What Poses Will Strengthen Serratus Anterior?

January 7, 2020

Transcript below of: What poses will strengthen serratus anterior?

Hey everybody! Welcome to this month’s question of the month. As you know every month I take a question that was submitted through the website and we answer it here on video. You’re welcome to submit a question, if you’ve got one that’s really burning in the back of your brain. Go to yoganatomy.com/myquestion. This question is about what poses will strengthen serratus anterior.

The Question:

This question says:
“In your video ‘Winged Scapula, What Are Those Shoulder Blades Doing?‘, you addressed how one’s shoulder blades may be winging while engaging in poses like chaturanga dandasana, if you don’t have an underlying condition. You mention engaging the serratus anterior muscle to prevent scapular winging. I have a winged scapula, sustained while doing a shoulder opener of laying face down with arms crossed under me, shortly after I had given birth last fall, when my body was full of the relaxin hormone. It is getting better, slowly. But, what specific poses and exercises will safely strengthen serratus anterior? Should I hold top of chaturanga dandasana without lowering? Will lowering injure it further or strengthen it?”

The Answer:

Those are all really good questions! There are a couple of things to respond to here. Typically when you see winging of the scapula, serratus anterior is the most highly involved muscle. That’s not to say that there are no other muscles that could be involved, but it is the most highly involved, especially when there is no underlying condition. Then, it becomes postural or functional in terms of high plank and chaturanga, where you see the scapulae popping off of the back. In those cases, it’s always serratus that needs to be engaged.

But what you’re talking about is an underlying problem. You did this pose where you cross your arms and then you lay on top of them, and then after that, it seems that your scapula was winging more. I’m assuming you’re seeing it that way, although I’m not sure how you’re seeing your own scapulae. I’m assuming somebody has pointed it out to you? Or, does it just hurt? So, there’s a little bit of lack of clarity for me specifically with your situation.

The other thing that you’ve mixed in is that you were pregnant and had relaxin in your body. Typically, the relaxin should have no effect on your serratus anterior muscle. It shouldn’t have an effect on really any muscle. The relaxin is specific to softening those ligaments around your pelvis. It can still affect other ligaments or feel that way, but it is supposed to be specific to the collagen fibers that are put together around the pelvis. Anyway, that may or may not have anything to do with it. I don’t know. I’m not sure of that.

Over-stretching the rhomboids

So, the other thing I want to point out is that it could also be that you over-stretched your rhomboids when doing that particular movement. That’s kind of what comes up for me. You might have over-done something else. Because the rhomboids do play into how that edge of the scapula fits together with, and gets into relationship with, the spine. So, you may have to do a little bit of strengthening of rhomboids while also focusing on how to strengthen serratus anterior, just to throw that out there.

Strengthening serratus anterior

In terms of how to strengthen serratus anterior, the hardest part of strengthening it and doing it through movement is the lowering down part in chaturanga. I outline a whole bunch of stuff about how to strengthen serratus anterior in my series of posts on sun salutations. The ones where you lift up and jump back are probably sun salutation four or five, those are the post names. We talk about the jump back, the high plank, and the lowering down, I think, all in one post there. Go ahead and look at that one.

Because, instead of focusing on how to strengthen serratus anterior in one particular place, you want to strengthen serratus anterior throughout the practice in multiple places so that you’re not over-doing it in any one place. That way you build up strength over time. That’s true generally for dealing with serratus. In your case, you should also do that, but maybe take a look at rhomboids and some other things that may be playing into it. It could even be trapezius. That’s possible, unlikely, but possible.

Alright? Hopefully, that gives you a few ideas other than just serratus. If you’ve got a question yourself and you want me to answer it on camera, by all means, go to yoganatomy.com/myquestion. Have a good one!

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