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Named for the serrated way the muscle connects to the rib cage similar to the shape of a knife blade, the serratus anterior muscle, also known as the вЂњboxer muscle,вЂќ stretches from the upper eight or nine ribs to the underside of the shoulder blade, or scapula. Along with the rotator cuff, shoulder blade and the trapezius, the serratus anterior helps with the movement and rotation of the arm. To get a feel for this muscle group, act like you're throwing a ball overhand. As you pull your arm back and prepare to throw the ball, you feel your trapezius, a back muscle, start to engage along with your serratus anterior. As you begin lifting your arm over your head in the throwing motion, you can feel your rotator cuff, or the muscles and tendons in your shoulder, come into play. As you rotate your body to execute the throw, you can feel your serratus anterior working along with your rotator cuff.
вЂњThe serratus anterior provides assistance in most all chest and back exercises,вЂќ explains Chad Cribbs, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and personal trainer and founder and owner of K.I.C. Fitness. Cribbs says an even bigger impact is made when chest and back exercises are executed on an incline.
Assume the plank position with feet on the floor and hands positioned on a stationary platform, such as a stair step or plyo box. вЂњHigher platforms offer less resistance,вЂќ adds Cribbs. Once in position, bend the elbows and slowly lower the body, then return to the starting position.
Don't let the upper back sag during pushups. If the upper back is sagging, you won't feel the full benefit in your serratus anterior. Also, keeping tension in your lower back will further help your exercise and decrease the risk of back pain or injury. "Three sets of fifteen to twenty reps is a good starting point with this exercise," advises Cribbs. "Remember to move to lower platforms when it becomes easy to achieve all of the suggested reps for all sets."
This same idea can also be applied to a bench press. Adjust the bench to sit at a 45-degree angle. Sit with feet planted on the floor and grip the overhead bar slightly wider than the shoulders. Remove the bar from the rack, and slowly lower the bar to your chest and replace. For this exercise, Cribbs recommends three sets of six to eight repetitions.
Sit on a bench with your feet on the floor. Hold a single dumbbell with both hands with arms extended straight in front of the chest. Slowly lift and lower the dumbbell over and behind the head, bending the arms slightly as the dumbbell is lowered. Then, slowly bring the dumbbell back to the starting position. Three sets of 10 reps is recommended, but Cribbs reminds exercisers not to choose weights that are too heavy as this will add unnecessary strain to the elbow joints.
While holding dumbbells, bend the knees slightly, lowering the body to a one-quarter squat position. Perform boxing punches while holding the dumbbells tightly.
During dumbbell pullover and dumbbell punches, a static exertion is placed on the serratus anterior muscle to maintain control of the dumbbell as it is lowered during pullovers and to hold shoulders up during shadowboxing in dumbbell punches.
In addition, rotating your body slightly and dropping the nonengaged shoulder back while punching the engaged arm will further work the serratus anterior.
"Choose a light weight dumbbell and perform three sets of 50 punches," says Cribbs. "When this becomes too easy, complete three rounds of 30 seconds of continuous punches."
Holding a dumbbell at the hip, slowly raise the arm forward until the dumbbell reaches shoulder height. Slowly return the dumbbell to its starting position, and repeat. вЂњThis exercise isolates the serratus anterior, as it is the main muscle required to perform the raise,вЂќ explains Cribbs, who recommends three sets of 10 repetitions.