Friday, September 25, 2009

The Serratus Muscle

I can't remember where I saw this as I was cruising around different forums but I saw something that I'm sure that most of us haven't seen very much: a question on how to strengthen the Serratus Anterior muscle. That's hardly the muscle on the body that impresses girls. you can't even see a chunk of it because it inserts on the anterior and medial border of the scapula (n English, on the shoulder blade, near the spine and between the shoulder blade and the rib cage. Yes, i had to double-check to make sure I got this right). Since much of what fascinates people is the muscles is the muscles they can see, it's weird to see someone even ask about it.

An interesting fact about the Serratus is that at the dawn of bodybuilding, many ignorant doctors claimed that the first bodybuilders were malnourished. They were confusing these muscles when they were well-developed for ribs. So, the priority of this muscle has been pretty low on the totem pole for quite some time. That doesn't mean it's insignificant. It's an incredibly important muscle. The fact that this muscle is pretty weak in a lot of people is a huge reason why so many have shoulder pain.

The serratus does a couple of movements. It's responsible for drawing the shoulder muscles forward when punching. It also helps rotate the scapula, enabling you to lift your arms overhead. What might be its most important role doesn't involve movement though. It's most important job is to stabilize the scapula. That's also why the bench press kind of sucks. The bench stabilizes your shoulders to the point where the serratus isn't doing much work. It could become shortened, causing the infamous winged scapula and all sorts of shoulder problems.

So, back to the original question at hand: What's a person do to strengthen these muscles?

The push-up.

Yeah, that's right. The plain-vanilla push-up is good for hitting the serratus, provided that you do it like I've mentioned several times in the past: under control throughout the movement. The problem for a lot of us is that by now, the normal push-up lacks the challenge that it once had. Plus, we've worked it so much that we crave another variety to try.

It's possible to get both by doing the push-up with our hands on something unstable. This forces us to contract our serratus even more (although we may not notice while exercising) in order to stabilize the shoulder blades. A good way to do this without equipment is doing them on our fingertips. One arm push-ups work well too. The key with them is to think of pulling yourself to the ground while lowering your torso. A third way is to bring one of the knees up to the elbow like this while doing push-ups:

If you grow tired of these, or they're too easy, then you could always reach for a few other tools in the BW bag. Yes, the push-up T's are good for the serratus. A better choice are suspension rigs. In my opinion, these are at the top of the list for hitting the serratus hard.

All of these options have been covered in my blog in the past. Run a search and you'll find that I've blogged extensively about ways to make the push-up harder and how to use different tools. Throw these into your training whenever you get a chance and I assure anyone can get a very complete chest workout out of them.


Anonymous said...

me and my mate made some rings inspired by your site. Loving them, especially for flys, which are a struggle, but definitely smash your pecs and core. Cheers!

Justin_PS said...

That reminds me of something. L-sits on such apparatus are awesome! I started doing these the other night and they add oblique work that you don't normally get with doing them on solid objects.

Glad you had fun with them. Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Ahah i like how it says this is hardly the muscle that impresses girls, well i'm female and this muscle on guys is sexy in my ideal guy they have to have forks or there goin home