The role of the musculoskeletal system of the abdomen is to transfer forces to support the spine & pelvis. It is comprised of bones (pelvis, ribs, vertebrae), muscles, tendons & ligaments. ‘Ribs over hips’ is a cue used which details the position of your torso to allow for the optimal ability of muscular force generation from the ‘core muscles’.
Let’s break down the ribs over the hips position looking at each bony structure & the related muscle groups.
Image source: unknown
The image above demonstrates the ideal (in most cases) ribs over hips position (far left) compared to other scenarios. Looking at the ribs over hips skeleton, you see a typical spinal curve, ribs tucked, and pelvis in neutral. It is clear to see how the diaphragm & pelvic floor is parallel creating maximal force-generating capabilities for all four deep core muscles to provide spinal support.
The ribs are the attachment site for many muscles, particularly muscles that assist with breathing & moving the ribcage. The former is a group of muscles (our accessory breathing muscles) that assist the diaphragm to complete its job in allowing for the expansion & reduction of the rib cage. The latter are muscles that move the ribs into elevation & depression (hence ‘tuck the ribs’).
Further down the chain, the hips can tilt anterior (forward) & posterior (back), this is particularly important for position relative to the rib cage. As depicted in the image above, when the anterior pelvic tilt (skeleton 2 from left) is too great the diaphragm & pelvic floor lose their optimal positioning. For this reason, assuming a neutral pelvis is ideal. As a side note, every individual’s neutral pelvis looks different. It’s important to get familiar with the tilt range of your hips to understand where the neutral pelvis is for you.
Application of this method
So when and why would you need to adopt this ribs over hips strategy? It depends, you may need to use the cue when lifting from the floor, carrying, catching, pushing, lifting overhead. In most cases assuming this posture will ensure support throughout any movement to reduce your back pain.
Learn The Ribs Over Hips
Pelvic tilts on the exercise ball
This exercise is aimed at assisting you with becoming aware of the movements and range of your hips as well as your ability to find a neutral pelvis (ribs over hips position)
1. Sitting on an exercise ball
2. Place your index finger on the bony part at the front of your hip and your thumb on the side aspect of your hip (this will allow you to feel the movement of your pelvis)
There are 2 tilting movements of the hips ‘anterior tilt’ (the bony part at the front of your hip is moving forward) and ‘posterior tilt’ (the bony part at the front of your hip is moving back)
3. By solely moving your hips I want you to tilt your hips in full ‘anterior tilt’ this will force the ball to move backward and your back to increase its arch as much as you can.
4. Once you have reached your end range of anterior tilt
5. Now it’s time to tilt your hips in ‘posterior tilt’ this will force the ball to move forward and your back to decrease its arch, it may feel as though you’re tucking your tailbone under or shortening the space between your ribs and hips.
6. Now that you have found your end range in anterior and posterior tilting, perform this for a few more reps, once comfortable, find your neutral pelvis.
7. Neutral pelvis is the middle of the full anterior tilt and posterior tilt. It’s the position where your ribs sit over your hips.
Pelvic Tilts (Cat Camel)
1. On all fours, hands under shoulders, knees under hips.
2. Feet hip-width apart, toes tucked under.
3. Shoulders relaxed.
4. Neutral spine.
5. Eyes focused on the floor.
6. Slightly bent elbows.
7. Take a deep breath in, as you breathe out draw your shoulder blades down and
8. Press hands into the floor.
9. Lift chin and slowly arch back.
10. As you inhale tuck chin into chest.
11. Round the spine and expand the rib cage.
Our Exercise Physiologists can help you reduce your back pain with a full functional & postural assessment. We will teach you this cue & provide exercise to strengthen your core & back muscles to reduce your back pain.