Action: – Abducts/Protracts scapula
– Upwardly rotates scapula whilst abducting arm
– Stabilises scapula by holding it to chest wall
Origin: Anterior surfaces of the first 8 or 9 ribs
Insertion: Anterior surface of medial border of scapula
Nerve: Long thoracic nerve C5-C7
Serratus Anterior is one of those muscles that you only really notice on the ripped Calvin Klein models getting around in nothing but underwear. Tucked away underneath your scapula and reaching around to the front of your rib cage with finger like attachments. Giving the muscles its serrated shaped, hence the name. It plays an important role in scapula movement and stability.
Dysfunction in this muscle can refer pain or discomfort around the obliques, medial border of the scapula and down the arm (see above picture). Symptoms may need to be differentiated from dysfunction of the rhomboid, lastissimus dorsi, upper arm muscles and nerve entrapment.
It is considered the punching muscle because of the action it assists with (check out the great boxer Manny Pacquiao below). Muscle fibers are activated mostly at the end range of the punching motion. Exercises like push ups and bench press help to strengthen this muscle but to get the most effect you will need to push out as far as possible.
The other action that it performs is stabilising the scapula by holding it to the chest wall. If you have a winged scapula (like in the picture) this could suggest that weak/inhibited serratus anterior has some involvement and may need to be addressed.
Using a theraband make a loop at each end to hold onto. Put the body of the theraband behind your back keeping it at shoulder blade height. One arm at a time, do a controlled punching motion extending your arm as far out as possible. If you are feeling strong you can do two arms at a time. Remember to punch out as far as you can, the muscle activates the most at the end of this movement.
Standing beside a wall, place the hand of the side you want to stretch on your hip with your thumb facing forward. Use the wall to push your elbow towards your body. The harder you push the stronger the stretch. Turning your hips away from the wall will add more tension as well. You can turn it into a PNF stretch by pushing your elbow into the wall for 5 seconds, take a deep breath in and on the exhale relax the movement and move closer to the wall. Bringing on a stronger stretch.
Pin a spikey massage ball in between your serratus anterior and a wall. There are a couple of ways to do this. 1. Move the ball along the muscle fibers 2. Find a tender spot and move your arm up, down, forward and back.
Does any of the above sound familiar to you or someone you know. Myotherapy can help in assessing and treating problems with the serratus anterior. Always consult a health professional before trying any of the above recommendations.