I think Arnold may have been full of it...

Last night I was thumbing through Arnold’s "Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding” and I noticed that he claimed (quite a few times) that it was possible for at least some bodybuilders to expand the size of their ribcage by doing dumbell pullovers. He claimed that a bigger ribcage created a bigger, and more impressive chest. This seems pretty unlikely to me. Even though the ribcage is composed heavily of cartilage, I’m not sure that it can expand, for anything longer than a few seconds anyway, any further than its final size (i.e. when the person stops growing vertically). He swears that he’s seen a number of bodybuilders do exactly this, though. What gives?

I have read that there book, and I believe I recall the passage you are refering too. I thought he was only speaking about young practitioners, who still had growing to do, and could perhaps manipulate the rib cage growth thruough pullovers. but if he was talking about adults, he nutty like fruitcake. I dont know if i buy it even working for kids, but since there is still some growth and development that must take place, I can see it being somewhat more believable than an adult. If this were true, would squats not make you shorter? they compress the body, especially the spine. and if prolonged stretching causes expansion of the skelital system, would prolonged compression not cause shrinkage?
in other words, I agree with you.

I think what typically happens here is the individual does the pullovers and the lats, chest, and serratus grow and therefore the rib cage looks expanded. I definitely expanded my own measurements in this area doing pullovers when I was younger but I think the increase was all due to muscle. The theory is that the rib cartilage will stretch and expand allowing the rib cage to grow. I’ve been around some people who’ve actually strained rib cartilage and it’s not something one can do without realizing it. It hurts like hell and will usually put one out of commission for a while much like a broken rib.

Yeah and he also says to train twice a day 6 days a week… T-mag metioned this briefly when commenting on arnolds claim that doing twists with a broomstick “whittled away the fat” on his obliques. Basically they said he was huge, ripped, but still completely wrong. As far as addressing your actual question, im not sure, sorry

The notion that pullovers expanded the rib cage in adults is leftover from the '40s, '50s and '60s; if you were to look in issues of Muscular Development and other mags of those eras you’d see all manner of reference to it. In “modern” times I’ve read many intelligent people debunking it, and it stands to reason that once one has grown and developed the rib cage, expanding it via weight-bearing exercise would be quite suddenly painful!

The rib cage can definetly expand after you have finished growing. i dont think pullovers will do it though
Most of the time it is durring a diseased state.
Problems with the respiratory system can cause barrel chests
basically over several years you breathe in a couple of litres more than you breathe out.
Not a good thing by any stretch of the imagination
but it can happen

Hey John Koenig, where have you been. Long time no hear. I enjoy reading your posts and hope you don’t disappear again. Stick around buddy - we like you!

I read about expanding the “rib cage” a few years ago in an old magazine article and the reasoning behind it seems pretty sound. Basically the rib cage is made up of the rib bones and the cartilige that attaches the sternum or breastbone to the ribs. The portion of the rib that attaches to the sternum is not actually bone, but is called costal cartilage. This costal cartilage provides elasticity to the chest, which allows the chest/ribs to be able to absorb impact more easily without fracturing. Apparently it is because of this elasticity that allows people the ability to permanently stretch this cartilage through weight training (pullovers etc), and “expand” the chest. Unfortunately this cartilage hardens with age, and by the mid twenties, most peoples costal cartilage will have hardened to a degree that won’t allow them to expand their chest any further with pullovers.

Thanks, Jonathan. I’ve never left, am always lurking and reading, but generally have no interest in the “T-Movies, get girls, favorite this and that” threads. Love the interesting questions and training issues, though. Plus my life has just been busy, editing the mag and website I operate in “real life,” preparing to coach the high school powerlifting team, and continuing to eat and train like a madman. I’m also personal training and running the weightroom at a new gym in early mornings, before my “day” job, so getting to sleep at night is now of serious importance. I’ll try to be more active, though. My “other son” Cy Willson has been doing a good job in my place, though!

I know what you mean John. I read the t-mag forum virtually every day but rarley post. I’m sure there are lots of others like myself. It’s not because I think I don’t have anything interesting to offer, it’s just that I enjoy browsing other people’s opinions and am not interested in T-movies, how to ask a girl out etc. You seem to be very busy, but I do appreciate and enjoy your responses and hope you stay ‘active’ on the forum over the next few years or so.

You’re right, this exercise is absolute bullshit. The ribcage is not expandable. If it was then why don’t opera singers have 50" chests? (the exception being Pavorotti, that fat bastard). It’s also a wonderful exercise if you’d like to royally fuck up your rotator cuff.

Hey all, I have that book too and have read it almost completely. I can see where you guys are coming from, but I think you guys have forgotten that there are mucsles on the side of the rib cage, the serratus. I have been doing the pullovers for the past month and from what I have seen it doesn’t actually expand the rib cage but the serratus that are located in front of the lats and behind the pecs grow outward and down. I think the whole idea behind this is to give you more of a “V” shaped torso as well as give you more of a Hercules type look if you have nicely defined intercostals. On the other hand It is kind of mind boggling to think of expanding the whole rib cage, and I understand completetly, but look at the diagram of the major muscles right befroe the basic training section and you can see where the serratus and the intercostals are located and I think you might grasp a better idea of what Arnie is saying. Later.

I remember reading of Peary Rader touting “Rader Chest Pulls” doing the same thing. It was really pressed on younger lifters, but was also said to have benefit for older lifers as well (though somewhat less successfully). I read another article that explained the real action not as expanding the ribcage, but rather lifting it.