Ensure Your Ribs Don’t Flare
My first tip for achieving “Awesome Abs” was Stop Drawing In Your Belly Button. So, how did you go? Did you manage to relax and soften your belly more often when you sitting, lying or whenever you were not loading your body, and letting your core muscles relax when they weren’t required?
As discussed in my first tip, whatever it means to you, having ‘awesome abs’ is something we should all work towards, especially from a functional perspective, so that we can live an active, healthy, fulfilled lives, both now and in the future.
So, what’s tip #2?
It’s another really simple tip: Ensure Your Ribs Don’t Flare!
But, what is rib flare?
Well, during pregnancy, as the abdomen stretches and the uterus (where bub hangs out) enlarges and expands up, many expectant mums experience the baby pressing up under her ribs and chest.
The growing uterus obstructs the movement of the diaphragm, which is needed for deep breathing. With the increased pressure in the diaphragm, due to it’s inability to move as freely as it normally would, the rib cage is pushed out sideways and forwards, resulting in rib flare (think of a bell and the shape it is at the bottom), and also generally rib pain.
Ok, but why should you ensure your ribs don’t flare?
When the ribs are flared, the spine in upper back, or thoracic spine, gets pulled forward into extension. This affects the ability of the shoulder blades to slide across the ribs, and affects shoulder range of motion and stability.
When the ribs are flared, the spine in lower back, or lumbar spine, also gets pulled into extension, which results in your pelvis moving into an anterior pelvic tilt, a similar position it was in when you were in the later stages of your pregnancy. Essentially your stomach is pushing forward – not a great look, especially when you’re not pregnant!
This pelvic position also causes your hip flexors, the muscles at the front of your hips, and back extensors to tighten, while your abdominals, glutes (buttock) and hamstring muscles will lengthen. This leads to tightness in the front of your hips, discomfort or pain in the lower back and weakness in the glutes.
When the ribs are flared, not only is the spine out of a more neutral, or more optimal functioning position, the abdominals also get turned off, or relaxed, which results in spinal instability and a “pouchy” tummy (not the look your wanting to achieve!)
Finally, when the ribs are flared, you are unable to breath efficiently, particularly when on the breathe out, which in turn makes it more challenging for the body to stimulate the parasympathetic “rest & digest” state, and will keep you in a state of stress! This is not good for your mental health or your digestive health!
Don’t believe me! Give it a try:
Stick your ribs out and take 3 to 5 deep breaths in and out, and notice if you can fully exhale each one. I think you’ll agree it doesn’t take long before you feel a bit wound up or stressed. Imagine being in this state all day. Or are you?
Now, try this – start by taking take a deep breath in and then exhale like you are blowing out candles on a cake. Focus on ‘closing’ your ribs and feel your ribs depress and almost soften in the way they feel. Keeping the ribs in this depressed position take 3 to 4 more deep breaths.
How much calmer do you feel?
Ongoing rib flare in the post-partum period impacts on your spinal alignment, your ability to breathe efficiently and affects the repair of your diastasis recti (abdominal separation)
Hmmm… and as we discussed in “Awesome Ab Tip #1”, if all of those areas are affected then “Awesome Abs” are just not going to happen!
So, your next challenge is to have a look at the position of your ribs, and ensure that they are not resembling the bottom of a bell – rather they are depressed or ‘closed’ towards the centre of your body.
Having a well functioning core muscle system will assist with repairing your diastasis recti (abdominal separation), improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your breathing, help restore your core and contribute to having awesome abs!