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Rib Mobility, Rib Motion

Do Rib Cage Expansion Exercises Improve Your Running Economy? I Say YES!

breathing exercises and drills female runners mobility training smarts Aug 08, 2023

I shared one of Nell Rojas’s posts to my stories a week or so ago about the exercises she’s been doing for rib mobility, and I got more than one message to the effect of:

“Wait, what? Ribs move?”

Before we go on, if you aren’t following her running journey already, I suggest you do. She had a very impressive performance at last year’s Boston Marathon (led for the first 17 miles and finished as the first American) and looks like she is going to do big things! I love her journey, of course, because she is huge into the strength training aspect and she talks about important stuff like rib mobility too! Check her out on Instagram.

 Yes! Ribs move! And that movement of the ribs is an integral part of your running economy, here's why! 


Rib Cage Expansion Exercises and Running Economy 


1 - Breathing Efficiency

With breathing the lungs expand and contract. The ribs need to move to allow that to happen effectively. There can be internal factors leading the inefficient movement, but one outside factor that should also be considered is how tight your sports bra is. Having it too tight can make a big difference on how well you breath and move overall. Of course, I made a REEL about this a while back which inspired a conversation in my stories about good, supportive, but not too tight sports bras. Here is the result of that conversation. Maybe something for your Christmas list?




2- Core Engagement

The relative motion (or lack thereof) front to back affects the way we align our diaphragm with our pelvic floor and therefore the way we load through our core and manage gravity. Sometimes good alignment requires only simple cuing, but other times we need to address this by improving expansion (rib mobility) in specific parts of the rib cage to help you “stack” more easily and naturally.

Check out some examples here.


3 - Rotation

We’ve talked about this A LOT, but in case you forget, or you are new here. To be able to move forward efficiently you have to rotate. Your whole pelvis needs to rotate from side to side. For that to happen your femurs (thigh bones) have to rotate in your pelvis and your torso needs to counter-rotate (rotate the other way) so that you can keep running and looking forward.


This concert of rotation needs to happen so that you can minimize the negative impact of ground reaction forces on your body while storing some of that energy in your tendons to keep moving forward. Maximum rotation happens a toe-off so that by the time the foot strikes the ground, that side of the pelvis and torso are already rotating back, which reduces the impact on the body. For the torso to rotate effectively the ribs need to move!

Check out yesterday’s IG post here for a couple of examples of rib mobility: how to visualize it and how to train it!


The first step of course is to breathe! Inhale, exhale.

Want to breathe better? You can get more information on that HERE! ;)

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