The rib cage muscles consist of the lower pectorals, serratus anterior and upper obliques. Well-defined serratus anterior muscles look like fingers spread out across the sides of the upper rib cage. The goal with a workout is to target these muscles and give your rib cage a more tone and defined look. This is also beneficial for protection in contact sports such as mixed martial arts, football and ice hockey.
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During a rib cage workout, you perform multiple movements, especially with your arms. If you go into this workout with cold muscles, you run the risk of pulling a muscle or suffering some other form of connective tissue injury. A thorough warmup consisting of five to 10 minutes of light cardio and dynamic stretches can prevent this from happening. Dynamic stretches involve steady movements of the body through a range of motion. Forward bends, trunk rotations, arm crossovers and arm circles are dynamic stretches, for example.
Types of Exercises
Working the lower pectorals gives the upper rib cage a wider appearance. The same goes for the serratus anterior and upper obliques. The best way to work the lower pecs is with decline presses. Being that your body is at an angle, the brunt of the emphasis goes to the lower chest. You have the option of using dumbbells or a barbell for this exercise. Both types of resistance cause you to recruit stabilizing muscles, which will boost your progress. Pullovers, weighted side bends, barbell rollouts and straight arm pushdowns all target the rib cage area as well and make good additions to a workout.
Using proper form is key with a rib cage workout. Even if you lift a heavy weight, you will compromise your progress if your form is sloppy. Take dumbbell pullovers for example. Begin by lying face-up on a weight bench and hold the dumbbell above your chest in a vertical position with your hands overlapping on the inside of one weighted end. Your arms should be fully extended at this point. Slowly lower the weight down behind your head and toward the floor slowly in an arcing motion. Once the dumbbell is below the height of the bench, move it back up in a steady motion and repeat. You will feel the emphasis on your rib cage throughout the entire movement.
Resistance, Reps and Sets
Using an adequate amount of resistance is important for making gains with your workout. As a rule of thumb, use a resistance that you can only lift eight to 12 times with proper form, and shoot for three to five sets. You might have to resort to the services of a spotter to make your rep range with some exercises.
Frequency of Workouts
Working out every day is not the best approach to make progress with a rib cage workout. The muscles need to be taxed, but they also need time to recover. For better results, train your rib cage muscles not more than twice per week with at least 48 hours of rest between each session.