Spotlight On The Serratus Anterior
For the past several weeks, we have been focusing on finding and strengthening the serratus anterior muscle in our Mat I/II classes. The serratus anterior is a large, thin muscle found on both sides of the torso. It extends across the ribcage and inserts under the scapula (shoulder blade), holding it in place against the thoracic (chest) wall. In the typical person, the serratus anterior is made up of eight segments that stretch across eight or nine ribs, giving this muscle an appearance similar to the edge of a serrated knife.
The serratus anterior plays a critical role in stabilizing or anchoring the scapula during many Pilates exercises. This important muscle allows us to literally shoulder the weight of our upper body during Front Support and Side Bend - two exercises that we have been working on in class. When doing these exercises, I like to think of "locking my shoulders in place" - in other words, pulling my scapula down and hooking it tightly next to my ribs to fire up the serratus anterior.
Finding Your Serratus Anterior
I remember the magic moment when I discovered my serratus anterior. For months, I had been struggling to advance through the Pilates repertoire due to my inability to adequately support my upper body. If you are having trouble finding and firing up your serratus anterior too, try this simple exercise.
1) Begin in the Cat Stretch position.
2) Lower your your elbows and forearms to the ground. Palms should be facing down and gently pressing into the floor.
3) Extend your right leg and left leg to open the body into a "low" plank position. As you move into the plank position, pull your shoulder blades down and lock them in place to cue up your serratus anterior.
4) Now, that you know what it feels like to contract this muscle, repeat the third step with your arms extended so that you are able to enter into the full plank position. Front Support should suddenly become not only bearable, but completely doable!
If you have any questions about finding and firing up your serratus anterior, please feel free to ask me before or after class.
See you on the mat!