Lat pulldowns target muscles that attach to your rib cage.
You may think of your rib cage as the bony structure that helps protect vital organs such as your heart and lungs. But the ribs also serve as attachment points for numerous upper-body muscles. Exercising major rib cage muscles in your chest, back and abdomen provides a fairly thorough workout of your torso and may be performed together in a total-body or upper-body exercise session. Perform five to 10 minutes of cardio activity as a warm-up before you work your rib cage muscles.
Serratus Anterior Exercises
You'll find plenty of exercises in which the serratus anterior assists your movements -- such as shoulder presses and front or lateral raises -- but few in which the muscle is targeted directly. To zero in on the serratus, which is attached to your upper eight or nine ribs, perform dip shrugs, one-arm incline pushes on a medium cable machine or incline shoulder raises with free weights or machines. Do a barbell incline shoulder raise by lying face up on an incline bench and holding the bar with your arms extended toward the ceiling. Push your shoulders up and let them descend under control to complete one repetition.
Working the Pectoralis Major
The pectoralis major muscles in your chest cover a large area of your upper rib cage and are attached to your second through sixth ribs, counting from the top. Unlike the serratus anterior, you'll find plenty of exercises that target your pecs, such as pushups, chest dips, flyes and bench presses. Begin a barbell bench press by lying face up on a bench and holding the bar just above your upper chest in a wide grip with your palms facing up. Extend your arms straight up and then lower the bar slowly to the starting position.
Target the Latissimus Dorsi
Many of your back muscles attach to your spine -- which is technically a part of your rib cage -- as well as your collarbone or shoulder blades. But your latissimus dorsi muscles are attached directly to your lower three or four ribs. Work your lats by performing pullups, chinups, pullovers, lat pulldowns or rowing exercises. To perform a lat pulldown, attach a lat bar to a high-cable machine. Hold the bar with a wide overhand grip and sit facing the machine with your arms extended upward. Pull the bar to your upper chest and then let the bar rise slowly to the starting position.
Focus on the Obliques
The external obliques on the sides of your abdomen are attached to your lower seven ribs. Work these muscles with a variety of lying, seated or standing exercises, such as twisting crunches, trunk rotations or side bends. For example, do a weighted Russian twist by lying face up with your upper back on a stability ball. Hold a weight in both hands with your arms extended toward the ceiling. Roll your torso to the right so your right shoulder is on top of the ball and then roll in the opposite direction so your left shoulder is on the ball. Keep your arms straight and the weight in front of your upper chest at all times.