diagram of skeletal muscle showing the fascia

Diagram of skeletal muscle displaying the fascia. Picture: Shutterstock

Lastly, on the thoracic backbone, I famous that these shoppers with cussed hip and pelvic stiffness typically had very stiff ribcages. And once I addressed thoracic mobility — specifically with particular consideration not solely to the vertebrae and ribs, however the fascia and organs inside the ribcage — I received the perfect and most sustainable mobility positive factors.

How is the thoracic backbone linked to the pelvis, hips, and legs? Via fascia.

Particularly, it’s the transversalis fascia — a fascial layer beneath the transverse abdominis, thought of the granddaddy of core stability muscle groups, which runs like a large skilled wrestling belt, throughout the entrance of the stomach, all the way in which again to the backbone.

Transverse abdominis

The transverse abdominis. Picture: Shutterstock

However extra notably, it connects the round rim of the pelvis to the decrease ribcage and diaphragm, our huge respiration and higher core stability muscle.


The diaphragm, proven inside the rib cage. Picture: Shutterstock

If the thoracic backbone — specifically decrease ribs and diaphragm — loses mobility, it creates rigidity by way of the transversalis fascia, which may then pull on the pelvis. When the pelvis is below rigidity, it could possibly:

  • Get caught in elevation
  • Get caught right into a rotation, most frequently anterior rotation
  • Fail to maneuver far sufficient, or within the required instructions

With out getting too nuanced, a stiff ribcage makes for stiff hips by way of this fascia connection. Thus, optimizing thoracic mobility — however specifically decrease ribcage mobility and this fascial connection — can considerably enhance mobility all through the decrease physique.

And right here’s my new favourite strategy to do it.

Ribcage Opener with a Ball

Standard thoracic mobility emphasizes extension. And whereas it is a key movement, it’s certainly one of solely six vital motions of the thoracic vertebrae and ribs, which incorporates flexion, aspect bending, and rotation. Furthermore, what cellular thoracic-abdominal-pelvic fascia requires is environment friendly ribcage mobility that “opens and closes” — ribs that may functionally inhale and exhale.

Throughout inhalation, a lot of the ribs transfer upward and outward. Then, in exhalation, they need to chill out downward. Nevertheless, for numerous causes — together with posture, stress, and trauma — ribs can get caught in both elevation (inhalation) or melancholy (exhalation).

Performing solely trunk extension may facilitate some rib elevation, however the fascial system wants extra movement. Trunk rotation is one other good possibility, nevertheless it too fails to emphasise end-range rib elevation and melancholy.

How About Aspect Bending?

Aspect bending is a relative opening (inhalation) on one aspect of the physique, with a closing (exhalation) on the opposite. That is an optimum ribcage intervention. And to actually get the complete vary of movement, let’s strive it over a ball.

The next video, and the steps outlined beneath, will present you the way:

Performing the Ribcage Ball Opener

To carry out, receive a big inflatable remedy ball. The perfect measurement is giant sufficient to really feel a giant stretch within the lateral ribs and trunk, however sufficiently small to simply contact the bottom with the underside leg and arm.

Then, place the decrease leg in a flexed place. It will assist stability you and stop an excessive amount of low again extension. The underside arm needs to be planted on the ground, like a modified aspect plank.

As soon as in place, there are a selection of methods for various sorts and intensities of stretching, together with:

  • Static aspect mendacity and respiration: In a side-bent place, respiration is a strong mobilizing software for the ribcage, diaphragm, stomach fascia, and pelvis. Strive a chronic breath maintain, with an inflated ribcage, and breath stacking. Take three breaths — a major, then two further — with out exhaling, for maximal quantity.
  • Rotate and attain: Rotation ahead will facilitate relative flexion (or exhalation) of the higher ribs; a backward rotation, extra elevation (inhalation) of ribs.
  • Quick and lengthy: Strive the running-specific quick and lengthy maneuver to maneuver each the arm and leg over the ribcage and pelvis, respectively.
  • Hip extension: Purposeful hip extension requires fascial mobility, not solely by way of the hip itself, however across the pelvis, stomach, and trunk. Carry out repetitions of hip extension to each stretch and strengthen into your new vary of movement.
Stay the Course - Ribcage opener ball exercise

The creator performing the ribcage opener train on a ball. Picture: Joe Uhan


The thoracic backbone might home our coronary heart and pump our lungs, however the way it connects to our legs and arms performs an enormous function in alignment, mobility, and effectivity of all the decrease physique. Hold it transferring in all instructions!

Name for Feedback

  • Have you ever skilled stiffness within the thoracic backbone?
  • Have you ever tried Joe’s suggestions for mobilizing this a part of the physique?

Supply hyperlink

Hector Antonio Guzman German
Dr. Hector A. Guzman
Graduado de Doctor en medicina en la universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo en el año 2004. Luego emigró a la República Federal de Alemania, dónde se ha formado en medicina interna, cardiologia, Emergenciologia, medicina de buceo y cuidados intensivos.


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