The serratus anterior muscles are regularly neglected, even by a lot of weight-lifting enthusiasts that desire an aesthetic physique.
Also known as the Boxer’s muscle, the serratus anterior is the big, fan-like muscle found on both sides of the ribs. The muscles cover the rib cage and link to the edges of the shoulder blades.
A strong serratus anterior can give you a great, sculpted appearance, but it’s also important to support safe shoulder movement.
You’ll find out more about the serratus anterior in this post, including why it’s so important to avoid weakness in this area, and some of the best exercises to strengthen these muscles.
More About The Serratus Anterior
The serratus anterior is made of three components: the inferior, middle, and superior.
Inferior: This starts from the sixth and ninth rib, then connects to the shoulder blade’s base angle.
Middle: The middle serratus anterior begins at the third, fourth, and fifth ribs, then links to the shoulder blade edges, close to the base.
Superior: This portion starts from the first and second ribs, then links to the shoulder blade edges close to the top.
You can feel the serratus anterior muscles underneath the armpit, the edges of the lats, and underneath the chest. The muscles are visible on those with low body fat, creating an aesthetically pleasing look.
However, the serratus anterior muscles are also important for enabling proper shoulder movement.
What Is The Serratus Anterior Muscle’s Job?
Every one of the serratus anterior’s three components works to move the shoulder blades ahead of the thorax, known as scapular protraction. This helps the arm move forward, reaching in front of the body.
The serratus anterior also allows the scapula to rotate upwards, helping you raise your arms to reach overhead.
As the serratus anterior helps move the shoulder blades forward, it acts in opposition to the rhomboids
Despite this, the superior and inferior components work in tandem, holding the shoulder blades pushed on the thorax through several movements.
The serratus anterior’s middle components help move the shoulder blades forward, to protract them.
The inferior component is primarily concerned with pulling the shoulder blades’ lower end overhead and sideways.
The superior component acts as an anchor during this movement, helping you rotate the scapula upwards to elevate the arms.
All of the serratus anterior’s components raise the ribs when the shoulders are in one position, assisting with breathing.
Why Is A Strong Serratus Anterior Important?
The serratus anterior is important for particular movement tasks.
As it links to the shoulder blades, the muscles are important for assisting proper scapula movement, whenever you push in front of you or elevate your arms.
The muscles here are active when you reach to grab an item, as well as during press actions in the gym.
Strong serratus anterior helps keep the shoulder blades safe from pain. This can help you avoid neck, shoulder, and back pain and injuries later on.
A strong serratus anterior also helps you move the arms through their full range of motion. You’ll be able to carry out any pressing motion with strength, like swinging and punching.
This is a very important point for anyone concerned with athletic performance, but the muscles are also important for breathing and proper posture.
Problems With Weak Serratus Anterior
If the serratus anterior is weak or doesn’t activate correctly, there may be unwanted movement with the shoulder blades and shoulder joint.
This can lead to a variety of problems, like scapular winning, forward rounding posture, and possible injuries, like rotator cuff tears.
Here are some more things that can happen with weak serratus anterior muscles.
The serratus anterior helps move the shoulder blades apart, moving them ahead, around the rib cage.
A weak serratus anterior may lead to the shoulder blades moving backward after pushing through resistance.
The motion will be weaker and less powerful, but you may also experience shoulder joint injuries, like shoulder impingement.
If the rhomboids are moving the shoulder blades in through a pull motion, the serratus anterior will be active.
This is to stop the shoulder blades from falling inwards, as it is in opposition to the rhomboids.
If the serratus anterior and rhomboids are collectively working for scapula depression (keeping shoulder blades down), a weaker serratus anterior can lead to imbalance and possible injuries.
Following on from the previous point, the same issue is relevant when you turn the shoulder blades upwards for overhead raises.
A weak serratus anterior will lead to poor athletic performance, as well as an increased injury risk brought on by balance issues.
The 5 Best Serratus Anterior Exercises
Now that you know some more about the serratus anterior, here are some exercises that can help strengthen the muscle.
All of these will work the muscles from different angles for improved strength.
1. Banded Rotational Pressouts (Serratus Jabs)
This is a good serratus anterior exercise as the pressing movement requires the largest range of motion possible.
The movement is like a punch with resistance, performed with a band or a light dumbbell.
To perform the exercise, position in a staggered stance, then secure the band slightly lower.
This allows you to push a little upwards and forwards, stimulating the muscle through upward rotation and protracting the scapula. The best height is around the mid to lower back.
While in your staggered position, press forward until the arms are fully extended, then keep moving the shoulder blades around the rib cage. This will lead to you rotating ahead to extend even more.
This isn’t like a regular press, as you’ll be exaggerating the movement through full protraction of the working shoulder blade.
If you don’t have a band, you can also perform this movement with a light dumbbell.
Perform 10-15 repetitions for 2-3 sets.
2. Ab Rollout
You can perform this movement with an ab wheel, exercise ball, or a loaded barbell. This movement activates the serratus through upward rotation and protraction of the scapula.
This focuses on your eccentric strength in an extended position. This also improves core balance and activates overlooked muscle fibers.
The movement challenges you throughout the concentric and eccentric phases, helping you develop the serratus muscle.
To perform this exercise, get on your knees and gather your chosen equipment: ab wheel, barbell, or exercise ball.
Keep your hands shoulder distance apart, move your hips towards the ground, and allow your chest to drop forward. Do not overarch the lower back.
Activate your lats and return up to the beginning position. Perform the movement slower for better results.
The exercise will be harder the longer the range of motion, so if you’re a beginner, stick to a shorter range of motion and increase as you get stronger.
Perform 6 to 12 repetitions for 3-4 sets.
3. Punching Bag
You don’t have to be into boxing to enjoy this exercise! Professional boxers often have distinct serratus anterior muscles, as this is where a lot of their strength stems from.
To do this exercise, grab a pair of boxing gloves and start punching a heavy bag. Use a full range of different ones, like uppercuts, jabs, and straight rights.
Hit from various angles, like hitting the head and body.
Keep switching your stance. Boxers normally keep to their strongest position, but as we’re training the serratus anterior, it’s best to switch it up.
Perform this exercise for 5-10 minutes, two to three times a week.
4. High Bear Crawl
Bear crawls are a nice way to warm up before a workout. They increase endurance and strength in the shoulders, chest, and arms to improve balance and mobility.
High bear crawls also mean you protract the scapula, so the serratus spends a lot of time under tension.
This is great for hypertrophy, without putting too much pressure on the tendons and joints.
To perform the High Bear Crawl, get onto all fours with your arms and knees straight. Keep a neutral spine with your eyes up.
With a straight back, move one hand ahead, then your opposite foot forward an even distance. Repeat on your other side, switching between sides for each repetition.
If you’re at home, circular bear crawls can help you perform the movement in a smaller space. If you have enough room at your gym, aim to increase the distance as you go.
A tip here is that speed isn’t essential. It’s more important to maintain a smooth, even movement. You should notice the burn from your shoulder blades to your core.
5. Wall Slide
This is a nice choice for warming up as it doesn’t involve much pressure on your rotator cuff or shoulder blades.
It may seem easy, but it helps make the serratus anterior stronger in the overhead position.
This means better performance during overhead lifts, as well as relieving shoulder pain when the arm is positioned overhead.
To perform this movement, set a lengthy foam roller on the wall at rough eye level.
Get in a staggered position, then place the edges of your hands on the foam roller, a little more than shoulder distance apart.
As you slide upwards, move the shoulder blades back by gently pushing from the wall, lightly rounding the upper back.
Slowly move the arms overhead to make a Y, then move them back down. Maintain a tight core and keep the shoulder blades protracted.
Don’t shrug the traps, as this will stop the serratus anterior from activating.
Perform 10 to 15 repetitions for two to three sets, two to three times a week.
Those were the best exercises to strengthen the serratus anterior. Strong serratus anterior muscles look amazing, but they are important to help avoid injuries later down the line.
The movements outlined above are very effective, but this isn’t an exhaustive list. Exercises that require pressing ahead and overhead, without a back support bench, will help strengthen the muscle.
We hope you enjoy performing these exercises the next time you’re at the gym!