Do you want to have a strong and sculpted upper body? If so, serratus anterior exercises are a great place to start. This muscle is located in the upper chest and is responsible for protracting the shoulder blades. In other words, it helps pull the shoulder blades forward.
The serratus anterior is often neglected in favor of other muscles like the pectoralis major and deltoids. But if you want to achieve that “V” shape, you must target this muscle! This blog post will discuss five serratus anterior exercises you can do at home or in the gym. Let’s get started!
What are the best serratus anterior exercises?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. It depends on your fitness level, goals, and preferences. However, we can narrow it down to five serratus anterior exercises that are effective for muscle development. Understanding what the serratus anterior muscles do is essential, why it is crucial, and how it can become dysfunctional.
What is the serratus anterior muscle?
The serratus anterior is a large, triangular muscle covering the chest’s side and extending to the front. It originates at the outer surfaces of the upper eight ribs and inserts on the medial border of the scapula—the serratus anterior wraps around the rib cage.
A strong serratus anterior muscle has three functional components:
- Protraction: This is the primary function of the serratus anterior. It helps to pull the shoulder blades forward and away from the spine.
- Upward rotation: The serratus anterior also assists in upward rotation of the scapula, which allows your arms to lift overhead.
- Stabilization: The serratus anterior stabilizes the shoulder blade, preventing it from winging out during movements like push-ups and pull-ups.
Why is the serratus anterior muscle important?
The serratus anterior, also known as the boxer’s muscle, is an important muscle for shoulder health. Dysfunction and weakness can lead to shoulder complications such as frozen shoulder. Serratus anterior exercises:
- Stabilizes the shoulder blade, vital for overhead movements (like pressing) and horizontal pulling (like rowing).
- It is a critical player in upward scapular rotation, which allows you to lift your arms overhead without pain or impingement. T
- It helps to create the upper body’s desired “V” shape.
What are some common problems associated with weak serratus anterior?
Weakness in the serratus anterior muscle can lead to shoulder pain, pain throughout the thoracic spine, and pain in the front of the chest.
One common problem with serratus anterior dysfunction is scapular winging, when the shoulder blade protrudes from the back and causes a “winged” appearance. This can be painful and make it challenging to do overhead movements.
Another common problem is impingement syndrome. Impingement syndrome occurs when the serratus anterior muscle is unable to stabilize the shoulder blade, instability in the rotator cuff, and shoulder girdle. As a result, pain is at the shoulder joint but partly due to weakness in the serratus anterior muscle.
Another problem associated with serratus anterior dysfunction is poor posture. The serratus anterior muscle helps keep the shoulders pulled back and down, so you may find yourself slouching forward when it is weak. This can lead to pain in the neck and shoulders.
Finally, serratus anterior dysfunction can also cause chest pain. The serratus anterior attaches to the ribs, so there can be increased tension on these bones when it is weak or dysfunctional.
Rotator cuff strain
A weak serratus anterior muscle can cause a rotator cuff strain because it cannot stabilize the shoulder blade. Consequently, the rotator cuff muscles, often the pectoral muscles or supraspinatus muscle, become overworked, leading to pain and inflammation in the rotator cuff tendons.
Additionally, weak serratus anterior muscles can create overworked muscles in the upper trapezius and levator scapulae that can strain the rotator cuff tendons. Ultimately, it can lead to a rotator cuff tear.
What causes serratus anterior dysfunction?
Serratus anterior dysfunction is a common problem that can lead to pain and impaired movement. Here are the five top causes of serratus anterior dysfunction:
The serratus anterior is responsible for stabilizing the shoulder blade against the rib cage. When you have poor posture, it puts unnecessary strain on this muscle, which can lead to pain and dysfunction.
If you repetitively use your arms for activities such as weightlifting or swimming, it can lead to serratus anterior dysfunction.
A direct blow to the serratus anterior muscle can cause it to become injured and dysfunctional.
Scoliosis is a condition where the spine is curved sideways, which can strain the serratus anterior muscle and lead to dysfunction.
Long thoracic nerve injury
The long thoracic nerve innervates the serratus anterior muscle. The long thoracic nerve starts in the neck, travels underneath the clavicle, and innervates the anterior muscle of the serratus.
This nerve can become injured due to repetitive overhead motions, direct trauma, or stretching. When this happens, it can cause weakness in the serratus anterior muscle.
What are the best exercises to strengthen and sculpt serratus anterior?
There are two types of serratus anterior exercises: open chain and closed chain. An open chain exercise is one where your hands and feet are free to move instead of being fixed in one place. As a result, the serratus anterior is worked through a greater range of motion, essential for strengthening and sculpting this muscle.
Closed chain serratus anterior exercises are where your hands and feet are fixed in one place – such as a pushup. The benefit of closed chain exercises is that they help to stabilize the shoulder girdle and rotator cuff, which can prevent injury.
These five exercises include open and closed chain exercises to strengthen and sculpt the anterior muscle of the serratus. They will address serratus anterior weakness and build strong serratus anterior muscles.
Wall with foam roller and band
Goal: This is an open-chain serratus anterior exercise to strengthen and sculpt.
- Start facing the wall and press the foam roller against the wall with your forearms.
- Step back a few inches to lean forward into the wall. Protract the scapulae slightly to activate your serratus anterior
- Slowly roll up the wall, focusing on activating your serratus anterior muscles.
- Go as far as you can, then roll back down with control.
- Complete 8-12 reps
Focus on moving your scapulae (shoulder blades) up and back during this rollout. Keep your core engaged and breathe throughout the motion.
Serratus anterior push-ups (scapular push-ups)
Goal: The anterior push-up isolates the serratus anterior in a push-up position. It engages the serratus anterior in a closed-chain exercise and can be applied to a full push-up in an exercise routine.
- Get into a push-up position and straighten your arms without locking your elbows
- Carefully slide your shoulder blades inward towards each other, then outwards away from each other
- Keep your neck neutral as there should be no additional strain on your neck
- Push through the shoulder blades, allowing them to rotate, feeling the serratus anterior activate
- Maintain a neutral spine
- Repeat this movement ten times
Planks on a ball
Goal: The serratus anterior is engaged in a closed-chain exercise when doing a plank on a ball. This helps to stabilize the shoulder girdle and rotator cuff, which can prevent injury.
- Kneel on the floor before a stability ball with your forearms resting on top. You can also place your hands on the ball for a full plank.
- Tighten your core, and focus on using the serratus anterior muscle to “lift” you up.
- Lift knees until you are in a straight line plank. Keep your shoulder blades pulled towards the middle of your back.
- Keep elbows straight but not locked
- Hold plank, squeezing glutes, thighs, and core, staying strong through the exercise.
- Hold for 30 seconds or more, repeating 3-5 times.
Ab roll out
Goal: The serratus anterior is engaged when doing an ab rollout. This allows you to work the serratus through a greater range of motion, essential for strengthening and sculpting this muscle.
- Start kneeling on the floor with the ab roller in front of you.
- Place your hands on the handles of the ab roller and lean forward, placing the weight on your forearms
- Keeping your core engaged, slowly roll the ab roller away from you, extending your body as far as you can without letting your hips touch the floor
- Roll back to the starting position and repeat
High bear crawl
Goal: To strengthen the serratus anterior in a functional movement. High bear crawls also strengthen the core and glutes.
- Start in a high plank position with your feet and hands shoulder-width apart.
- Keeping your abs tight, lift your right hand and left foot off the ground and move them forward about a foot.
- Place them back on the floor and repeat with the left hand and right foot.
- Continue moving forward, keeping your back and hips as level as possible.
Bear crawls are a great functional movement to help improve strength and stability in the serratus anterior muscle.
The serratus anterior is an essential stabilizing muscle of the shoulder girdle and, when weak, can cause injury and pain to the shoulder structures. It is also an aesthetically significant muscle to enhance a sculpted torso. These are five of the best exercises to start and maintain proper serratus anterior function.
Frequently Asked Questions
What exercises work the serratus anterior muscle?
The serratus anterior is a muscle that originates on the surface of the ribs and inserts onto the front of the shoulder blade. In isolation, it protracts and rotates the shoulder blade.
Functionally, it helps stabilize the shoulder blade through movement, allowing other muscles such as the rotator cuff and the deltoids to perform work.
Any exercise that requires the shoulder blade to protract and lift will target the serratus anterior muscle. For example, the serratus anterior is engaged in closed-chain exercises such as scapular push-ups, which help stabilize the shoulder girdle and rotator cuff.
Additionally, the serratus anterior is engaged when doing an ab roll out, which allows you to work the serratus through a greater range of motion. Bear crawls are also a great functional movement to help improve strength and stability in the serratus anterior muscle.
How do you activate your serratus anterior muscle?
There are a few ways that you can activate your serratus anterior muscle. One way is to do a plank on a ball, which helps stabilize the shoulder girdle and rotator cuff. Additionally, you can do an ab rollout, which allows you to work the serratus through a greater range of motion.
Do push-ups build serratus anterior muscle?
Yes, the serratus anterior muscle is engaged when doing a push-up. For best results, do various exercises targeting the serratus anterior muscle.
The serratus anterior is an essential muscle for stabilizing the shoulder and preventing injury. These five exercises are a great place to start if you want to sculpt your upper body and improve your overall strength.
It is important to couple serratus anterior exercises with a complete strengthening program, including the lower body.
So give them a try and see how they work for you!