Having less muscle mass around the ribs isn’t only looks skinny but also decreases your confidence level.

So, we have put on some muscle mass to our upper body in order to hide our rib cage and get a broader upper body.

In this article, we’ll go through how to build muscle around the rib cage. This means you’re going to get the best exercises to train the ribs muscles along with a perfect workout plan and nutritional strategy that hugely influence your muscle growth.

Muscles Around the Rib Cage

Muscles Around the Rib Cage

Let’s begin with the upper part of the body, and there are two muscles in the chest, pectoralis minor and pectoralis major.

The pectoralis major is a thick, triangular convergent muscle situated at the chest of the human body. Its significant actions include adduction or depression of the arm and rotation of the arm forward about the axis of the body.

Beneath the pectoralis major is the pectoralis minor, a thin, triangular muscle. Its major actions are stabilization, abduction or protraction, internal rotation, and downward rotation of the scapula.

Let’s move to the lateral wall of the thorax, the serratus anterior. It looks like a fan shape, and its major part lies under the scapula and the pectoral muscles.

The serratus anterior is also known as the “boxer’s muscle,” which is mainly responsible for the protraction of the scapula. For example, when you throw a punch. (1)

If we look below the serratus anterior, we’ll get the external oblique situated on the abdomen’s lateral and anterior parts. It helps to rotate the trunk and pull the chest down to compress the abdominal cavity and support the spine’s rotation.

Now, if we go backside of the ribs, we’ll get a large muscle, the latissimus dorsi or lats — covering the width of the middle and lower back or ribs. It’s a flat muscle that connects the bone of the upper arm to the spine and the hip. It helps to stabilize your back while extending your shoulders.

How Build Muscle or Gain Weight Works

First, let’s understand what building muscle and gaining weight actually mean and which one is better for our overall health.

When we’re talking about muscle building means we actually gaining weight but here, more than 90% of the weight will be lean muscle mass.

But when we’re talking about weight gain, we gain not only muscle but also fat and water. And here, the muscle percentage will be less.

Which one is better for us?

Whether we’re aiming for a jarked physic or an overall healthy body, our primary goal should be gaining quality muscle mass and not just putting on weight.

Okay, so what steps do we need to follow to build muscle?

Simple, only three principles you need to follow to put on muscle mass:

  1. Calorie surplus diet
  2. Intensive training
  3. And rest

1. Calorie Surplus Diet

So, the first and most important thing we have to do is take a calorie surplus diet, which means we should consume about 300-500 calories on top of our daily maintenance calories to gain lean muscle.

But, how many calories do you require per day?

Calculate your BMR first:

  • Men: 66.5 + (13.75 × weight in kg) + (5.003 × height in cm) – (6.755 × age in years)
  • Women: 655 + (9.563 × weight in kg) + (1.850 × height in cm) – (4.676 × age in years)

Then multiply it by 1.55, which is your daily required calories.

Now add 300-500 calories to your required daily calories in order to gain about 1lb lean muscle mass per week.

And this is where good calories and bad calories come into play.

You shouldn’t consume ice cream, pizza, or other bad foods to quickly reach your daily requirements.

So, instead, you should make sure you should consume a healthy diet with a combination of protein, carbs, and fat (30%, 50%, and 20%, respectively).


2. Training

The second step of muscle building formula is pretty obvious, intensive training. And there’re a few pretty impressive principles you can follow to gain muscle over time.

When you’re trying to build muscle and strength, you should keep in mind that your aim should be to perform eight or fewer reps because that’s how you’ll activate “type 2” muscle fiber, which is critical for muscle growth and size.

Let’s check out the training principal you should follow:

Compound Movements

As a beginner or skinny guy, your number one focus should be lifting heavy compound movement for gaining muscle.

Exercise that uses two or more (multiple) muscles in the same movement can call compound exercise.

Doing compound exercise not only boosts your muscle-building rate but also helps you boost your testosterone level naturally, so the compound is critical.

For example, a standard bench press that is one of the most traditional compound movements works on your chest and your triceps, shoulders, and abs as well.

Here’re the examples of compound exercises: 

  • Squat
  • Deadlift
  • Bench press
  • Barbell row
  • Overhead barbell press

Related: The ONLY 7 Exercises You Need to Build Muscle Fast

Progressive Overload

There’re another important concept of building muscle mass consistently is progressive overload.

Progressive overload refers to if you want to build more and more muscle over a longer period of time, you have to increase stress on the muscle by lifting heavy.

Suppose we want to work out at home with minimal equipment. In that case, we need to follow a different strategy by simply increasing the number of reps or performing various explosive bodyweight movements.

With an increased number of reps like 15-20 or more, we’ll train for endurance which hasn’t put as much muscle as expected.

However, endurance training itself isn’t a bad idea, but lifting heavyweight is a lot more efficient when we want to build more muscle.

For example, you can see sprinters have more muscles in their bodies compared to marathon runners.

We’ll go through the most effective exercises you can perform to put on muscles around your ribs later in this article.

How to Build 12-15 Pounds of Lean Muscle Mass in Just 3 Months on a Budget

3. Rest

Besides our workout and diet, recovery is the third leading factor on our road to muscle growth.

You need to know that the exercise itself works only as a trigger for muscle growth during your training.

You overload the muscles and break down muscle fibers.

But then, if you provide your body with the proper nutrition and enough time to recover, they will grow bigger and stronger in order to withstand higher workloads in the future.

Remember that muscles don’t grow while we train, but afterward. The body builds larger muscle fibers only when it gets enough time to recover.

And this is done for the most part while we sleep.

So, make sure you should be getting at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Anything below that, you’ll sacrifice possible muscle gains and even overall health in general.

If you want to know more about the step-by-step approach to muscle building, I would highly recommend you to read our beginner’s guide to building muscle article.

How to Build Muscle Around the Rib Cage: Best Exercises

How to Build Muscle Around the Rib Cage

Okay, now we’ve understood how building muscle or gaining weight works and found out that we have to put on some lean muscle mass in order to hide our ribs.

And to build muscle, working out is critical alongside proper nutrition and recovery.

Here we’ll get the top three exercises of each muscles around our ribs — chest, lats, serratus anterior, and oblique respectively.

So, let’s chest out the twelve best exercises to build muscle around the rib cage.

1. Barbell Bench Press

Let’s start with a typical but most influential movement for the chest, the barbell bench press that can engage all three heads of the chest.

How to do:

  • Start with lying on the bench under a barbell rack. Grab the bar with a slightly outside shoulder grip.
  • Keeping your hips placed on the bench with a slight arch on your lower back and your feet flat on the ground, unrack the bar and bring it over your nipple line.
  • Keep your shoulder blades squeeze together as you lower the bar to your nipple line, then press the bar up to the starting position while contracting your chest. Repeat.
  • Make sure your elbow and upper arms are at a 45-degree angle to your torso. And try to move the bar as a straight line up and down as possible.

Muscles worked: Chest, triceps, and shoulders.

2. Dumbbell Fly

Whether we’re trying to get a chiseled inner chest or build a broader upper body, the dumbbell fly is very efficient. It primarily trains our pectoralis minor to enhance our chest width.

You can perform this exercise with a flat or incline bench. A flat bench position can be more beneficial for engaging the entire chest.

How to do:

  • Start by sitting on a flat bench and grab a pair of slightly light dumbbells placed on your knees.
  • Then lay back on the bench and kick one leg at a time to get the dumbbells over the center of your chest.
  • Slowly fly your arms out until the dumbbells go parallel to your chest and stretch your chest.
  • Then return your arms straight up forward over your chest and contract your inner chest at the top. Repeat your desired reps.
  • You can also perform this exercise with an incline bench. Do this exercise on the floor to support your shoulders and to avoid injuries.

Muscles worked: Chest and shoulders.

3. Cable Crossover

The next chest exercise we have is cable crossover, one of the most effective exercises you can do to build a defined inner and lower chest.

How to do:

  • To begin, set up the pulleys slightly above your head position.
  • Then grab the handles with your hands, and as you take a step forward, stretch your arms out as a fly movement and elbows are slightly bend position.
  • Keeping your core tight and chest out, pull your arms forward and downward closer to each other.
  • Squeeze your inner chest and then return back your arms to the starting position. Repeat.

Muscles worked: Chest and shoulders.

4. Lat Pull-down

Now, let’s move to the back of our body, and the primary muscle we want to target here is the latissimus dorsi which is majorly covered in our ribs.

And one of the best exercises you can perform to train them is lat pull-down. However, you can perform the pullups to target the same muscle with a bodyweight movement.

How to do:

  • First, adjust the pullup bar to a slightly lightweight, grab the handle slightly wider than shoulder-width apart with an underhand grip.
  • Hold the bar, sit down on the bench/platform and place your feet flat on the ground.
  • Keeping your chest up, pull down the elbow back and squeeze the back at the bottom.
  • Then stretch your arms as high as you can go. Repeat that up and down movement as recommended reps.

Muscles worked: Lats and biceps.

5. Dumbbell Gorilla Row

The next lats exercise we have is dumbbell gorilla row which is an excellent exercise to primarily activate our lats, and it’s also my favorite one for lats.

How to do:

  • Place a slightly heavy dumbbell in front of you, or if you have light dumbbells, you can increase the reps count to provide maximum tension to the working muscles.
  • Bend your knees and lower your hips back down while keeping your back flat and chest out.
  • Place one elbow on your thigh for support, and with the other hand, grab the dumbbell, which stretches straight towards the ground.
  • From there, leading by your elbow, pull the dumbbell up, take a little pause and squeeze your lats at the top.
  • Then lower the dumbbell back down until you get a nice stretch at your lats. Repeat.
  • Once you’ve completed with one side, switch to another side and perform your desired reps.

Muscles worked: Lats, rhomboids, and posterior deltoids.

6. Dumbbell Pullover

Whether we’re trying to train our lats or want a wider back, the dumbbell pullover is one of the most effective exercises you can perform.

How to do:

  • To begin, place a dumbbell on the side of the bench.
  • Slide down until your upper back is on the bench, and grab the plated at one end of the dumbbell. And the middle of the dumbbell will be sitting in between the webbing of your fingers.
  • From there, bring the dumbbell over your chest with your arms extended and slightly bent in your elbows.
  • Drop your hips to counter-balance the weight.
  • Take a deep breath, lower the weight above and behind your head towards the ground in an arch-like motion until you feel a nice stretch in your lats.
  • Then return the weights towards the starting position by concentrating on lats and stopping above your face, rather than moving it above your chest. Repeat.

Muscles worked: Lats, chest, and triceps.

7. Push-Up Plus

Now it’s time to hit the serratus anterior, situated at the thorax’s lateral wall.

Although the small part of this muscle is visible, it’s essential to train them because a well-built serratus anterior muscle gives a defined and aesthetic look to our upper body.

So, the first serratus anterior exercise we have is a push-up plus. Let’s learn how to perform it.

How to do:

  • Position yourself just like regular push-up while keeping your body in a straight line.
  • Lower your body until your chest touches closer to the ground and then push back up to the starting position.
  • Once your arms are straight, push your upper back farther more towards the ceiling so that you get the contraction on your serratus anterior muscle.
  • Repeat this movement as desired.

Muscles worked: Serratus anterior, chest, and triceps.

8. Resistance Band Forward Punch

The next exercise we have is forward punching with the resistance band. However, you can do it with a cable machine as well.

How to do:

  • Begin with wrapping a band on equipment at your shoulder height position.
  • Grasp both ends of the band with your hand and your elbow at your side. Take a step forward.
  • Keeping your core tight, punch by extending your elbow and pushing the band in the front away from you.
  • Take a little pause and contract your lateral wall while fully extending your arms, and then return to the starting position. Repeat.

Muscles worked: Serratus anterior, lats, core, shoulders, and arms.

9. Dynamic Hug

How to do:

  • Stand with your hands two to three grip loops apart and the band wrapped around your upper back.
  • Raise your arms slightly and band your elbow at a 45-degree angle.
  • Keeping your shoulders down, push your arms forward and inward as if you giving someone a hug.
  • As your hands cross slightly in the middle, hold briefly and then slowly return to the starting position.

Muscles worked: Serratus anterior.

10. Side Crunches

Okay, let’s move to the final muscle of our ribs, the oblique, and one of the easiest movements you can perform is side crunches.

How to do:

  • To begin, lie on your side with your legs slightly bend and your arm extended out on the floor for support while your other arm resting on your head for balance.
  • Then, simultaneously crunch your obliques down by raising your head and leg to get a nice contraction on the oblique.
  • Then slowly return back to the starting position and perform your desired reps.
  • And then switch to the other side.

Muscles worked: Oblique and abs.

11. Downward Wood Chopper

The next exercise we have is a downward woodchopper, one of the most effective exercises to target our oblique.

How to do:

  • To begin, set up the cable above your shoulder height.
  • Grab the handles with an interlocked grip and take a sideways step away from the cable.
  • Exhale and activate your obliques and try to move in your belly button towards your spine.
  • Keep your arms extended and elbows locked through the entire movement.
  • Then slowly rotate your torso down by pulling your arms down across your body and slowly return back to the starting position.
  • Perform desired reps and switch to the other side.
  • Make sure you should focus on your torso during rotation instead of your arms.

Muscles worked: Obliques and abs.

12. Twisting Leg Raises

The last but most critical exercise you can do for superior oblique activation is twisting leg raises.

However, if you find this movement difficult, you can do the same action on the floor and progress with the captain’s chair and then a pull-up bar.

How to do:

  • To begin, hang yourself on a pull-up bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Keep your legs slightly bent together and core tight.
  • Exhale and use your core to raise your knees in a crossing motion toward your left side.
  • Then lower your legs back down to the starting position and repeat the movement to the opposite side. Perform desired reps.

Muscles worked: Obliques and abs.

The Perfect Workout Plan for Ribs

If you’re already following a workout plan like split or full-body training, you can add the exercises mentioned above to your upper body training days.

However, you can follow this ribs workout routine:

Workout A

  • Barbell bench press: 3-4 sets x 6-8 reps
  • Cable crossover: 3 x 8-12
  • Lat pull-down: 3 x 8-12
  • Dumbbell pullover: 2-3 x 8-12
  • Resistance band punch: 3 x 10-15
  • Downward wood chopper: 3 x 8-12

Workout B

  • Incline barbell press: 3 x 6-8
  • Chest dips: 3 x failure
  • Pull-ups: 3 x failure
  • Dumbbell gorilla row: 2-3 x 8-12
  • Push-up plus: 3 x failure
  • Twisting leg raises: 3 x failure

Perform the workout A and B on Monday and Thursday, respectively. Make sure you’re hitting your upper body at least twice a week.

You can choose different exercises if you fall short in equipment at your gym.

If you follow the workout routine as mentioned above, you’ll not only hit all the muscles around your ribs, but also you’ll be able to build muscle to your upper body more efficiently. 

Related: How Long Does It Take to Build Muscle?


Okayyy, we’ve got all the ingredients to put on lean muscle mass around our ribs.

So, follow them as recommended, and you’ll be on the road to getting a bigger and stronger upper body.

Remember, when training your upper body, you shouldn’t neglect training your lower body because it’s the foundation for building an overall balanced and attractive physic.

If you’ve any questions regarding how to build muscle around the rib cage, feel free to ask in the comment section below. I’ll be glad to help you out!

Read next: Top 5 Proven Ways Increase Muscle Size FAST