jo skates

Skating in the key of life

Poppin’ fresh Jo


So in my Pilates class, I’m always being told not to “pop” my ribs. This is when the lower part of the ribcage releases forward, allowing the back to arch and the shoulders to pull back. Or in the scary description from this Pilates website:

Imagine your torso is a cylinder. Your rib cage is obviously pretty sturdy and so is your pelvis, but what about that whole center section? As far as bony structure in between the ribs and pelvis, all you have is your spine. That leaves the window open for your body to create a dumping scenario, like it is dumping your organs out of your body cavity. The rib cage flares open, the lumbar spine curves, and the pelvis tilts, allowing your whole belly to fall forward.

Lovely, huh? For the past couple of years, I’ve been working hard on trying to keep my organs in my body cavity for at least an hour each week. Since this is related to anterior pelvic tilt, it’s a priority for my off-ice postural work.

So I guess I should have anticipated Laurie’s admonition this week, which went something like this: “Don’t pop your ribcage.” Luckily because I’ve heard this so many times from Sarah, I knew exactly what this meant. Engage the core muscles! (Keep the pod bay doors closed! Don’t release the Kraken!)

Laurie wants to add an additional dimension to this, which is that I pull my latissimus dorsiflexion muscles (lats for short) down at the same time so that I don’t hunch forward. This is not the same thing as pulling my shoulders back, which only accentuates the ribs popping, as in this scary picture from “Physio Detective.”


Squeezing the shoulder blades together and pushing the chest up and forward may feel good (at least it does to me) but it produces really problematic skating. The upper body becomes balanced incorrectly over the blades, spilling out forwards and then compensating by pulling backwards.

Contrast this with the gorgeously cylindrical bodies of these ice dancers. This position is really quite delightfully stable. I’m not 100% there yet (not even close) but already I can feel the difference!

Now I know the doughboy is cute, but do you really want to skate like him?

This week’s goal: to keep my ribs from popping so my coaches don’t have to poke me in the tummy!

Lesson notes:

  • edge pulls: think about ankle pressure and the rise in the knee creating the change. Don’t force or dig the pull, let it happen naturally.
  • swing roll, change edge: allow the free leg and side to move over to the correct position on the inside edge.
  • back cross rolls: start with a good edge. Bend free leg into place (not a swing roll!!!) and think about when you need to load the foot for the push/extension.
  • forward three turns: don’t pop your ribcage!



Author: Joskates

Don't see me on the ice? I may be in the classroom or at the theater, or hanging out with my family and friends.

4 thoughts on “Poppin’ fresh Jo

  1. What a great description and visual, Jo. Now I wonder if popping the ribcage is ok in a layback spin? Not that I can do one…


  2. I thought of that too, Eva. I think it must be the exception!!! Back in my freestyle days, the layback was one of my favorites, and now I know why it was so fun, anatomically speaking!!!


  3. I definitely heard plenty about ‘rib flare’ from my old PRI- oriented PT office (the PT that ended in spine surgery). The closest I’ve heard from a skating coach is ‘knit your ribs together, close the space on the front of your body.’ That instruction always seemed pretty mysterious to me (it’s a coach who I have trouble understanding her technical directions sometimes) but I think it must be the same thing!


  4. Thanks, Mary. It’s definitely a helpful piece of advice, especially when paired with the “slide lats down the back” so that I’m not tempted to hunch forward. Was this the PT that had the beautiful handwriting?


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