RIB FLARE : Me and my big ribs
I have done (plus taught) handstands for the best part of a decade. Ribs in is a common desired shape and cue. Most of the time flared ribs are secondary to a shoulder angle and an arched spine. This can, for example, be the result of tight shoulder extensors, strength imbalances around the shoulder, poor core control, fatigue, poor breath control, etc etc etc.
The correct alignment and position of the thoracic cage in a handstand not only results in aesthetically a nice line to the handstand, but it also represents a stable scapula and reduces any strain on the shoulders.
Despite successfully instructing so many others to reduce any rib flare, then my own ribs they flare like crazy. I have tried many many things for the best part of 20 years, and I continue to do so and keep my mind open to every tip, advice, and article.
Look at my picture below, my line is really very straight, open shoulders, open hips, straight spine. But my rib flare is significant.
My ribs also flare in the upright position, the lying position, any position… And they have done this since I was a child.
Similar to 1 in 300 people then I have pectus excavatum, congenitally an overgrowth of costal cartilage means my sternum goes inwards and as a result my ribs flare outwards. Present from birth and becomes more apparent during the teenage years. More common in males than females, though maybe boobage and a higher fat percentage slightly hides minor cases more in females. Sometimes i can use my abs/core to tuck them in and I get a thoracolumbar kyphosis (below).
I wouldn’t call my thoracic or shoulder mobility (active and passive) poor, and I wouldn’t call myself weak, though with all things there is always improvement to be gained and I continually work on these things.
I grew up with my mum wondering why my chest looked concave, particularly in my teenage years, and blaming it on my poor posture. Then random people over mainly the last few years have called my ribs ugly, four boobs, etc. Words sting. Actually until social media I had no idea how pronounced it was, I actually used to like my big ribs (maybe because my bad brain thought they made me look skinnier than I am…). And now I hate my ribs. And if anyone in a yoga or fitness class tries to adjust me by simply trying to coax my ribs in I want to give them a lecture (i don’t) because I hate people touching my ribs. Additionally then rib flare is generally more of a symptom of the cause as opposed to a problem in itself, trying to just poke them in on me I can assure you it will not work or it would have been corrected many years ago by the countless number of teachers who have tried.
The dip in my chest I would class as mild to moderate. Lying down I can fill the dip with liquid. My doctor has confirmed pectus excavatum, but because i do not wish to seek surgery for it will not refer me on for any further scanning to find out it’s exact depth/haller index.
So next time you see my ribs flare please don’t call me ugly, or four boobs. And please please don’t try and poke my ribs in unless the rest of my alignment is out (and then correct that instead). And please if you have any advice I am all ears and grateful.
It is just my body, made for me by me. It’s not perfect. I am perfectly imperfect. My ribs are big. They protect my wild crazy big heart.