These exercises help with funnel chest

Funnel chest exercises: The chest is a sensitive topic for many men for good reason. In summer on the beach, during outdoor sports or even during sex, the upper body becomes visible. A visually attractive, trained upper body is considered a status symbol – for men with funnel chest, this is often a problem. Many feel uncomfortable and are afraid of attracting unpleasant attention. This does not have to be the case. We will explain to you what funnel chest is all about and how you can counteract it with simple fitness exercises.

What is funnel chest and what causes it?

Pectus excavatum is a physical deformity. That sounds worse than it is: Pectus excavatum is not that rare, it is the most common deformity of the human chest. The chest collapses inwards and looks somewhat like a funnel. In contrast to pectus excavatum, where the chest bulges outwards. Men are three times more likely to be affected by Pectus excavatum than women, with a general rate of 0.1 to 2 percent. Pectus excavatum is not dangerous per se, but it can certainly affect mental and physical health.


The reason for the deformity is an excess cartilage connection between the ribs and the breastbone, which pulls the ribcage inwards. “Poor posture can also lead to funnel chest,” explains exercise therapist Arlow Pieniak from Hamburg. “In cases of extreme adhesions of the spine, training can only help to a limited extent, but in most cases, funnel chest is position-related – and this is something that can be worked on very well.”

What symptoms are typical for funnel chest?

Unfortunately, pectus excavatum often causes breathing problems. “People affected are usually unable to do endurance sports as they wish because their lungs have less space,” explains Pieniak. In contrast to pectus excavatum, it is not exhalation that is impaired in pectus excavum, but rather inhalation.

People with funnel chest find it easier to breathe into their chest – rather than their stomach. Since the muscles in the chest, unlike the abdominal muscles, are not endurance muscles, the diaphragm cramps easily – another reason why the chest pulls inwards. Poor posture, such as sitting for hours and bending the upper body forward, can also worsen the symptoms of funnel chest.


What can I do in everyday life to combat funnel chest?

“It’s best for men with funnel chest to sit as little as possible,” advises Pieniak. Of course, that’s unrealistic in most jobs. “But at least those affected should try to consciously breathe into their stomach as often as possible,” adds the expert.

The reason: If you only “pant” into your chest, which happens quickly in stressful situations, the symptoms can get worse. It helps to work at a standing desk. But: “If you stand in a bad position and then put your arms forward for 8 hours, you are making your bad posture worse.” Here you can find out Full Bodyweight Exercises for Weight Loss for Beginners. Through targeted training, you can work on balancing your chest and standing better again. Even though many sufferers also have breathing problems when doing strength training, the chances of a pleasant, stress-free workout are higher here.

What exercises can I do to counteract funnel chest?

“If you have funnel chest, it’s not enough to just do a few classic strength exercises for the chest muscles,” explains exercise therapist Pieniak. Rather, a combination of mobilization , breathing exercises and posture training is required in order to then internalize the correct position with targeted strength exercises.

Before you start the actual exercises, lie on your back and test how deeply you can breathe in. How far do your ribs open? If you feel like you are breathing shallowly and with your ribs closed, the following exercises can help:

Step 1: Mobilization

Position a double ball under the thoracic spine. Or a sock into which you have previously placed 2 tennis balls . These should be to the right and left of the spine, but not directly on it. Put your hands behind your neck and let your elbows point upwards. Roll slowly from painful point to painful point. Stay briefly on the respective points to trigger them and, ideally, release them.

Next comes the sternum mobilization. First, stand in front of a wall and place a tune-up ball (or a similarly soft ball) on your sternum. The ball will stay between your chest and the wall without falling off. To do this, lean forward slightly. Only make minimal rolling up and down movements and pause at painful points. Don’t forget to breathe deeply during the exercise.

“This movement sequence may seem counterintuitive because it puts additional pressure on the already sunken area, but it is the only chance to free up the connection between the sternum and the costal cartilage. And that is crucial for more mobility in the chest,” says Pieniak. Repeat the sequence for 2 minutes and after a few days, if possible, do it on the floor to increase the pressure.

Then it’s time to mobilize your stomach. Lie on your stomach on a Pilates ball and slowly roll over your entire stomach, from top to bottom and from side to side. Breathe as calmly and deeply as possible. Use your hands to support yourself and find the right pressure – you don’t have to put your whole body weight on your stomach straight away. Try to do these movements for about 3 to 4 minutes at a time.

Step 2: improve breathing

Do the introductory exercise again. Lie on your back and place your hands on your chest. This will open your ribs a little more when you breathe in than before the mobilization exercises. You may already feel a slight difference. Now the test turns into a real exercise, which you repeat about 6 times in 3 sets: Breathe in as deeply as possible for 3 seconds, hold your breath for 3 seconds and breathe out for 6 seconds. “This sequence trains the respiratory muscles and mobilizes the chest,” explains the expert. Concentrate on doing the exercise accurately without becoming tense. The exercise is intended to mobilize and activate your breathing instead of making you tense.

Now it’s time for the most important exercise for men with funnel chest: stretching the diaphragm. To do this, lie on your back and bring your arms back and behind your head. Put your hands together, place your feet at a comfortable distance apart and raise your pelvis as high as possible. Now breathe in as deeply as possible and breathe out as deeply as you can. Then hold your breath briefly and place your buttocks back on the floor. Try not to breathe for as long as possible without getting stressed. The abdominal muscles remain relaxed the whole time. When you breathe in again, release the position and repeat the exercise 4 times.

“When the lungs are pumped empty, an internal suction is created on the diaphragm, which stretches it out. This stretching is increased by the outstretched arms and the lowered pelvis – perfect for relieving tension in the diaphragm,” explains Pieniak. Make sure you really exhale completely.

Step 3: Strength training

After the mobilization and breathing exercises, you can start with strength training . You will now benefit enormously from the width in your chest that you have just achieved. For each of the 5 exercises that target the upper back, chest and shoulders, the following applies: breathe into your chest and push it forward as far as possible to get into a straight line.

It is best to train in front of a mirror, at least at the beginning. Because: “As soon as you fall back into the old funnel chest position during a front squat, for example, the front squat reinforces this and you become good at maintaining a funnel chest,” explains exercise therapist Pieniak. And nobody wants that…

  • The front squat helps you straighten your upper back.
  • The barbell row fixes the shoulders where they belong: back.
  • The press strengthens the often very weak trapezius muscle and improves the full mobility of the upper body.
  • The overhead squat keeps the core flexible.
  • The bench press trains the pushing movement forward without allowing the shoulder blades to protrude.

What does a perfect workout against funnel chest look like?

The ideal training for men with funnel chest could look like this: Do the training session described 2 to 3 times a week. Increase the weights steadily, but only as much as you can move cleanly. If you can do front squats with 20 kg, the next training session will be the 25 kg barbell. As soon as you are able to lift your own body weight, you will almost certainly be able to hold your chest correctly in any other situation – goodbye funnel chest!

1. Your usual warm-up
2. Breathing exercises
3. Mobilization
4. Breathing exercise and diaphragm stretching
5. Strength exercises

How quickly does training work against funnel chest?

Even if it’s an unsatisfactory answer, it depends. “In some cases, mobilization alone takes a long time – and therefore a long time until the basis for everything else is in place,” says Pieniak. It can take up to 6 weeks. But Pieniak has also looked after clients who only needed 2 to 3 training sessions to notice significant improvements.

Are there any sports that men with funnel chest should avoid?

Not necessarily. The phenomenon of funnel chest is too individual to make explicit statements here. What training and sport you can do depends mainly on how severe your symptoms are and what activity allows you to breathe freely and feel good. Listen to your body and, if you are unsure, talk to your doctor.

Those affected should really avoid a few specific strength exercises. These include the butterfly chest exercise in all variations, such as butterfly reverse or butterfly with dumbbells. “These exercises reinforce the sunken position instead of balancing it out,” warns the expert.

Men with funnel chest always have to make sure to keep their shoulders back and their breastbone up when training – even when you push a weight away from you with your arms. You probably won’t be able to do this on the butterfly machine. In addition, you should initially put exercises like push-ups or planks at the back. Performing these movements with correct posture is much more difficult with pronounced funnel chest.

The general rule is: watch yourself in the mirror! If you don’t want to miss out on the two bodyweight exercises, support yourself on a table that gets lower and lower over time – until you can hold the movements on the floor in a stable position.

For men with funnel chest, training is often a challenge. But targeted exercises can improve the appearance and alleviate breathing problems. A combination of mobilization, breathing exercises and strength training is crucial. However, avoid exercises such as butterfly, which can actually make the deformity worse. With perseverance and patience, a positive change can be achieved that not only improves your appearance, but also your health.


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