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Incline pushups will strengthen your serratus anterior.
The serratus anterior is an underrated muscle for some exercisers, but it's particularly important to develop for the many activities that target your chest and upper back. At a glance, it's difficult to determine whether your serratus anterior muscles -- located on each side of your chest -- are sufficiently strong. But if your shoulder blades stick up when you perform a standard pushup, then you need to improve your serratus anterior strength. Some targeted workouts should help keep your shoulder blades in line.
Warm Up and Stretch Your Serratus
Always warm up before you begin strength training. Perform five to 10 minutes of aerobic exercise. Include jumping jacks to help stretch your serratus anterior dynamically. Other dynamic stretches to help loosen your serratus anterior include horizontal arm swings, or side bends in which you stretch your right arm over your head while you bend your torso to the left. Do side bends in both directions. You can also do warm-up sets of weighted exercises by using 50 percent of your normal weight.
Serratus Anterior Exercises
Add a variety of exercises to your repertoire and then perform two or three during each serratus anterior workout. If you like to work with free weights, perform an incline shoulder raise with a barbell or dumbbells by lying on an incline bench with your arms extended toward the ceiling and then raising your shoulders to push the weight straight up. To use a cable machine, attach a handle to a medium pulley, turn your back on the machine and push forward. Use the cable machine while seated or standing in a lunge position.
Body-weight options include incline pushups, in which your hands are elevated above your feet. Determine how close to horizontal you can perform the pushups without winging your shoulder blades. Lower the incline as you progress and your serratus muscles become stronger. Alternatively, assume a standard pushup position on the floor and push your torso down a few inches while your arms remain straight. Spread your shoulders to rise to the starting position.
Plan Your Workouts
For each of these exercises, perform three to six sets, with six to 12 repetitions in each set. Give yourself one to three minutes of rest in between sets, but try to cut the time down to one minute as you progress. Use enough weight to make the final reps in each set a challenge. To achieve the maximum strength gain, use the heaviest weight you can lift six times. Don't perform serratus anterior exercises back to back. Either rest for several minutes in between exercises or target a different body part -- your legs, for example -- between each serratus exercise.
Finish the Workout with a Static Stretch
After you've finished working your serratus anterior, perform a static stretch to help prevent post-exercise soreness and to improve your flexibility. The more flexible your serratus muscles become, the more efficiently you can exercise them during future workouts. Position your arms behind your back and then grasp your right wrist with your left hand. Bend your neck to the left, moving your ear toward your shoulder, while simultaneously pulling your right arm toward your left hip. Hold the stretch for about 15 seconds and then work the other arm. Perform three repetitions.