How to fix Flared Ribs

flared ribs

What are Flared Ribs?

Flared ribs is where the lower portion at the front of your rib cage protrudes forwards and out.

It is associated with an increased arch of the lower back.

Ideally – The rib cage should feed directly into the pelvis.


The content presented on this blog post is not medical advice and should not be treated as such. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment.

For more information: Medical disclaimer.


Causes of Flared Ribs

a) Weak abdominal muscles

The abdominal muscles are responsible for tilting the rib cage downwards and inwards into a more neutral position.

b) Hyperlordosis

flared ribs

Overactive/tight muscles (such as the quadratus lumborum, paraspinal erectors and latissimuss dorsi) can cause an excessive arch in the lower back which results in a rib flare.

Hyperlordosis is associated with an anterior pelvic tilt.

c) Ineffective breathing

The diaphragm is the primary muscle that is responsible for breathing.

Ineffective breathing will result in the recruitment of compensatory muscles to assist with respiration.

As a result, over-activity of these muscles can lead to flared ribs.

d) Lack of true shoulder flexion

When reaching over head –  if you lack true shoulder mobility, your ribs will tend to flare out as a compensation as you tilt your torso backwards.

e) Pectus excavatum

This is a congenital chest wall deformation which involves the ribs/sternum causing a sunken chest appearance.

As this is of genetic origins, we are unfortunately unable to significantly impact this.

 “… Do I have a rib flare?”

You should be able to visibly see if your ribs are flaring outwards.

If in doubt, do this:

test for flared ribs

Instructions:

  • Whilst standing, place both of your hands on your stomach.
    • (slightly below the lower section of the front of your ribs.)
  • Proceed to push and drag your hands up towards your chest.

Results: If you can feel your lower ribs significantly protruding outwards, then it is likely that you have flared ribs!

How to fix Flared Ribs

Image courtesy of farconville at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Note: Please make sure that you perform all of these exercises in a pain-free and gentle manner. 


1. Releases

a) Lower back

Instructions:

  • Place a massage ball underneath the muscles of your lower back.
  • Apply an appropriate amount of body weight on top of the ball.
  • You may perform gentle circular motions to increase the pressure.
  • Aim for 1 minute on each side of the spine.

b) Latissimus dorsi

Instructions:

  • Place the side of your upper body on top of a foam roller. (see above)
  • Apply an appropriate amount of body weight.
  • Proceed to roll up and down.
  • Continue for 1 minute.
  • Repeat on other side.

2. Stretches

a) Lower back

stretches for flared ribs

Instructions:

  • Whilst sitting, lean all the way forward.
  • Aim to feel a stretch in your lower back.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 1-3 times.

b) Latissimus dorsi

Instructions:

  • Whilst standing side ways to a door frame, tilt your torso by reaching over with the arm that is furthest away from the wall.
  • Firmly anchor this arm by grabbing onto the side of the door frame.
  • Lean away from the anchored arm.
  • Aim to feel a stretch on the side of the body.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 times.
  • Do both sides.

3. Breathing and the Core

Before you start any strengthening exercises to fix your flared ribs, it is ESSENTIAL to understand how to:

a) engage your core muscles,

b) breathe properly/efficiently and,

c) maintain optimal alignment.

(… all at the same time!)

Here’s how to do it…

The Core breathing complex:

breathing and flared ribs

Instructions:

  • Assume the position as shown above.
  • Breathe in.
  • As you breathe out,  slowly push out ALL of the air out of your lungs:
    • Engage your core muscles (“draw belly button in AND gently tense your abdominal muscles”)
    • Lower your rib cage
    • Flatten your lower back completely
  • Whilst maintaining this position, breathe in towards your abdominal region.
    • Imagine the whole circumference of your torso/abdominal region inflate.
    • Breathe out: Force the air out of your lungs as you engage your abdominal muscles.
  • Keep your neck and chest completely relaxed.
  • Repeat 10 times. (… or as long as it takes to get it correct!)

** Note This specific contraction MUST be performed throughout all of the following exercises. **

4. Strengthening


I have arranged these strengthening exercises to reduce flared ribs in order of increasing level of difficulty.

You do NOT need to do all of them.

Pick 1-3 exercises that are challenging and progress as appropriate.


a) Dead bug (with arm drop)

Core flared ribs

Instructions:

  • Assume the dead bug position. (see above)
  • Activate the Core Breathing Complex.
  • Lower your arm/s down behind you as far as you can go.
    • Breathe OUT as you do it.
    • Breathe IN as you return to the starting position.
  • Keep your lower back completely flat on the ground.
  • Repeat 10 times.
  • To progress: Hold onto a weight

b) Dead bug (with leg drop)

Instructions:

  • Assume the dead bug position. (see above)
  • Activate the Core Breathing Complex.
  • Lower your leg as far as you can go.
    • Breathe OUT as you do this.
    • Breathe IN as you return to the starting position.
  • Keep your lower back completely flat on the ground.
  • Alternate legs for 10 repetitions each.
  • To progress: Drop both legs together.

c) Shoulder flexion with bar

Instructions:

  • Sit up right on a chair.
  • Activate the Core Breathing Complex.
  • Whilst holding onto a bar, raise the bar over your head.
    • Breathe OUT as you do this.
    • Breathe IN as you bring you arms down.
  • Do NOT let your ribs to flare outwards.
    • “Keep the ribs down”
  • Repeat 10 times.
  • To progress: Increase the speed.

d) Wall angel

Instructions:

  • Stand with your back to a wall.
  • Activate the Core Breathing Complex.
  • Keep your back and arms pulled backwards as to remain in contact with the wall throughout movements.
  • Place your arms in the ‘W’ starting position.
  • Transition to ‘I’ position.
    •  Breathe OUT as you do this.
    • Breathe IN as you return to the “W” starting position.
  • Do NOT let your ribs flare.
    • Keep the lower back flat on the wall.
  • Repeat 10 times.

e) Plank

Instructions:

  • Get into the plank position. (see above)
  • Activate the Core Breathing Complex.
  • Make sure your lower back does NOT sink in.
    • Keep the core engaged.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 times.

f) Pull downs

Instructions:

  • Whilst standing with a slight forward lean, pull the resistance band downwards.
  •  Activate the Core Breathing Complex
  • Slowly let your arms recoil to the over head position.
    • Breathe OUT as you do this.
  • Your torso should not move during this exercise.
  • Pull the resistance band back to starting position.
    • Breathe IN as you do this.
  • Repeat 10 times.

g) Pull overs

exercise for flared ribs

Instructions:

  • Lie on the floor whilst holding onto a weight in the air.
  • Activate the Core Breathing Complex.
  • Slowly lower the weight as far as you can go.
    • Breathe OUT as you do this.
  • Bring the weight back to the starting position.
    • Breathe IN as you do this.
  • Do not let your ribs flare upwards.
  • Repeat 10 times.

h) Roll outs

Instructions:

  • Grab an exercise ball.
  • Whilst kneeling, place your forearms onto the ball.
  • Activate the Core Breathing Complex.
  • Proceed apply your body weight onto the ball as you roll it as far forward as you can.
    • Breathe OUT as you roll forward.
    • Breathe IN as you return to starting position
  • Repeat 10 times.

5. Improving function

Throughout the day, make sure that you are consciously maintaining your ribs in a neutral position.

Remember – “Keep the ribs down”

As you get better with these exercises, the aim is to get your ribs to NATURALLY adopt this position.

“Mark!… What happens if the rib flare is more on ONE SIDE?”

Great question!

It is actually very common to have a more prominent rib flare on one side.

Without getting into too much detail as to why this occurs, it is essentially related to how your torso is orientated. (… more on this in another post)

Here’s what to do: Focus MORE on keeping the side of the more prominent rib flare DOWN whilst performing the above exercises.


READ THIS:

As you correct your flared ribs, you may actually find that your upper body becomes more hunched over.

Wait a minute, Mark… Are you saying that when you fix one problem, another develops?

Yes – Since your current posture is based on you having a rib flare, by correcting it, other parts of the body may go out of alignment.

Be sure to check this and this post to help you with these problem!


What to do next

1. Any questions?… (Leave me a comment down below.)

2. Come join me on the Facebook page. Let’s keep in touch!

3. Start doing the exercises!


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239 thoughts on “How to fix Flared Ribs”

  1. Hi Mark I’m suffering from a winged scapula, medial winging upon internal rotation of my shoulder, can winging scapula cause rib flare?
    Which exercise should I do to correct the winging?

    Reply
    • Hi Pranaav,

      If you only have winging when you internally rotate your arm, check to see if you have full internal rotation in the shoulder joint.

      If it is limited, you can try stretching the back of the shoulder (posterior cuff stretch).

      Mark

      Reply
  2. Whats up Mark,

    When doing dead bugs and lifting my arms back as far as I can go, my right arm doesn’t go back as far as my left. Any suggestions as to why? Thanks!

    Reply
  3. Hi Mark,
    I found your rib flare article last month.I have been suffering flare rib and hunchback kyphosis posture last 4 years.Now I am doing kyphosis and flare rib exercises together regularly. My flare rib is improving day by day but my kyphosis is not improving. At this moment I want to take your advice what I will do right now.

    Reply
    • Hey Jack,

      I’ll be very honest with you in saying that addressing Thoracic Kyphosis is not easy. This is mainly due to the fact the joints have be in this hunched position for so long that they are almost locked together.

      The exercises mentioned on the Hunchback posture blog post will be the ones to persist with! If you are having issues mobilizing your thoracic spine with exercises, it might be an idea to visit a health professional to help loosen them up for you in conjunction to the exercises.

      Best of luck!

      Mark

      Reply
      • I did hunchback posture exercises before doing rib flare exercise.But I did not get any positive result I mean my kyphosis posture don’t improve. Then I started rib flare exercises.I want to ask you a question is rib flare mainly responsible not improving hunchback posture because I did hunchback posture exercises. Another question is how many days need to completely remove flare rib.

        Reply
  4. Hello,

    I’ve spent a lot of time on your website and it’s been really eye-opening for me. Thanks for providing such clear info! Without being officially diagnosed, I think that I have a number of postural issues and I’m curious about the connections between them (if any).

    I definitely have ribcage flare AND winged scapulae. I’ve read that these are commonly associated with _anterior_ pelvic tilt but in my case I clearly have been engaging in _posterior_ pelvic tilt for most of my life (it’s really evident in most candid photos of me for instance). Given what I’ve read about swayback and flat back postures it’s possible that I have some issues with these too.

    I was a serious swimmer for many years so I feel pretty good about my general core strength but obviously something is off given that I have ribcage flare. Swimming is also super breathing-focused, so it surprises me to think I’ve been doing that wrong. Any suggestions?

    As I start to develop a regimen for correcting these issues I want to be sure that I understand whether and how they are related. Any insight you could give would be highly appreciated!

    Reply
  5. Hello Mark

    Should I avoid push ups and dumbbell lifting? Will they make my rib flare worse ?
    My current plan Is to do those weight related exercises three times a week, while I will keep doing all the other posture exercises every day ( except rest day).
    What do you think ?

    Reply
    • Hey Jake,

      You can still do push ups and dumbbell workouts. If you are concerned about the flared ribs, make sure to engage to abdominal core to bring the ribs down.

      Your mentioned plan sounds good to me.

      Mark

      Reply
  6. Hey mark

    I have rib indents and rib flares but they are all different shapes and sometimes are grouped together to flare. Are those still considered flared ribs? I am a very active teenager who trains a lot with my glutes and abs. However my rib flares and hyperlodosis hasn’t changed one bit. How long does it take for my flared ribs to disappear and how often will I need to do your stretches and exercises for these results to appear?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Laura,

      Results should be fairly quick for non-structural causes of flared ribs.

      Some people report improvements even after 1 session of doing the exercises.

      If you have persisted with the exercises and still have a prominent rib flare, make sure to rule out any structural issues such as Pectus Excavatum.

      Mark

      Reply
  7. Hi, Mark!

    I just wanted to reach out really quick to see how long you should typically expect it to take to see some kind of results! I plan on doing some of these exercises and stretches once a day! Thanks!

    Reply
  8. Hello there!

    I got one simple question.
    Will (upper) ab exercises help to fix my rib flare? I am a teenager with mild scoliosis and kyphosis , my left rib is the one sticking out more by the way.
    My flared ribs make me really self conscious and since I want to have a nice body, i fear that by training other parts of the body my rib will get worse. So what’s your advice?

    Can’t wait to hear back from you !

    Reply
      • Thank you very much for your reassuring answer.

        As for my spine, it’s not much of a worry, since I have been seeing a physical therapist since the day I got diagnosed and I according to him, my posture keeps getting better and honestly I see it too!

        Now only my ribs are my biggest concern but I hope I will sort it out.

        Cheers !

        Reply
      • Thanks for answering!

        I have one last question, from a quick search I found that some good upper ab exercises are crunches and sit ups, but I also know that this two are bad for your posture and since I have kyphosis and scoliosis I must be careful with what i am doing.
        So what else do you suggest on doing ?

        Reply

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