It's difficult to include a muscle group such as the serratus anterior in your workout if you don't even know it exists. You engage this area as supporting muscles when you are working your back or your chest. But until you sustain an injury to it, the serratus anterior muscles usually sit there unnoticed towards the back of your rib cage.
The Forgotten Muscle
Most personal trainers are aware of the serratus anterior because of the anatomy courses they had to take to get certified. The normal person on the street, however, probably isn't even aware of the group of muscles along the back of her ribs that are holding her shoulder blades in place. If you've ever seen someone whose shoulder blades poke out, you've seen someone whose serratus anterior muscles are weak.
Importance of Strengthening
Building and maintaining strength in all of your muscles is important in general so that you can move to perform everyday tasks without pain or physical difficulty. Working on the serratus anterior becomes more important, though, if you use your arms and shoulders often, for example, an athlete who swims or plays tennis or baseball. Stretching and working the serratus anterior will prevent injury and will provide support in all activities that engage your arms, shoulders and back.
When you perform a bench press or a chin up, you're calling on your serratus anterior to play a supporting role. To ensure these muscles are specifically targeted, though, personal trainer Matt Siaperas includes shoulder raises and incline bench presses in his clients' routines. Siaperas also recommends lying arm side extensions, which you do while while lying on a foam cylinder, and staggered arm push-ups, which you do with your hands balanced one in front of the other on a foam cylinder.
Stretch It Out
Stretching your serratus anterior muscles will make sure they stay flexible and keep them from tightening up. Besides, stretching them out just feels so good. A few effective stretches that will improve flexibility for your serratus anterior include overhead and fascia stretches, the cat-camel stretch and the lying spinal twist with a push-pull action.
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.