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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213 thoughts on “How to fix Flared Ribs”

  1. Hi! first thanks, i just found this amazing information.
    I have genetically caused ribs like that, they have been this way since i can remember and my doctor told me so.
    However im in excrutiating pain inbetween my shoulder blade area. Ive been told I have Hypertonus of the whole Back.
    My Lats are overdeveloped and always have been, yet i always thought i needed to do pullups or rows to fix my problems.
    I always thought I had rounded shoulders, but after doing your posture checks, i realised this is my posture problem.
    Will your exercise help with the tight/sleeping back muscles?

    Reply
    • Hi Nurda,

      Addressing your flared ribs can help relax the muscles at the back.

      If you would like some direct symptomatic relief to the region between the shoulder blades, consider having a look at this blog post: Shoulder blade pain.

      Mark

      Reply
  2. Hey Mark. Two questions;

    1. I’m 51 in great shape but have had flared ribs my whole life. Can these exercises still be effective at my age?

    2. Is there any type of vest or something similar that can be worn to help correct the issue?

    Reply
  3. Hey Mark, i am 14 Years old and my lower ribs stick out a little bit. However, when i force my muscles they don’t stick out. Does this mean i have another problem? And can i fix it?

    Reply
    • Hey Finn,

      1. Hard to say exactly how long it will take. It is possible to fix it in 6 weeks but most people take months.
      2. You don’t need equipment. More that one way to do the same exercise.
      3. If you have a thoracic kyphosis, then you will also need to address this.
      4. Do you mean the bottom of the ribs do not flare out?

      Mark

      Reply
  4. 1 how long does it take cus I wanna have fixed ribs by 6 weeks
    2 I don’t have all the equipment to do the excersises do I need them
    3 I don’t wanna get a hunch back can u stop that from happening
    4 my ribs stick out LOADS even the unflared bottom bits is there anyway to decrease that

    Reply
  5. Hi Mark,

    I caused my left rib cage to flare out while pushing too much weight. At the same time my left shoulder became elevated And kinda stuck -I assume from my left rib cage position. A few of my ribs hurt a bit, I assume from nerve impingement at the rib heads . My pelvis is fine and my back isn’t twisted. X-ray MRI CT says all okay and no scoliosis. My left breast has became a lot larger since I did it, I assume the muscle due to the stuck elevated shoulder. Do you think this plan can correct my rib position and in turn allow my left shoulder to fall somewhat back into position? Also should I spend some time doing breathing exercises before starting this plan or include it like you have? Do you put any merit into PRI? Thank you for all your work. Kind regards.

    Reply
  6. Hi Mark,
    I’m doing stretches and AB exercises a few Times in a week for a 1 month, but unfortunately my whole Belly is still protrouding about 2 inches over my chest (im not FAT) also I corrected my ATP a few months ago. What can I do with it?
    PS my left rib is sticking out and in different shape than the right one
    Best regards and thank you for your blog
    Mat

    Reply
    • Hey Mat,

      If your left rib is flaring out, it may be in a response to a rotated pelvis.

      See this post: Rotated Pelvis.

      If you have tried the mentioned exercises and not getting the results you want, you might need to look at other areas that might influencing the ribs.

      Mark

      Reply
    • Mark, can I get a consultation with you? So I can send you my photo and talk about my problem. Of course I can pay

      Reply
  7. Hi Mark,
    How long will it take to fit rib flare I have been trying to fix it by just sitting at a correct posture on my seat and it has been 3 days and only a slight movement of my ribcage has been made

    Reply
    • Hey Presley,

      I would recommend the exercises mentioned in the blog post to help you fix this problem.

      Might take longer if you just practice sitting with correct posture.

      Mark

      Reply
  8. Hi Mark

    When I’m lying on my back working on breathing (and even sometimes standing up), I seem to be unable to let my ribs drop down AND pull my belly in to activate my core at the same time. As soon as I pull the ribs in, my rectus abdomens engage and the stomach sticks out. If I try to let my stomach sink down to activate my core, my ribs stick out. One seems to negate the other. Do you know why this is? Am I just doing it wrong?

    Thanks for your help!

    Reply
  9. Dear Mark

    Question regarding diaphragmatic breathing:
    Am I supposed to stomach breathe all the time or just when doing exercises?

    Kind regards

    Reply
    • Hey John,

      The breathing exercise mention in this blog post is an exaggerated way of using your breathing muscles.

      In terms of relaxed breathing, you still want to think about the rib cage expanding laterally, keep the neck relaxed and ribs in a lowered position.

      Mark

      Reply
  10. Hi mark,

    I have flared rib/hyperlodosis as well as right side pelvic rotation and rounded shoulder.

    I am thinking to work for pelvic rotation and flared rib/hyperlodosis on alternative day. As you mentioned, flared rib exercise makes little haunch back. So I can do later for haunch back and rounded shoulder.

    Please suggest whether it is ok or advice how to organise my workout?

    Also please advice after the correction of right side pelvic rotation, can I start weightlifting exercise?

    Reply
    • Hi Jawadh,

      Yes – you can work on pelvis rotation and flared ribs at the same time.

      You can keep doing weight lifting exercises, however, keep in mind, if addressing your posture is your main goal, it will be more challenging to maintain your posture under load.

      Mark

      Reply
  11. Hi Mark,

    I have a flared rib on the left side of my body. I hope these exercises work.

    My ribs were perfectly fine before I started taking birth control pills.. which I only took for 2 weeks! And that’s what it did to my rib. It was on both sides before but I feel like my right side looks a lot better now. It’s just the left side that’s super prominent. At first I didn’t know what it was, I thought it’s either hormonal or water retention.. but now I know, after doing some research.

    Thank you so much for these exercises.

    Reply
  12. Hi mark

    I am 21 and very thin(185cm/65kg). I want to fix my ribs for good looking purpose only. My ribs aren’t in a too bad condition. Can these exercises completely fix my ribs visually or they are more focusing on make your body healthier? And how long do you think it will takes to see some changes if i do my best every day?

    Reply
    • Hey Jack,

      They will help with aesthetics also.

      If you are not tight, you could see improvements within the first few exercise sessions.

      Mark

      Reply

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