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Weight-Shifting - Rib Cage

[coordinating leverage systems, utilizing the previous two posts- psoas & obliques]

The previous two posts addressed the base- legs, pelvis and their reach into the torso. This aims to provide a few basic thoughts about the rib cage/shoulder girdle and how it can work with the base.

Ultimately, the idea is to distribute 'stress' across the biggest area that you can- which means figuring out what goes where and how to sequentially connect it all together.

The human body moves much the same as a body of water- able to move a large amount of energy across a vast expanse. By nature, water will flow in one direction, producing efficient movement. Any barriers along the way or movement in opposition will create turbulence, tension. For instance, before the fingers move, the hand/wrist must move. Before that, the forearm and before that, the upper arm, etc. If you are doing a pull-up or a push-up and your hand movement disagrees with your shoulder movement, your elbow may receive the tension of this dispute, (two water sources flowing toward each other from opposing directions, meeting at the elbow).


Pushing - Concept Development

Shoulder Blades

A. Opposition across shoulder blades (backside of rib cage- extending elbow to elbow via triceps).

B. Opposition front to back (photo). Rib cage must provide an 'anchor' for the shoulder blade to move from- this forms a 'unit' and prefers to moves as such. To protract the shoulder blade, the ribs (serratus anterior) must oppose , this creates a loadable and movable 'stretch'. The lats will enter the picture (via shoulder blade depression), to help condense 'load' in the torso to a smaller area, making for easier weight shifting/control. Think about the plank position.

Rib Cage & Weight-Shift

Keeping the above in mind, this movement will allow practice of the sequence used in shifting weight from 'below' to 'above' (the same gray line seen in the photo above).

Here one arm is resting behind the back and the other is loaded, pressing into the ground. To start, the unloaded side of the rib cage/shoulder blade rotates upward to position itself above the level of the hips, this lessens the amount of weight being 'held' by the free side and puts it in a position to utilize leverage. Now, there is a 'press' of the sit bones/PSIS and a cross-body 'pull' of the rib cage, as the shoulder blades push away from each other, creating lift and shifting weight. Think about the cat-cow.

Psoas ISO + Weigh-Shift

Building again on all of the above, but now we are loading the arm cross-body- which creates an experience of even greater body torque (winding around a single point).

Sacrum/sit-bones/psoas load the legs. Hand presses into opposite knee to reinforce the position, this also loads the scapula of that arm and creates a ‘frame’ to stretch within/remove slack from, (same concept as last post #2).

To start, the PSIS (sacrum) and the shoulder blades are both squared over the base of support (feet). To extend the ability of a forward reach then, both must shift diagonally to narrow the base of support in favor of the reaching side. Force from the pressing arm must transfer into a single leg, both working to counteract the pull of gravity and creating a stable structure to reach from.

In the most broad view, we have opposites pushing paired with opposites pulling, a big ‘X’. Both pairs doing a different task in order for both to achieve the same goal. Ease of this depends upon coordinating sequence. Think about various hand-balancing positions for this one- elbow levers (crocodile), air baby, etc.


Pulling - Ring Row Application

Both Arms (easier)

Two arms makes weight-shifting of the rib cage much easier. Having both hands and both feet connected to something, reduces additional anxieties that can make learning difficult for the nervous system.

An understanding of straight arm loading/positioning is helpful for this, as it is the start here (like everything else above). Each arm is doing a different task to help move the rib cage through advantageous positions for creating leverage. One arm is mostly a tool for balance, helping to tilt the ribs up and over, as the other arm pulls down and in. The pulling arm initiates with a straight arm pull (keep it straight as long as possible), and it will naturally start pulling through the bicep when weight is appropriately shifted over it. The video shows three different angles, notice how the loaded arm stays straight and the body moves around that point. The free arm remains straight and unloaded throughout- this helps to develop the idea of what that shoulder girdle needs to do to help the other.

Note 1 - My reference point for weight-shifting around the rib-cage is the sports bra line, (3D wrap around).

Note 2 - I always warm-up rows using a fist 'grip' (no fingers on the rings), for several reasons; prepares the false-grip, warms up the bigger pulling muscles without tiring out the smaller grip muscles, brings sensation/awareness to my arm position, the appropriate rotation sequence and the connection point to the body. If I want more supplemental pulling work on a finger dominant day (climbing), I will also use this grip.

Single Arm (more difficult)

A singular fist 'grip' requires a very particular alignment of ring, hand and body and an equally particular sequence of rotation and weight-shift to pull without any fear of flying off. A single point of contact also means that there is an increased range of the rib cage to control and so the free arm is now required to be much more active in pulling up and over the other arm to help.

Single Finger (most difficult)

This requires the most trust in the smallest part, which means all of the above steps should be well understood. I always take a moment at the starting position to make sure I feel relatively relaxed hanging by individual fingers with a straight arm.

Note- I do not progress from a fist grip right into single finger. I move from all fingers, to pairs, and lastly to singles (if okay to do so).

How I use these exercises

  • My general warm-up and progression principle; prepare tissues- inside to outside, proximal to distal, big to small.

  • My primary use for these pulling movements is to expand my perceived levels of comfort and safety. I want the pattern to be as efficient as possible which means eliminating any 'unknowns' that may come up throughout the movement. It think of it as 'volume training' for the nervous system- how to manage stress through accumulation. This provides boundaries that I can work within and push when I am able. For ring rows I maintain a very particular feeling - for every rep, every progression, that is my focus. Currently, the single finger row is part of my specific warm-up but I am aiming to increase the consistency and volume which is mostly a game of patience.

In Action - Climbing

Snagged from the IG of climber @magmidt

(There are three clips, full speed first, and then slowed-down for sequence)


Like everything that I post, movements and progressions are relative-

1. they are relative to self

2. they are relative to each other

Individual/isolated movements offer a smaller and easier 'point' of focus, a chance to examine how one part may interact and integrate with others and subsequently how they fit into the whole. Exercises/movements both easy and complex should enhance understanding of each other.


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