by Caitlin, Sports Rehab Therapist

Do you have winging shoulder blades? Then you are not alone. Scapula winging is not uncommon, particularly in relation with poor posture. In most cases, scapula winging and the loss of ability to raise your arm overhead is associated with weakness of an often-neglected muscle – the Serratus Anterior. 

Where is the Serratus Anterior? 

You can find the Serratus Anterior just underneath your armpit, between your Pectoralis Major (pecs) and Latissimus Dorsi (lats). It originates from the top 8-9 ribs and runs along the surface of the ribs to insert into the front medial border of the scapula. 

What is its role? 

Serratus Anterior is a shoulder blade stabiliser and protractor. It does this by pulling the scapula forward and around the rib cage aiding normal forward flexion and arm elevation. With weakness, medial winging of the scapula can restrict normal scapulohumeral rhythm (shoulder movement) and lead to decreased functional activity of the upper limbs. 

Using focused rehabilitative exercises for serratus anterior and overall scapula stabilisation has been shown to improve forward head postures, incidence of neck pain, as well as overall quality of life.  

So how do we isolate this muscle with exercise? 

Recently, there has been an influx of creative exercises for the Serratus anterior on social media. We now understand that to improve the activity of the serratus anterior, we must find a way of minimising the activity of other muscles such as pectoralis major and upper and lower trapezius. The best way to do this, is to use open chain exercises (when the distal limb is free to move – your Sports Therapist will explain in more detail) as these have been found to be a lot more effective in increasing the activity of serratus anterior than closed chain exercises. The best exercises should therefore be in supine (lying on your back) or standing in order to properly target this muscle. Examples include wall slides, banded wall climbs, wall press-up, supine overhead reach with theraband, uppercuts with arm external rotation (elbow in first), and supine ceiling reaches. 

Mean nothing to you? Ask for an appointment with our Physio Edge rehab specialists, who will show you the correct techniques for each of these movements. 

Note: if you have suffered from chronic weakness, lack of power in the shoulder and struggling to perform day to day activities alongside excessive scapula winging; this may be an indication of pathology. If these is the case, don’t hesitate to book in with one of our amazing physio team at PhysioEdge for a detailed assessment. 

See you in clinic…

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