Expanding The Rib Box
While this book has already contained much of importance, development of the rib box ranks ahead of muscle building. As has been our habit up to this point we will include an anatomical discussion of the nomenclature of the rib box before going on with exercises to develop the bony framework of the chest.
The part of the body which we familiarly know as the rib box is really named the thorax. It is a bony cage formed by the sternum and the costal cartilages in front, the ribs on each side, and the bodies of the thoracic vertebrae behind. It is roughly cone-shaped, being narrow above and broad from below, flattened somewhat in the front and shorter in front than in the back. In infancy the chest is more rounded or barrel-like, the width from shoulder to shoulder and the depth from sternum to vertebra being about equal. The width increases out of proportion to depth as growth progresses. The thorax supports the bones of the shoulder girdle and upper extremities and contains and protects the heart and lungs, the organs of respiration and circulation.
The sternum or breastbone is a flat, narrow bone about six inches long, situated in the median line in the front of the chest. It develops as three separate parts. The upper part is named the manubrium; the middle and largest part is named the gladiolus; the lowest portion is termed the ensiform or xiphoid process. On both sides of the manubrium and body are notches for the reception of the sternal ends of the upper seven costal cartilalages. The xiphoid process has no ribs attached to it, but affords attachment to some of the abdominal muscles.
The sternum consists of several unossified portions at birth, the body alone developing from four centers.
Situated on each side of the thoracic cavity are the ribs, twenty-four in number.
They are elastic arches of bone consisting of a body or shaft and two extremities, the posterior or vertebral, and the anterior or sternal. Each rib is connected with the thoracic vertebra by the head and tubercle of the posterior extremity. The head fits into a facet formed on the body of one vertebra, or formed by the adjacent bodies of two vertebrae; the tubercle articulates with the transverse processes. Strong ligaments surround and bind these articulations but permit slight gliding movements between them.
The anterior extremities of each of the first seven pairs are connected with the sternum in front by means of the costal cartilages. They are called true ribs. The remaining five pairs are termed false ribs. Of these the upper three, eighth, ninth and tenth, are attached in front to the costal cartilages of the next rib above. The two lowest are unattached in front, and are termed floating ribs. The convexity of the rib is turned outward so as to give roundness to the sides of the chest and increase the size and capacity. Each rib slopes downward fro its posterior attachment, so that its sternal end is considerably lower than its vertebral. The lower border of each rib is grooved for the accommodation of the intercostal nerves and blood vessels. The spaces left between the ribs are termed the intercostal spaces.
Included as a part of the chest are the bones of the shoulder girdle, the clavicle or collarbone, the scapula or shoulder bone. There are two of each. The clavicles articulate with the sternum in front but in the rear the scapulae are connected to the trunk by muscles only. The shoulder girdle stretches to attach the bones of the upper extremity to the axial skeleton.
The collarbone has a double curvature and is placed horizontally at the upper and anterior part of the thorax, just above the fifth rib. It articulates with the sternum by its inner extremity, which is called the sternal extremity. In the female, the clavicle is generally less curved, smoother, shorter, and more slender than in the male. In those persons who perform considerable manual labor which brings the muscles connected with this bone into constant use, it acquires considerable bulk.
The shoulder blade is a large, flat bone, triangular in shape, placed between the second and seventh ribs on the back part of the thorax. It is unevenly divided on its dorsal surface by a very prominent ridge, the spine of the scapulae, which terminates in a large triangular projection called the acromium process. At the head of the shoulder blade is a shallow socket, the glenoid cavity, which receives the head of the humerus.
As the arms are employed in all chest-developing exercises we will include the humerus or upper arm bone in our discussion. The humerus is the longest and largest bone of the upper limb. The upper extremity consists of a rounded head joined to the shaft by a constricted neck and of two eminences called the greater and lesser tubercles, between which is the intertubercular groove. The constricted neck above the tubercles is called the anatomical neck, and that below the tubercles the surgical neck, because it is so often fractured. The head articulates with the glenoid cavity of the shoulder blade. The lower extremity of the bone is flattened from before backward and ends below in an articular surface which is divided by a ridge into a lateral eminence called the capitulum and a medial portion called the trochlea. The capitulum is rounded and articulates with the depression on the head of the radius. The trochlea articulates with the ulna.
From this brief description it is evident that the entire construction of the rib box, collarbones and shoulder blades is sufficiently flexible to permit of considerable adjustment and enlargement in size. Some of the parts do not become ossified or permanently hardened and attached until well past the age of forty. We can easily understand how muscles, tendons and ligaments which attach these bones to one another can permit of considerable adjustment when books of anatomy inform us that in those persons who perform considerable manual labor, which brings the muscles connected with the bone into constant action, the bone – in this case the collarbone – acquires considerable bulk. When the bones in individuals past maturity can enlarge as so often is shown by growth in wrist and ankles, definite proof that the bone has become larger, it is easy to understand how adjustments can take place which greatly widen the shoulders, deepen and enlarge the chest. It has always been my contention that a man can continue to improve until he is at least fifty years of age, that he can stay near his peak for many more years after he has reached that age. The nose and ears of humans grow until the age of one hundred if that advanced age is attained – proving that the body is still capable of growth when an advanced age is reached.
Thousands of cases of enlarged chests and broadened shoulders have resulted from progressive training when an age of maturity has arrived, In the 1940 Strength and Health Self-Improvement Contest, with six thousand men taking part (at least this any men formally entered the contest; there may have been a great many others), a great many cases were brought to my attention of men who were past the age of forty who gained three or four inches in chest girt during this period. Part of this gain would have been muscular improvement but a goodly share of it was an adjustment in the rib box and shoulders.
My own gain of fourteen inches since I reached the age of twenty-one – from thirty-six to fifty – probably would have been even more rapid if I had been so situated that I could train regularly. The first five of these years went by with only the practice of athletics. When I learned of bar bells back in 1923 I was so situated that I traveled constantly and could not train as regularly as I liked. My gains were slow, but sure. Consider the case of a famous physical trainer and author – Reverend H. B. Lange, at one time director of physical education at
At least we can all be encouraged, regardless of present strength and development, by what so many men in the past have accomplished. With similar exercises and similar effort there is no reason why any man cannot greatly improve their chest girth, chest strength and health.
Writers of the past have been divided as to what is the best exercise to enlarge the rib box, whether the two hands pull over practiced as a breathing exercise or the deep knee bend with enforced breathing is the best exercise. It has always been my contention that both are essential. The deep knee bend first causes a condition of breathlessness; then when followed by some form of two hands pull over, while there is a great need for air to bring the bodily processes back to normal after the great exertion they have undergone, the two hands pull over does its work well. Without the deep knee bend, while the pull over will be beneficial, I believe that it does not serve as fully as when following vigorous exercise which leaves one breathless.
In all the
There are a variety of ways to perform the deep knee bend: as a muscle builder, as an endurance builder and as a chest builder. It is at times necessary to handle very heavy poundages to strengthen the muscles, tendons and ligaments to their limit. This very heavy weight will not permit many consecutive movements. One of the original
In building muscle a certain number of repetitions is required that make sufficient demands upon the muscle involved that an increased quantity of blood rushes to the rescue of the working muscle. The blood responds quickly and it has always been my belief that ten or preferably twelve movements are needed to attract the blood which will replenish the energy put forth in the particular muscle group which is being used in the exercise. For muscle and strength building I recommend ten or twelve movements, fifteen at the most. It is my belief that, if more than fifteen movements are practiced in a muscle-building exercise, only endurance and muscles of moderate size will result. The muscles will become just strong enough to overcome the work they are asked to do and a bit more as a reserve. Therefore I prefer to have my pupils use more weight and fewer movements, providing they are between ten and fifteen, on the normal training day; a different system as I outlined in developing strength in muscles and ligaments.
I make this explanation so that there will not be confusion in the system of chest building I am offering in this chapter. Substantially as I have outlined above, the various recommendations I have made are offered in the York courses, Heavy and Light – ten to fifteen for muscle building, and more for easier movements such as shoulder shrug, raise on toes, straddle hop or various forms of breathing exercises. Twenty has been the recommended number of movements for the various forms of breathing exercises.
You may, if you are an advanced bar bell man, be capable of a single bend with three hundred and fifty pounds. Possibly you can use three hundred in the heavy and light method of training, and two hundred and fifty for fifteen repetitions. In this method of using the deep knee bend to create the demands which will result in greater need for oxygen with resulting gains in chest measurement, a weight of not more than body weight will be sufficient – certainly not over a few pounds more than body weight, for the benefit of the exercise will be obtained from the manner in which the movement is performed, rather than the weight employed. But you must have sufficient weight to make demands and induce breathlessness which is an essential part of employing the deep knee bend as a breathing exercise.
With the normal style of deep knee bending, only one deep breath is taken between each bend, unless toward the end you have become so breathless that you pause for two or three breaths until you complete the planned number of repetitions. But in employing the deep knee bend as a breathing exercise you will use this system from the beginning, even before you become breathless.
You’ll find it necessary to get in the habit of breathing through the mouth if you don’t already use that style, for you will be inhaling and exhaling a greater quantity of air than can properly go through your nostrils in a reasonable time, when the effort becomes great. So start right out with a weight not much more, if any more, than your body weight; we’ll say two hundred pounds even for the star deep knee bender who has a record of three hundred and fifty. Take a deep breath; exhale completely; take another deep breath; exhale completely; take another deep breath, trying to compress all the air possible in the lungs and to widen the rib box as much as possible, then squat on full lungs, exhaling as you rise.
Take three deep breaths as described previously, then another deep knee bend on full lungs. Continue this for a full twenty counts. If you are new to such a program, during the program or at least within a day or two, your chest will ache slightly. Don’t let this disturb you, for adjustments will be taking place in your lungs and rib box; you will actually be experiencing a condition which you could term growing pains. The chest should respond to this specialization in chest exercises so that you should gain in chest measurement from one to four inches in a single month even if you are an experienced bar bell man who has long been practicing the deep knee bend and the two arm pull over. You are practicing these movements in a somewhat different manner now, breathing hundreds of times to the fullest extent in each training period and naturally you’ll feel it. Unaccustomed muscles become a bit stiff through any different exercise program and are a bit sore until they become accustomed to the movement. The muscles of the outside, inside and between your ribs will be stretched. Even your shoulders, clavicles and shoulder blades, with all the muscles that are attached to them, must make adjustments; so you’ll feel it.
But don’t mind that. Continue with your special training and you will be well rewarded in the end. Don’t permit yourself to slump down during the day. Put into effect all the advice and instruction the chapter on posture contained; hold your chest up, not out; keep what you have gained.
After the completion of the twenty deep knee bends you should be breathless. That’s what you want, and after a very short rest you should proceed to practice the pull over lying upon two boxes or bench. This can be practiced upon the floor but it does not give you quite the range of movement. Unlike the muscle building part of the two hands pull over, you need only a moderate weight. Many men were surprised to see Henry Steinborn, for long one of the world’s strongest men, practicing this breathing exercise with a pair of fifteen-pound dumbells. A pair of twenties would not have been too great for Henry. I don’t believe that any man should use more than fifty pounds in both hands. If you do use more than fifty, part of the value of the movement as a breathing exercise is lost. It then becomes a combination of only a fairly good breathing exercise and a poor muscle-building exercise. Better to practice the movement two ways – as a muscle builder for the latissimus and the pectorals of the chest, and with a moderate weight as a breathing exercise. To start you’ll be wise to use not over thirty pounds unless you are accustomed to the movement and not more than forty pounds if you are in regular training. You can use a bar bell if you like or a pair of dumbells of the desired weight.
The usual procedure is practicing this movement when you are not breathless and wish to develop muscles through it is to move the bar bell or dumbells in a half circle from a position back of head down to the thighs and back again. But in this strictly breathing exercise when you are already breathless and your internal parts are shouting for air and more air, you should move the arms only over a quarter circle. Lie down on your back on the bench or boxes, press the bar bell or dumbells to arm’s length overhead. In that position follow a system similar to that practiced with the deep knee bend – two deep breaths while the weight is held overhead, then with full lungs lower the bell behind the head; keeping arms straight, try to force even more air into the lungs. Widen and deepen the chest to the best of your ability. After the lowest position is reached, come back up again exhaling fully as the arms come to the directly overhead position. Two more full breaths and continue with the movement as described – twenty repetitions, forty breaths in all.
With these two movements which are a part of every
This does not mean that the simple two exercise breathing course I have suggested is sufficient. It is better to practice it in conjunction with a complete exercise course or at least a few other good key exercises, such as press in front of or back of neck, rowing motion, press on box and the regular or stiff-legged dead weight lift. In the cases of men who have trained hard for a time and then ceased to gain, the change in the training course, more moderate and different work resulted in the rapid gains with the complete program. We recommend after a long period of intensive training that rest periods of from a week to two or more be experienced. These rest periods cannot be too frequent. This short course of specialization in breathing exercises is superior to a rest; it provides the change, yet gives the muscles a fair amount of work.
I like the press on boxes or bench as a breathing exercise. This is the one movement where one can breathe deeply while exercising with considerable weight. Regardless of how heavy the weight may be, it is possible to breathe fully and deeply in this exercise. If too much weight is utilized in the two hands pull over or even the deep knee bend of the stiff-legged dead weight lift, the breathing is restricted. In using the press on back as a muscle-building exercise select a weight which permits ten to twelve movements. It is beneficial in this way and a good combination exercise. It could be practiced with a somewhat lighter weight, more repetitions and deeper breathing, but the regular deep knee bend and the two hands pull over are as good as any, and you can use these to specialize in chest box increasing.
The stiff-legged dead weight lift lends itself well to the practice of breathing. Once again you must select a fairly light weight. Seldom more than body weight, not more than a hundred and fifty pounds, is best for most men. There are men who can practice this as a muscle-building exercise and use a very heavy weight without having a stiff back. Jack Cooper, Wally Zagurski and John Terry are three Yorkers who can use very heavy weights in this style. But there are others like myself who may feel a bit stiff in the spine after using a heavy weight in this manner. I have utilized up to three hundred pounds but always paid for it with a stiff back. So now I use only a moderate weight. My back is very flexible; in leaning back, for instance, with a Roman chair, but it does not bend so well forward. This is an inherited quality and most men if they continue to strive for a form of flexibility for which they are not constructed will experience stiff backs.
For this type of man who has found it to be wise to use not more than a hundred and fifty pounds there will be no temptation to handle too much weight. The other men must restrain themselves, using the movement as a breathing exercise as I am now suggesting. Practice this exercise as in the deep knee bend and the two arm pull over; three full breaths between movements, bending forward with full lungs, exhaling as you rise, then three full breaths.
In practicing these and other movements designed to increase the rib box, don’t fail to breathe fully through the mouth three times at least between movements. Extend your ribs as much as possible in all exercises while breathing. Try to remain flat upon the bench while practicing the pull over. Don’t permit the small of the back to rise. Work hard enough that you become breathless through the exercises and continue to breathe deeply as long after the completion of the exercise as possible. And remember to maintain good posture at all times while walking or sitting.
Using the pulleys which were constructed for latissimus development and recommended for the pectorals, breathing exercises are also possible. The latissimus movement where the arms are held straight overhead and then drawn to the side and down is the best breathing exercise with this equipment. Take your three breaths with the arms overhead, pull the arms down and exhale as you go up. This fine exercise will provide the dual purpose of building pectorals, latissimus and other muscles on the outside of the body while it expands the internal part of the chest.
It is easy to use a similar system with cable exercises, either the pull down from overhead or the press in front of or behind the back.
There are other good breathing exercises but I have offered the very best. They don’t come any better and there is sufficient diversity of movement that you won’t need any more. The important ting is to spend a goodly share of your training time at the proper practice of the deep breathing exercises I have recommended. And remember, please, that the important thing is not the amount of weight or resistance you use, but how you use it. Employ just enough to make you breathless.