Friday, May 23, 2014

Can you expand your Ribcage with pullovers? With input from Doug Brignole.

Can you expand your Ribcage with pullovers?
Freddy Ortiz was known for his impressive ribcage
From Bodybuilding Mauritius member Ludovic Chanson (France)
Q: What do you think about expanding your rib cage ?

It seems like Arnold and Vince believe you can, while Arnold himself said that other people believe you cannot.

What's your point of view ?

Answer by Veeraj Goyaram:
Ribcage expansion is indeed a big debate. The current belief is that at a young age the ribcage can grow not because of an extension of the cartilage which attaches the costal bones (ribs) to the sternum (breast bone). From my current understanding, this expansion stops by the early 20s when these cartilage becomes fixed. Someone older can still expect to expand his ribcage, although to a lesser degree. Pullovers are believed to be useful in that regard, especially when done following squats (superset fashion or after squat sets). I don't know if this is true. As I said, it is a still a debatable topic.
Arnold performing cross-bench dumbbell pullovers
Another element in creating the illusion of a bigger ribcage is the ability to hold a stomach vacuum. In the picture below, in spite of my current high bodyfat percentage I can still hold a vacuum although to a lesser extent than when I am leaner. Various vacuum exercise variations have helped me. I learned about these exercises in the yoga classes that I took way before I started bodybuilding. 
I am pleased to bring you the input of well-known exercise biomechanics expert, Mr. Doug Brignole, on this topic. As some of you already know, I trust Doug's information very much and I am a big fan of his. In the paragraphs to come, Doug will give us his opinion on the effectiveness of the cross-bench dumbbell pullover as a "ribcage-expander" exercise as well as his advice on performing the vacuum.

Valued input from Mr. Doug Brignole
1986 AAU Mr. America and Mr. Universe
1979 Teen Natural Mr. America, Teen Mr. California
1982 AAU Mr. California overall
Biomechanics of exercise expert 

How to do the vacuum
I've been doing a vacuum since I was in my teens. It's unfortunate that bodybuilders don't do it so much anymore. It would be nice if it were a "required" pose.

The best way to learn how to do a vacuum, is by first understanding the breath. It's impossible to do a vacuum after one has inhaled. The only way to do it after an exhale. The next thing I would recommend is to begin by lying down on the floor, facing upwards. This will allow gravity to assist in the pulling "down" of the abdomen - at least until the feeling is learned.

So lie down on the floor, exhaled, and then pull the stomach inward, while holding the breath. Then relax and breath, and repeat. Once it's grasped while in this position, it will be easier to do it while standing.
Doug at the 1979 Teen Mr. America

Can breathing squats and pullovers expand the rib cage?
When I first started training at the age of 14, I did breathing squats followed by dumbbell pullovers (across the bench). My goal was to increase the size of my ribcage, as per the recommendations in the magazines of the time. However, I don't really think it did that. My ribcage has never been especially large, and I did not see it change much, despite the fact that I did that combination regularly. I'm not convinced that the size of the ribcage can be influenced by pullovers; I'm more incline to believe that it cannot be influenced. Pullovers do seem to help the serratus anterior, more so than the lats. It's not a very good Lat exercise.

The effectiveness and safety of pullovers
The problem with pullovers is that it's not an entirely natural movement for the shoulders. And to make matters worse, the mechanics of the standard pullover is that the resistance increases - and reaches its maximum - precisely when one's arms are extended above one's head (arms alongside the head). That is where the greatest risk to the shoulder joint occurs.

A better way to work the serratus anterior is with a staight arm pulldown (which follows a similar path to the pullover). This allows you to stop the movement before the arms reach the point where they are alongside one's head. And it provides more resistance at the point where the arms are in front of the torso (i.e., the typical "conclusion" point of the pullover). And you can take the handle past that point, all the way down to the point where it touches the thighs. This provides better Lat stimulation, as well as serratus anterior stimulation, without jeopardizing the shoulder joint.

Sorry for the detour - back to the ribcage. While I don't regret having done pullovers when I was young, I don't think they contributed much to my ribcage, and I would never do them today. The flexibility and resilience of a youthful shoulder joint could tolerate a fair amount of that type of unnatural stress. But I think it would cause problems for anyone over the age of 30.

Doug can still master the vacuum at age 51
Old school is still alive. Doug hits the vacuum onstage at age 51

Some more pics of the fabulous physique of Doug Brignole
"Be Inspired" 

Where to find Doug's work?
Doug writes for IRONMAN magazine. He has his own blog on the IRONMAN website (Click to visit) where he regularly provides his expert analysis of the effectiveness of many exercises. Doug also co-authored with Dr. Adrian Tan a book titled "Million Dollar Muscle: A Historical and Sociological Perspective of the Fitness Industry". The best way to receive his updates is to follow him on facebook and his website

Thank you a lot Doug Brignole for your input and your massive contribution to bodybuilding

Tired of wasting money, with no results?
I offer consultations on diet, supplements, training for your individual needs. No one-size fits all diet and exercise programs but custom-made programs. I tell you what supplements are worth investing your money on, based on your own needs. You get to ask me any and as many questions as you want if you are my student. At the end of the day, no more guess work, no more trial-and-error, no more wasting thousands of rupees on supplements that didn't do a damn for you. I tell you the secrets based on scientific research and my experience in the gym. They want to enrich themselves selling you products that may not work for you, me I enrich you with knowledge so you can go on and achieve bigger things. I haven't only been to school: I have been under the bar too! 

Email me on
My Bio: I am a Mauritian originally from Roche Bois, Port Louis and now based in Cape Town, South Africa where I am busy with my postgraduate studies in molecular biology of exercise. My research, supervised by Prof. Edward Ojuka, looks at the influence of nutrition and exercise in gene expression in muscle, research which is relevant and applicable to exercising individuals, sports persons and diabetic individuals. The knowledge that I share with you stems from my 18 years of experience in bodybuilding and 8 years (and counting) of university education in the field. I have also published work in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism (2013), International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism (2013) and co-authored two book chapters on exercise and diabetes. I also presented my research work at the 2012 International Sports and Exercise Nutrition Conference (UK). I am grateful to each and everyone at the UCT Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine. "Knowledge without sharing is worth nothing"
Join us for discussions on our facebook group
Free advice & daily bodybuilding talk
Your #1 Bodybuilding destination in Mauritius 
©,2013, Veeraj Goyaram, Bodybuilding Mauritius. Any reprinting in any type of media is prohibited.
Disclaimer: The Content on this site is intended to be used for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to be and should not be interpreted as medical advice or a diagnosis of any health or fitness problem, condition or disease; or a recommendation for a specific test, doctor, care provider, procedure, treatment plan, product, or course of action. BODYBUILDING MAURITIUS is not a medical or healthcare provider and your use of this site does not create a doctor / patient relationship. We disclaim all responsibility for the professional qualifications and licensing of, and services provided by, any physician or other health providers posting on or otherwise referred to on this Site and/or any Third Party Site. Never disregard the medical advice of your physician or health professional, or delay in seeking such advice, because of something you read on this Site. We offer this Site AS IS and without any warranties.  Correspondence:


Post a Comment