It goes without saying that the larger, more present muscle groups tend to hog all the limelight when it comes to strength training – legs, chest, back, shoulders and the like. However, neglecting the smaller and less obvious muscles is often classified as a rookie mistake for good reason, especially when it concerns maximising performance.
The serratus anterior, which is also commonly referred to as the “boxer's muscle”, is a muscle that's located towards the side of the chest and below the armpit. Movement-wise, it functions as a synergist muscle, meaning that it's role in movement is largely a supportive one. Despite this fact, neglecting serratus development can lead to major flaws in upper body mechanics.
Anatomically, the serratus holds the scapula against the thoracic wall of the upper body. A weakened serratus tends to result in a protraction of the shoulder girdle (shoulders pulled forward), a condition often known as “winged scapula”. This tends to create a cascade of debilitating conditions such as shoulder external rotation inflexibility, which increases the risk of shoulder injury in exercises like overhead pressing.
Location and equipment courtesy of TripleFit
While movements like cable rowing can remedy such a situation, it largely depends on the individual's ability to perform the movement correctly. The banded wall slide is a much simpler exercise technique-wise and it allows for a more dire t targeting of the serratus, making it more ideal for inexperienced trainees. The usage of a resistance band also brings in accommodating resistance, allowing for a more evenly distributed strength curve.
Starting with a light band (the lighter the better), loop it around mid-back and secure each end on the thumb of each hand. Stand facing a wall with your feet around a fist's distance from it and place your forearms on the surface. The aim of this banded wall slide is to slide your arms up the wall while maintaining contact at all times. There is no need to completely extend the elbows at the top; think about keeping the tension in the area below the armpit. As you do this, your shoulder blades should be depressed and retracted (i.e. no shrugging or rolling shoulders).
The banded wall slide can be done for a high number of repetitions, although it may be necessary to start with a lower repetition range for those whose serratus are underdeveloped. It works great as a prehab exercise and can be done at home multiple times a day if need be. Combined with a strength training programme that focuses on upper body pulling along a horizontal plane, the banded wall slide can turn even the weakest of serratus muscles around!