Rib Cage Expansion/Widening the Shoulder Girdle in Teenagers

Hi Dr. Darden! I’m a big fan of reading about old-school bodybuilding techniques, and I very much enjoyed your article on ribcage expansion Ribcage Expansion: Fact or Fiction?. It got me thinking about a few questions related to the topic:

  1. Is there any truth to the idea that one can also widen the shoulder girdle, for example by hanging from a bar with a very wide grip etc? If not possible in the general population, does it work for teenagers?

  2. In general, do you have any tips for what teenagers can do to take advantage of their age and maximise their results, for example focusing on ribcage expansion?

  3. Finally, regarding ribcage expansion with pullovers, what sort of volume and frequency do you recommend to get the best results?

Thank you!

The rib-cage expansion article that you referenced should be required reading for all teenagers interested in bodybuilding. I interviewed Dr. MB Madaera, a well-known neurosurgeon and father of four boys, and his answers related to rib-cage expansion are meaningful.

Dr. Madaera believes that 30% of my chest size was related to rib-cage expansion from my teenage training and 70% was due to muscular growth, flexibility, and posing ability.

He then describes the rib-cage growth plates and shows how they are sealed during the early 20s.

Does the same thing apply to widening the shoulder girdle by hanging from from a bar with a wide grip? “Perhaps a small amount of widening can occur,” Dr. Madaera notes, “but care should be taken not to overdo such hanging. Overstretching the ligaments and tendons that support and protect the shoulder girdle would not be advised.”

Both my mother and father had broad shoulders, so genetics play a major role in how wide are your shoulders. The deltoid muscles surrounding the shoulders can definitely be developed to massive proportions – which will emphasize a person’s upper-body width – so don’t neglect these important muscles.

The referenced article of mine from T-Nation describes how during my teenage years, I was always instructed to do a set of breathing pullovers with a dumbbell, immediately after I completed my barbell squats. I did three sets of squats and three sets of pullovers, twice a week, for several years.

Doing dumbbell pullovers after barbell squats remains a guideline I still recommend to most trainees.


Thank you Dr. Darden!