I have been adamant about practicing my inversions these past few weeks and have reached a point where I’ve overcome the fear of going upside down and can now focus on the muscles engaged to get up and stay up. This is where I discovered the power of the Serratus Anterior.
What’s the deal with Serratus Anterior?
Known as the “boxer muscles”, the serratus anterior are the muscles that boxers rely on for multi dimensional movement and speed. Movements such as pushing, pressing, punching all stem from the strength and power of these muscles. Protraction and retraction of the scapula (shoulder blade) help strengthen the serratus and provide a strong and stable foundation for the chest and back to move from. This also supports your shoulder in rotational movements. Also when strengthened and developed, aesthetically, these are the sexy muscles that define the upper sides of your abdominal area.
Where can I find my Serratus Anterior?
Connected to your rib cage originating on the surface of the 1st to 8th rib, the serratus muscle wraps to the medial border of your scapula. Due to the wrapping, this creates a “wing” appearance and function that plays a crucial role in mostly all back and chest exercises. Because of its attachment to the ribs, the serratus also serves as a breathing accessory. Taking deep breaths will increase the internal pressure which provides stronger support for stabilization, action, and resistance.
Why the Big Deal?
(1) Common in sports and exercise, shoulder pain and injuries comprise of 21% of the population with 40% of those injuries lasting over a year and treatments accumulating to an annual cost of $39 billion, according to NASM. Weakened serratus also contribute to neck problems due to tension, tightness and possible numbness down the arm because of poor circulation. Strengthening these muscles will help to provide more stabilization so your joints can remain safe and healthy.
(2) Let’s go back to the whole reason of this post…my inversion exploration! Because the serratus stabilizes the positioning of the shoulders, arms, and midsection and aids in breathing to create full expansion of the rib cage, it is the secret core muscle to getting up into inversions and maintaining arm balances. When activating the serratus in these challenging poses, you create a drawing in and “push up” effect (for ex: crow pose, peacock pose, headstand, forearm stand). When engaged, you will feel the power and lightness of your body with minimal effort.
(3) A common mistake in exercise is using the path of least resistance. We all want to use the larger muscle groups to power through exercises because they’re easier to recruit so we don’t feel the pain/burn as much. The serratus anterior is a muscle group that is not often seen but yet carry a load of power. However, activating these muscles are more about connecting and feeling rather than forcing and powering through.
Focus and great detail is needed to fine tune the serratus anterior. Although its power is evident in sports such as boxing, its “quiet” function is so important in more calmer activities like yoga. So instead of just pushing through your next inversion, arm balance, or back/chest exercise, take your time and connect to this secret core muscle. You’ll find that it’s almost effortless. Almost… 😉
*Check out my next blog post on some great exercises to strengthen your Serratus Anterior!