Improve Your Posture and Back Health with Rib Cage Lifts

A simulation of a human body with the rib cage shown.
Raise your rib cage awareness. maya2008

Rib Cage Exercise for Better Posture and Upper Back Pain Relief

Have you ever noticed how your upper back starts to collapse when you’re tired or stressed? (Getting older is another trigger.)

When our upper back posture collapses, the rib cage compresses down onto the pelvis. And the muscles that control posture get tight. As your upper back slumps or compresses, you may even lose some height. Here is a posture awareness exercise that will help you lift your rib cage right off the pelvic bone.

 This should help your posture - and relieve some types of back pain.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: 3 minutes

Here's How:

  1. You can either sit or stand for this exercise. Sitting will give you stability, allowing you to focus on doing the exercise right. Standing will help you develop awareness, which may enable you to feel how rib cage and upper back movements affect pelvic and low back posturing.  

    Both versions offer benefits;but  I'd suggest starting with sitting, and then progressing to standing once you've mastered the basics.
  2. Position your pelvis so it is in a slight forward tilt. As you learned in the pelvis and low back curve posture awareness exercise, this forward tilt will exaggerate your low back curve slightly while correspondingly tightening your low back muscles. Unless you have too much curve in your low back or you have a flat low back posture, the position should be pretty natural to you.
  1. Breathe in and as you do, exaggerate the upward lift of your rib cage. Inhaling causes the spine and ribs to extend very slightly. For this exercise, use the breath as a tool to incrementally develop the lift and carriage of your rib cage. In other words, don't max out on spinal extension. Instead, see how the inhale supports the movement of your ribs and upper back, and develop the muscles from there.

    Also, try to lift the rib cage equally on both sides.
  1. Exhale and allow your rib cage and upper back resume their natural position. You may find that with practice (and by doing other core strengthening type exercises,) this natural position has changed. Because you are developing the posture muscles in your upper back, you may find there is more space between your rib cage and pelvis. Congratulations! The rib cage exercise is working!


  1. If you need a little guidance for your upper back, do the exercise with your back against a wall.
  2. Another variation of the pelvis and rib cage posture training exercise is to raise your arms partway. This will give you a different experience for training your awareness. Ask yourself, how is my rib cage moving when my arms are lifted? Do lifted arms make this exercise easier, harder or just different? This is for you to notice.
  3. Do this posture exercise about 5 times and practice it everyday for best results.
  4. To enhance your posture improvement efforts, consider stretching your pec muscles.

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