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Shoulder Series Part 2 – Serratus Anterior Muscle

The serratus anterior is a large flat sheet of muscle that covers the side of the thorax and is sandwiched between the ribs and the scapula (shoulder blade).

Its main action is to protract the scapula (glide it forward around the chest wall). It also plays a vital role in stabilising the scapula during arm movements, and holds the medial border of the scapula against the chest wall.

When the serratus anterior is weak/underactive the scapula tends to poke out off the ribcage at the back, a phenomenon known as “scapula winging”. A recent study (Uga et al., 2016) demonstrated that “in obviously abnormal shoulders, the serratus anterior is poorly recruited, weakening the shoulder external rotation strength.” These results concur with multiple studies examining the role of the serratus anterior in painful and dysfunctional shoulders.

So what does this mean for shoulder pain? We need to get the serratus anterior muscle firing again! (Are you starting to see the pattern here?!)

Here is how you do it:

· Face down, forearms resting on the ground > hands together and elbows out 45 degrees > knees resting on ground > set shoulders back and down > push chest up by gliding shoulders forward (protraction) > let chest drop down and shoulders glide back (retraction) > slow and smooth > repeat

· Do 3 sets of 10 reps every day!

· Progressions: - Move up onto your hands instead of forearms - Varied hand positions (wider, narrower, high above shoulders) - Move up onto your toes (push-up position) instead of knees

With your serratus anterior stronger, your shoulders will be functioning better than ever before!

Watch this space to see ‘Part 3’ of the shoulder series coming soon!


Strength and muscle activity of shoulder external rotation of subjects with and without scapular dyskinesis. (English) By: Uga D; Nakazawa R; Sakamoto M, Journal Of Physical Therapy Science [J Phys Ther Sci], ISSN: 0915-5287, 2016 Apr; Vol. 28 (4), pp. 1100-5; Publisher: Society of Physical Therapy Science; PMID: 27190434

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