You’re in the restroom before a big job interview. You remember reading this blog and you decide to do Megaplank on the wall. You feel your serratus anterior responding, but you also begin to feel your anxiety decreasing and your sense of personal power on the rise. Read on to find your serratus anterior and feel like a superhero at your next job interview!
First, a little about me. At the age of 50, after about 22 years as an English professor, the constant keyboard work and talking on the telephone (remember those?) had just about wrecked the right side of my body. My right shoulder was frozen – or so I was told. I had alternating numbness and sharp shooting pains running down my arm. It was just about that time when I started yoga and began learning how to heal my body.
Around that time, I happened to meet an old-time baseball pitcher named Steve Rogers and I figured that nobody would know better than a baseball pitcher how to take care of a hurt shoulder. He looked down at me and with a soft, southern drawl, he said, “Sweetheart, you jus’ gotta rehab around that injury.” At that moment, I had no idea what he meant, but now, years later, my shoulder is strong, supple, and flexible and I learned a valuable lesson.
The key muscle that helped me to heal my shoulder – the serratus anterior – isn’t technically a shoulder muscle. But as I became aware of the role of this important, but under-appreciated muscle, I learned an important lesson of body mechanics. That is, when one muscle or set of muscles are injured or weak or overstretched they will recruit help from surrounding muscles and that is often the source of pain. On the other hand, when we strengthen postural muscles, such as the serratus anterior, we provide support for those weak or overstretched or injured muscles. Strengthening my serratus anterior allowed my weak and injured shoulder muscles to heal while offering much-needed support.
The serratus anterior, as Biel’s Trail Guide to the Body attests, is always well-developed on superheroes. However, on the rest of us, this muscle can be hard to find. It is a flat, serrated, oblique muscle that begins from the superior border of the upper nine ribs and extends underneath the scapula.
The serratus anterior’s claim to fame is that it can abduct (or protract) the scapula, which means it can draw the scapula away from the midline of the body. The serratus anterior is partially covered by the breast. This muscle that has so much real estate from the scapula, around the sides of our ribs and even underneath our breasts that is becomes hugely important in stabilizing the upper core, whether you are throwing a punch or just pushing open a heavy revolving door.
First, let’s find this muscle. Extend your right arm in front of you at shoulder height and flex your elbow to 90 degrees. Press the right forearm and right palm into the wall as though you expect the wall to press back. As your right scapula protracts, you’ll feel an isometric meetup in which the serratus anterior turns on just a little and chirps “hello.” Do this again with the left hand and notice any difference between the sides of your body.
Come back Friday to learn more about activating and strengthening your serratus anterior (and possibly becoming a superhero)!