A novel method based on kinematical analysis is proposed to describe the three-dimensional motion of the ribs during breathing. The three-dimensional coordinates of markers on the ribs and vertebrae were used to calculate the orientation of the ribs as a function of time. A test measured the relative motion between the markers and the ribs using magnetic resonance and the results revealed that the skin motion artifact found for the ribs (absolute mean value 3.9 mm) would induce maximum errors of 4 degrees on rib motion calculation. The method identified a signal coherent with the breathing cycle for the angles of the ribs around the mediolateral axis and was also able to show differences between healthy nonathletes and swimmers, which presented greater angular variation of the ribs (p < .05). In conclusion, this study has shown the reliability of using three-dimensional kinematic analysis to evaluate the movement of the ribs during breathing as well as its potential to identify differences in the behavior of the rib motion in trained swimmers and untrained healthy subjects.