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The Importance of the Serratus Anterior Muscle

Updated on August 21, 2013

Do you have chronic tightness in your upper back or shoulder blade regions?

If you are experiencing pain in your shoulder blade region, upper back tightness, or having weakness in your shoulder you might have what is referred to as scapular instability. Scapular instability is caused by a number of shoulder and upper back muslces either becoming overactive or underactive. What this means is some of the muscles are shortening and contracting before they should and more often than they should. Leaving the muscle that performs the opposite motion to not fire and contract when it should.

Why an underactive Serratus Anterior leads to Scapular Instability

To put this into lea-mans terms even farther. If you have ever performed a bicep curl with a dumbbell before you, you could not have completed that motion of the arm, if the opposite muscle the triceps hadn't relaxed in the first place. This is what is called reciprocal inhibition. One muscle performing a task in which the muscle that performs the opposite function has to turn of and relax. If your rhomboids and upper trapezius muscles are always turned on, pulling the scapula then the opposite muscles being the serratus anterior and lower trapezius will relax to allow the motion to occur. Thus creating an unstable scapular motion in favor of the tight / overactive dominate muscles. This over time leads to chronic upper back tightness, shoulder blade pain, and will lead to stress and dysfunction of the rotator cuff muscles.

Now bringing us to the importance of the serratus anterior muscle. A muscle that most people have never even heard of before. The serratus anterior muscle is responsible for holding the scapula to the thoracic cage. When this is done correctly, this allows for a more stable base for the shoulder girdle muscles to pull from. Allowing more motion to come from the glenoid-humeral joint (shoulder joint). This creates a more fluid motion that is more successful with less strain on the nerves, vascular structures, and muscles of the shoulder, upper back, and chest.

A clear screen to show if your serratus anterior is indeed not activating properly is to get into a push-up position on your fingers and toes and hold that position while you have someone look for symtery between your shoulders. If one of the shoulders or both appear to be winging, this means your serratus weak. If you are able to hold this position for 30 secs or so, but then notice scapular winging this means that your serratus anterior muscles are weak. You will in both situations need to work on having a more active stronger serratus anterior muscle.

Below is a video that will show a simple yet effective way to strengthen your serratus anterior muscle.

Serratus Anterior Activation Exercise

Proper activation of this muscle will ensure that your rhomboids won't become over dominate leading to chronic upper back pain and shoulder instability. This video demonstrates an easy, but extremely effective way to better activate your serratus anterior muscle.

How many readers decided to try the exercise after watching the video and found the exercise effective?

See results

Resistance Band Workout: A Simple Way to Tone and Strengthen Your Muscles

If you bought the set of resistance bands I highlighted above, then when you combine them with this book you will essentially have a complete gym "in the comfort of your own home." haha couldn't resist using that tag line :)

All joking aside this book is a great resource on how to effectively use exercise bands to tone and strengthen a number of muscles. The book is well put together, and provides simple exercises. If you want to start somewhere simple, using resistance bands is that place and this book will help you learn how to really use resistance bands to your advantage.

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