Ribcage Opening Methods for the Thoracic Backbone, A Silent Wrongdoer in Leg Stiffness – iRunFar

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

In comparison with the remainder of the physique, the thorax — except 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 large function in connecting and transferring our legs, by means of fascia.

By way of its fascial connections with the pelvis and hips, beneath, thoracic backbone and ribcage stiffness could play a significant function in decrease extremity vary of movement loss, in addition to aches, pains, harm, and reductions in pace and endurance.

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

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

Mobilizing the thoracic backbone and ribcage might help with general working effectivity. Picture: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

The Roles of the Ribcage

In our first-ever article about it, we outlined a number of biomechanical features and influences of the thoracic backbone and ribcage throughout working, 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 probably 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.

“Brief, Lengthy, and Twist”

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

Lung Growth 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 Perform

Many very important organs are saved throughout the ribcage. The nervous system to them, and the organs of the digestive organs of the stomach, stream by means 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 Affect on Leg Mobility

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

Somewhat than proceed to hammer sq. pegs into spherical holes, demanding extra endurance, extra visits, and extra consumer 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 handle the hip and pelvis, in addition to the foot. Treating the hip and pelvis acquired 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 constructions are all linked by means 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 exhibiting the fascia. Picture: Shutterstock

Lastly, on the thoracic backbone, I famous that these purchasers with cussed hip and pelvic stiffness typically had very stiff ribcages. And after I addressed thoracic mobility — particularly with particular consideration not solely to the vertebrae and ribs, however the fascia and organs throughout the ribcage — I acquired the very best and most sustainable mobility good points.

How is the thoracic backbone linked to the pelvis, hips, and legs? By way of fascia.

Particularly, it’s the transversalis fascia — a fascial layer beneath the transverse abdominis, thought of the granddaddy of core stability muscle tissues, which runs like an enormous skilled wrestling belt, throughout the entrance of the stomach, all the best way 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 massive respiration and higher core stability muscle.


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

If the thoracic backbone — particularly decrease ribs and diaphragm — loses mobility, it creates rigidity by means of the transversalis fascia, which may then pull on the pelvis. When the pelvis is beneath rigidity, it could actually:

  • 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 means of this fascia connection. Thus, optimizing thoracic mobility — however particularly decrease ribcage mobility and this fascial connection — can considerably enhance mobility all through the decrease physique.

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

Ribcage Opener with a Ball

Typical thoracic mobility emphasizes extension. And whereas it is a key movement, it’s one in every 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 loosen up downward. Nevertheless, for varied causes — together with posture, stress, and trauma — ribs can get caught in both elevation (inhalation) or melancholy (exhalation).

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

How About Facet Bending?

Facet 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 essentially get the complete vary of movement, let’s attempt it over a ball.

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

Performing the Ribcage Ball Opener

To carry out, receive a big inflatable remedy ball. The best measurement is giant sufficient to really feel an enormous 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. This may assist stability you and stop an excessive amount of low again extension. The underside arm must be planted on the ground, like a modified aspect plank.

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

  • Static aspect mendacity and respiration: In a side-bent place, respiration is a robust mobilizing device for the ribcage, diaphragm, stomach fascia, and pelvis. Strive a protracted breath maintain, with an inflated ribcage, and breath stacking. Take three breaths — a main, 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.
  • Brief 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 means 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 could 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 your entire decrease physique. Hold it transferring in all instructions!

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

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