The serratus anterior is one of the most important muscles in regards to shoulder health.
It helps to stabilize the scapula. Scapula function is extremely important to maintaining correct shoulder mechanics. In short, the serratus anterior works upward rotation of the shoulder.
When you look at typical gym exercises, such as the bench press and seated row (understandably one would think that doing these two exercises would be balancing out your body, a push and a pull, but in regards to scapula movements it is not true) downward rotation of the scapula is being performed. In fact, in most exercises similar to this downward rotation is being performed. This can quickly become a large muscle imbalance, that will ultimately cause you problems. The other thing the serratus anterior does so well is to keep the scapula against the ribcage. As you can imagine there is not too many structures performing this, and you will find that many people have bad scapula control.
You may end up with a winged scapula and this can cause a whole lot of shoulder problems. Pinched nerve in the shoulder, rotator cuff issues and impingement are just some examples. Having a strong serratus will mean that you will avoid a lot of shoulder issues and keep your scapula moving properly. Here I’ll give you some serratus anterior exercises that you can do, first some isolation exercises, and then some compound movements. Remember, if you have winged scapula, or you are starting out, or have shoulder problems, start with the activation/ isolation exercises. Then once you have it functioning more efficiently, you can move onto the compound exercises to really get it strong.
Serratus Anterior Activation Exercises
Push Up Plus: I have said many times on laurens fitness that the push up is a great exercise for the serratus. Here is another version which will simply target the muscle, and ensure that you get full activation quickly. You can even use them when you are warming up to do a normal set of push ups.
Basic Activation Exercise: This exercise is great for people who have a very poor functioning scapula or shoulder. You can use a normal theraband and just make it into a smaller loop. Try it out, some of you may already be way too strong for this, but you will be surprised how easy it is for the serratus anterior muscle to dysfunction.
Side Raise Isolation: Yet another isolation exercise, note that the important point is to raise your upper back and stretch your scapula apart.
Serratus Anterior Compound Exercises
These exercises use your serratus anterior, but to not isolate them specifically, they are compound exercises that use many more muscles. Perfect once you are properly functioning.
Dumbbell Pullover: This exercise will incorporate your serratus anterior muscle whilst also working out your lats and triceps.
Woodchoppers: High or low, medicine or cable, the woodchop is a great way to work your serratus anterior. Also works a lot of your other ‘core’ muscles and is a great one to add in once you need to get stronger.
Push ups: As I have mentioned many times before on Laurens Fitness, push ups are a great exercise to work your serratus anterior muscle. You will find that any kind will really hit them, and they are one of the most effective exercises available. No video necessary!
There are a lot more exercises that work the serratus anterior. As you can imagine this muscle is used in a lot of movements, considering the role the scapula plays. A strong serratus anterior will almost certainly mean great scapula control, and will ensure that your shoulders stay injury free.