The benefits of training serratus anterior are almost endless. It is one of the most important muscles of the shoulder complex.
It’s essential for a strong bench press, and basically every overhead exercise known to man.
Still, in the fitness world, it gets treated like Kevin in Home Alone. Forgotten until it’s too late.
The serratus anterior is key for scapular strength and stability, which makes essential to properly train in all of our clients.
The Serratus Anterior runs from the antero-medial border of the scapula to the first 9 ribs.
It’s main function is to keep your shoulder blade properly placed against your rib cage during upper extremity motion. Primary activation occurs during protraction of the scapula.
When this muscle fails to perform it’s job properly, you will see a “winging scapula”. This will look like the shoulder blade is poking up and out from the back of the rib cage. Watch for this on exercises like pushups and front raises.
This muscle also assists in rib cage expansion during respiration. A lack of proper activation of the serratus anterior can lead to poor breathing patterns and a hypo-mobile thoracic spine.
All of the issues mentioned above put your clients at high risk for shoulder injury as their volume and resistance increases.
A weak and under-active serratus anterior leads to poor scapular mechanics and decreased thoracic spine mobility.
You will see these two things quite frequently, especially if you train non-athletes.
When the shoulder blade is not stable during overhead motion, the risk for impingement and other shoulder pathology skyrockets. (Think: rotator cuff injury, biceps tendinitis, etc.)
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The goal of training this muscle is to gain scapular stability. We want our clients to be generating force through a stable shoulder joint.
Here are two of my favorite exercises to strengthen the serratus anterior:
2. High Plank Presses : This is similar to the cat-camel exercise but you start in a high plank instead of the quadruped position. Start in the high plank position and push your upper back towards the sky, causing a light curve in the thoracic spine. Then lower back down in a slow and controlled manner.
There you have it! The benefits of training serratus anterior are too good to ignore. So give your clients the healthy shoulders they deserve!
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Doctor of Physical Therapy Candidate, Corrective Exercise Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer
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