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3 Exercises To Improve Serratus Activation

The serratus anterior is an often neglected, yet important muscle for healthy shoulder function. A strong, healthy serratus anterior will help your shoulder blades (scapula) sit downward and rotate upward to help your shoulder joint position correctly.

Seated work, hunching over computers, craning necks to stare at smartphones, can all disrupt proper position of the shoulders. This leads to neck and shoulder pain, rounded shoulders, and tight pectoralis muscles.

Serratus anterior muscle
photo credit: suzannekasparson.com

 

Strengthening the serratus is no easy task. It’s a hard muscle to isolate and muscles such as the pec minor, levator scapulae, and rhomboids can inhibit serratus activation. Over activation in these areas can cause a forward shift in head position and rounded shoulders.

This series of exercises will help activate your serratus anterior while minimally recruiting these overactive muscles. I recommend performing 3 sets of 5-10 of each twice a week as part of your warm-up routine. You can also use these exercise as supersets with your upper body workout.

 

 

Serratus push-up from quadruped position

From a quadruped position, posteriorly tilt the pelvis and move the spine into a neutral position. Place the hands under the shoulders and knees under the hips. Keep your shoulders down away from the ears. Focus on opening up the upper back by pressing through the serratus anterior. Don’t think too much about rounding the upper back, but spreading it. The serratus runs from the ribs near the side of the pec under the scapula. Then sink down into the scapula without bending the arms.

 Serratus arm lift off

From a quadruped position, posteriorly tilt the pelvis and move the spine into a neutral position. Place the hands under the shoulders and knees under the hips. Keep your shoulders down away from the ears. No shrugging. Focus on opening up the upper back by pressing through the serratus anterior. Don’t think too much about rounding the upper back, but spreading it. Lift your arm, keeping the elbow extended while reaching toward the wall. Focus your brain on the serratus. That is what you want to feel as your arm moves forward. It’s easy to lift your arm. Not as easy to activate your serratus while doing it. Take note of my trunk during this movement. It’s rigid. This is how you should look too. No movement anywhere but that overhead reach. 

Serratus focused bird dog

From a quadruped position, posteriorly tilt the pelvis and move the spine into a neutral position. Place the hands under the shoulders and knees under the hips. Keep your shoulders down away from the ears. No shrugging. Focus on opening up the upper back by pressing through the serratus anterior. Don’t think too much about rounding the upper back, but spreading it.  Lift your arm and opposite leg, keeping the elbow extended while reaching toward the wall and contracting the glute to extend the hip. 




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