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How to Strengthen Your Serratus Anterior for Better Shoulder Mobility and Health

Are you interested in improving the mobility and health of your shoulders? Do you want to avoid shoulder pain and injuries? Would you like to enhance your performance in sports and activities that involve movements above your head? If you answered yes to any of these questions then it's crucial for you to focus on your serratus anterior muscle.

The serratus anterior muscle connects your shoulder blade (scapula) to your rib cage. Its primary function is to protract and upwardly rotate the scapula enabling you to reach overhead. Additionally, it plays a role in stabilizing the scapula against your thorax preventing any winging out. Unfortunately, the importance of the serratus anterior muscle is often not given attention during training. However, it is indispensable for maintaining shoulder function and overall shoulder health.

In this article we will delve into why the serratus anterior muscle holds significance, explore the benefits that come with strengthening it and provide a range of exercises that can be performed at home to activate and develop this muscle group.

Why the Serratus Anterior Is Important

The serratus anterior is important for several reasons:

  • It enhances your ability to move your arms overhead. The serratus anterior muscle assists in raising your arms above your head by rotating your shoulder blades. This expands the range of motion in your shoulder joint and enables you to execute pressing movements with greater efficiency and effectiveness.
  • It benefits your shoulder well being. The serratus anterior plays a role in ensuring alignment and stability of your shoulder blade during movements. This minimizes strain on the muscles and tendons of your rotator cuff which are susceptible to inflammation, irritation or injury. It also helps prevent scapular winging, a condition characterized by the protrusion of the shoulder blade from the back due to weakened or impaired serratus muscles.
  • It can enhance your performance. The serratus anterior muscle plays a role in generating power and explosiveness in your upper body by efficiently transferring force from your core to your arms. This in turn can significantly improve your performance, in sports and activities that require punching, throwing, swinging or pushing motions.

Benefits of Serratus Anterior Exercises

man practicing yoga on the mat at home

Incorporating serratus anterior exercises into your upper body workout routine can offer advantages. Here are a few reasons why they are worth considering;

  • They can help alleviate discomfort and strain in the wrists. By maintaining alignment and a neutral grip position exercises targeting the serratus muscles have the potential to alleviate wrist pain and reduce strain. This approach aims to prevent bending or twisting of the wrist joint, which may lead to inflammation, irritation or injury.
  • By incorporating serratus exercises into your routine you can enhance the range of motion during push ups. One effective way to achieve this is, by placing your hands on knuckles or handles which elevates them. This adjustment enables you to bring your chest closer to the floor resulting in a stretch, for your chest and shoulder muscles. Ultimately this increased stretch can lead to muscle activation. Promote growth.
  • Improving your balance and core stability is one of the benefits of incorporating serratus exercises into your routine. These exercises require you to exert effort in stabilizing your body on a surface area thereby challenging your proprioception (the sense of body position). Additionally they provide an engagement for your core muscles leading to increased strength and endurance, over time.
  • Regularly performing exercises that target the serratus anterior muscles can fortify your scapular stability. This enhanced toughness is particularly beneficial for sports involving punching or throwing. 

Serratus Anterior Exercises You Can Do at Home

You don't have to invest in equipment or pay for a gym membership to work on your serratus muscles. You can easily do these exercises in the comfort of your home with no equipment required. Let me share an examples;

  • Bear crawls: Bear crawls are a way to improve your mobility and get your heart pumping. This bodyweight exercise also  burns calories and strengthens your core. To perform bear crawls start by placing your hands and feet on the floor ensuring they are shoulder width apart. Keep your body facedown. Maintain a line, from head to heels. Begin crawling using an alternating movement pattern, where you move your leg with your left arm and vice versa. Remember to engage your core muscles and squeeze those glutes for effectiveness.
  • Scapular push-ups: Scapular push ups involve a modified version of push ups specifically targeting the movement of your shoulder blades. To perform push ups begin in a plank position, with your hands positioned directly under your shoulders and your feet spaced hip width. Maintain arms as you gently lower yourself by squeezing your shoulder blades retraction). Then raise yourself back up by pushing your shoulder blades protraction). Make sure to keep the rest of your body stable throughout the exercise.
  • Serratus jabs: Serratus jabs are an exercise that incorporates resistance bands and punching. Here's how you can do it; Securely attach a resistance band to something, behind you then hold the end in your hand. Stand with your feet about shoulder width and slightly bend your knees. Keep your elbow at a 90 degree angle. Position your fist close to your chin. Now punch forward with your arm extending your elbow and moving your shoulder blades. Return to the position. Repeat the same steps, with the other arm.
  • Shadow boxing and heavy bag punching: Shadow boxing and punching a bag are exercises for targeting the serratus anterior muscle as they imitate the movements involved in throwing punches. To engage in shadow boxing assume a fighting stance with your feet staggered and keep your hands raised in a fight position. Throw punches into the air alternating between jabs, crosses, hooks and uppercuts while incorporating movement and changing directions. Similarly when practicing heavy bag punching follow the same instructions. Direct your punches at a weighted bag rather than into the air.
  • Atlas push-ups: Atlas push ups involve using handles or bars to enhance the range of motion and intensity of the exercise. To perform Atlas push ups position two handles or bars, on the ground wider than your shoulder width. Take hold of them with your hands. Assume a plank position. Gradually lower yourself until your chest touches the floor, between the handles or bars then push back up until your arms are fully extended.
  • Parallel bar dips: Parallel bar dips are an exercise that targets multiple muscle groups including the chest, shoulders, triceps and core. They require both strength and stability. To perform bar dips start by gripping two bars with your hands and lifting your body until your arms are fully extended. Then gradually bend your elbows to lower your body until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Finally push yourself back up by extending your arms until they're again.

Conclusion

The serratus anterior muscle is incredibly important for maintaining good shoulder mobility and overall shoulder health. It plays a role in preventing shoulder pain and injuries, enhancing performance during movements and boosting upper body strength and endurance. To strengthen your serratus anterior you can easily perform these exercises at home with little to no equipment required. Do you want to sculpt your shoulder? Check out this blog about Kevin Levrone.