You have all felt it: that burning, or sometimes aching pain between the spine and shoulder blade. We try to rub our traps fearlessly and dig into our rhomboids, but you might wonder why this doesn't bring lasting relief.
I introduce to you, serratus anterior.
Serratus anterior is one of many muscles that resides in the realm “sensori-motor amnesia”. It is compliant and gets the job done, but rarely begs for attention. The Serratus Anterior originates on the upper nine ribs and the fascia between the costals, then flows in front of the shoulder blade and attaches to the anterior vertebral border of the scapula. It's primary job is to help bring your shoulder blades forward aka "protraction" with assistance from pec minor and upper fibers of pec major. When this trifecta shortens, it can often result in stooped posture and rounding of the shoulders. Serratus anterior also rotates the scapula upward and also assist in breathing. Energetically it may be associated with movements such as: handstands, pushups, downward facing dog, and of course, we can't forget throwing a mean "big swing" in a boxing ring.
So what can strengthening and freeing up the serratus do for your body?
1. Solid deep breathes: who doesn't love breathing? In all seriousness, the serratus also acts as a breathing accessory muscle by helping the ribs expand back and out to the side, which means deeper breathes that makes our nervous system happy. This is especially critical during strenuous workouts. The body needs to process energy and oxygen quickly and if your serratus is glued down, those bigger muscles are going to have a hard time working.
2. Neck Relief: If the serratus muscle is struggling or slacking, guess who is picking up the work...you got it, the neck. This can lead to a number of problems, but what I see the most is forward head posture and compression of the cervical spine and all kind of headaches.
3. Range of Motion: who doesn't want better range of motion? Along with other muscles, the serratus anterior is a shoulder mobilizer. A healthy, supple serratus will provide optimal humeral and shoulder function, and this will allow the arm to articulate with much more freedom. Freedom is great
4. Better Performance: need I say more? golf swing? freestyle stroke? throwing a right hook? or do you just want to breathe better?
How do I build strength in my serratus? Great question.
there is more, but this is a great beginning start. Make sure that your shoulder blades don't wing out and don't let those shoulders round forward.
But how do I find or activate my serratus anterior? another great question.
1. Standing Wall Press: Stand facing a wall at full arm's distance, place palms shoulder height on the wall. Lean forward as if you were doing a standing wall plank. Now, without bending your arms, drop your chest toward the wall. You should feel your shoulder blades come together (retract) on your back. Now, push the wall away from you, and you should be feeling the shoulder blades go wide apart (protraction).