Home Posts tagged "Serratus Anterior"

Exercise of the Week: Glute-Ham Raise with Banded Reach

If you've followed this blog for any length of time, you'll know that I'm a big fan of training the posterior chain and also working on getting serratus anterior firing to improve scapular upward rotation. So, you can imagine how excited I am to present to you an exercise of the week video that hits both. Thanks to Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard for the demo: 

I like this exercise as a first or second assistance exercise on a lower body day, or as part of a full body day. I love it when the late offseason rolls around and athletes have built up a solid foundation of strength, and are ready for more advanced arm care progressions. It's a game changer if you have an athlete who is heavily lordotic (arched back) with downwardly rotated/depressed shoulder blades and a flat thoracic spine (upper back). Enjoy!

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Are You Getting Shoulder Motion in the Right Places?

With this week's release of my new project, Sturdy Shoulder Solutions, I thought I'd give you a little sampling of what's included. In this TRX serratus anterior exercise video excerpt, I talk about the importance of getting good scapulothoracic (shoulder blade on rib cage) movement so that you don't have to find extra glenohumeral (ball on socket) motion.  Check it out:

This is a key shoulder health principle I cover in great detail in my new resource - and it's on sale for $50 off through Sunday at midnight. You can learn more at www.SturdyShoulders.com.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/24/18

I'm a day late with these recommendations in light of a lot of a busy week of evaluations at Cressey Sports Performance as the college crew rolls back in. However, that's given me a few extra days to compile some good reading material for you:

Cressey Sports Performance Featured in Boston Voyager Magazine - This feature on Cressey Sports Performance - MA just ran in Boston Voyager magazine. You'll learn a bit about the history of our business and how we approach things.

One Thing that Annoys Me About the Fitness Industry - Tony Gentilcore makes an outstanding point in this blog. It's one of the few "rants" you'll read that actually has an invaluable message.

EC on the The Farm System Podcast - I was interviewed for this baseball development podcast last just a few weeks ago; give it a listen!

Top Tweet of the Week

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Serratus anterior is important for a myriad of reasons - but most people tend to focus on its impact on scapular stabilization and motion. Don't overlook the impact of the serratus anterior - particularly the upper fibers - on rib positioning, though. The upper fibers can internally rotate (pull down) the first few ribs, which make it an important anagonist to the subclavius and scalenes, which elevate those ribs. In other words, if you're a person who always feels "balled up" in your neck/clavicle region, chances are that you need some good serratus work to help make your manual therapy up there "stick." 🤔 In my humble opinion, this also helps to explain why some athletes wind up having thoracic outlet surgeries after elbow and shoulder surgeries. If you do a ton of rehab arm care work in the wrong positions, you aren't just putting the glenohumeral (ball/socket) and scapulothoracic (shoulder blade/rib cage) in bad positions; rather, you're also negatively impacting the orientation of the ribs that help to determine whether crucial nerve and vascular structures are impinged. 😬 Move well before you move a lot. 👍#cspfamily

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The Best of 2017: Strength and Conditioning Videos

With my last post, I kicked off the "Best of 2017" series with my top articles of the year. Today, we'll highlight the top five videos of the year. These videos only include instructional videos, not quick exercise demonstrations.

1. Why I Don't Like Scap Push-ups - I used to use scap push-ups, but got away from them several years ago. This video details why.

2. Bench Press Technique, Shoulder Health, and Elbows Tucked vs. Flared - Elbows tucked vs. elbows flared: which is better for shoulder health? Check out this video to find out.

3. Should You "Balance" Pushes and Pulls? - I don't think it's as simple as balancing pushes and pulls in your training program. Here's why.

4. Making Sense of Serratus Anterior - I write and speak a lot about the importance of serratus anterior for shoulder health and performance. Here's what happens when it doesn't do its job.

5. Deadlift Technique: Set-up Tips - I've often said that the solution is in the set-up, and the deadlift is a perfect example.

I'll be back soon with the top guest posts of 2017!

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Video: Why Serratus Anterior Matters

I've written and spoken a lot about the importance of proper serratus anterior function for shoulder health. In today's video, I want to demonstrate this importance in a non-traditional way: by showing what happens when serratus anterior isn't able to do its job. Check out the impact of long thoracic nerve palsy on shoulder function:

Speaking of shoulder health, today is the last day to get the early bird registration discount on my June 2 shoulder course in St. Louis. You can learn more HERE.

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The Best of 2015: Strength and Conditioning Videos

With my last post, I kicked off the "Best of 2015" series with my top articles of the year. Today, we'll highlight the top five videos of the year. These videos only include instructional videos, not quick exercise demonstrations.

1. Avoid this Common Wall Slide Mistake - I'm a huge fan of wall slides for teaching good scapular upward rotation. Check out this video to see if you're making a common mistake on this front:

2. Steer Clear of this "Shoulder Health" Exercise - Continuing with the shoulder theme, here's a drill I don't particularly like. The good news is that I propose a suitable alternative. 

3. Serratus Anterior Activation: Reach, Round, and Rotate - This video covers some of our common coaching cues for a different variation of wall slides than featured in video #1.

4. 3 Back to Wall Shoulder Flexion Cues - This drill is both a great training exercise and an assessment. With the right cueing, you can clean the pattern up pretty quickly, in most cases.

5. Exercise of the Week: Split-Stance Anti-Rotation Medicine Ball Scoop Toss - This is one of my favorite medicine ball exercises for early on in training progressions. 

I'll be back soon with the top guest posts of 2015!

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Serratus Anterior Activation: Reach, Round, and Rotate

I'm a big fan of serratus anterior activation drills for upper extremity health and performance, but one only gets great benefits if exercise technique is on point. Check out these three key coaching cues you'll want to get serratus anterior engaged during your wall slides:

I should note that "exhale" would be a fourth cue, but it doesn't being with a "R" and therefore would've ruined the good blog title. That said, adding an exhale can help to establish better rib position and enable the individual to "feel" the serratus anterior working a bit more. 

If you're looking for more upper extremity assessment and training insights - particularly with respect to serratus anterior - be sure to check out Sturdy Shoulder Solutions.

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 14

 It's time for the next installment of this popular series here at EricCressey.com, but I've pulled in some help from an old friend for this one. Given that his new DVD set, Elite Athletic Development 2.0, was just released this week, the one-and-only Mike Robertson agreed to chime in with some sports performance tips this week. Those beginning with "MR" are from Mike, and the ones with "EC" are me. Enjoy!

mike_robertson-2

1. MR: When working with overhead athletes, learn to love specialty bars.

When it comes to athletes in general, it’s obvious that they are not powerlifters. Is it helpful if they’re strong? Absolutely. But let's be honest - no one cares about how they get strong. You don't get bonus points for deadlifting from the floor, nor do you necessarily have any reason to put a barbell on your back. At IFAST, we're huge fans of specialty bars for our athletes, but especially for our baseball players.

Trap bars are kind of a god-send, if you ask me. It's an incredibly easy exercise to coach, you reduce the mobility demands (vs. a sumo or conventional deadlift), and you can load a guy up fairly quickly without compromising technique.

On the other hand, just because we don't put a barbell on our back doesn't mean we don't squat! The safety squat bar is an invaluable tool if you train baseball players (or really, any overhead athlete). You know that your wrist, elbow and shoulder are your money makers, so the last thing you want to do is expose yourself to injury in those areas. The safety squat bar front squat is awesome for newbies, as it teaches them a front squat pattern without having to "rack" the bar using the wrists, elbows and shoulders. I'll often start my baseball players off with this variation for a month or two, just to get them back in the swing of things. If we want to load up the squat pattern a bit more, all we have to do is flip the safety bar around and now we've got a back squat progression that again unloads the upper extremity. Quite simply, if you train overhead athletes - or any athletes, for that matter - invest in a high quality trap and safety squat bar. You'll thank me later.

2. EC: Show some love to the broad jump!

For some reason, in the world of athletic performance assessments, vertical jump testing gets all the attention. In my anecdotal experience, though, broad jump proficiency has a far greater carryover to actual athletic success. Bret Contreras has also alluded to this as part of his rationale for including hip thrusts and other loaded glute bridge variations in strength training programs; horizontal (as opposed to just vertical) force production really matters in sports.

That said, one reason some coaches shy away from programming broad jump variations in training programs is that they be a bit hard on the joints and elicit more soreness in the days that follow a training session. This is easily remedied by having an athlete land on a more forgiving surface (such as grass), or by using band-resisted broad jumps.

3. MR: Appreciate that push-ups can actually improve rotator cuff function!

Push-ups are a critical component of our training programs, and for numerous reasons. You see, push-ups (versus a traditional bench press), allow for a high degree of serratus anterior development. And I’d argue that in the upper body, the serratus anterior is one of the most overlooked, yet incredibly important, muscles we have. Strengthening the serratus anterior does a host of good things for us, most notably upwardly rotating the scapula. However, what many people don't understand is how it actually improves thoracic kyphosis.

This is a really loaded topic, so I’ll try to keep it brief. Back in the day we would look at most people and say they have an excessive thoracic kyphosis, but I’m not entirely sure that’s true. What I think we see (more often than not) is a flat thoracic spine, coupled with shoulders that are rolled forward due to an inability to expand a chest wall. (Thank you, Postural Restoration Institute). Here's an example EC posted a while back of a flat thoracic spine in action:

While we tend to get caught up on the scapular attachment site (or motion) of the serratus, it also attaches anteriorly to the ribcage. If we lock the scapulae in place and engage serratus anterior, it pulls on the rib cage and gives us a more normal thoracic kyphosis. Now I’m sure you may be thinking, why do we want a kyphosis? Isn’t more extension a good thing? You need a kyphosis (or subtle rounding of the upper back), because your scapulae are curved as well; just look at this side angle to appreciate it.

Gray205_left_scapula_lateral_view-2

If you have a curved scapulae sitting on a flat upper back, you lose passive stability at the shoulder. And when we lose stability at the scapulae, we are virtually guaranteed to lose stability at the shoulder. Because the rotator cuff muscles attach to the scapula, trying to stabilize the glenohumeral (ball-and-socket) joint with a flat thoracic spine is like trying to shoot a cannon from a canoe.

Want more serratus? Incorporate more push-ups, and do them correctly. As EC notes in this video, don't just let the arms do all the work; get the shoulder blades moving. The scapula should rotate toward the armpit as you press up and away from the floor:

Get this upper back positioning squared away, and you'll improve rotator cuff control both transiently (positional stability) and chronically (better training results).

4. EC: Remember that joint range-of-motion falls off over the "athletic lifespan."

It never ceases to amaze me how much a teenage athlete will change over the course of a year - even independent of training. If a kid goes through an 8-inch growth spurt at age 13, he's usually going to go from that "loosey-goosey," completely unstable presentation to the uncoordinated, stiff movement quality. Basically, the bones have stretched out quickly, and the soft tissue structures crossing the joints haven't had time to catch up (let alone learn how to establish control of new stabilization demands).

What many folks fail to recognize is that "bad" stiffness doesn't just increase in teenage athletes, but also in the decades that follow. It's well established that joint laxity decreases over the lifespan; it's one of several reasons why your 80-year-old grandmother isn't as supremely mobile as she was in her 50s.

What's the point? A lot of the foundational mobility drills you use with your teenage athletes are probably "keepers" that people can use over the course of their entire lifespan. So, teach them perfectly early on so as to not develop bad habits that will be magnified over decades.

GoodHFStretch-300x225

5. MR: Remember that good hip development for athletes should be tri-planar.

Whether it's stealing bases, returning a punt, or changing directions on the ice, there's more to the hips than sagittal (straight ahead) plane development. Sure, it never hurts to be a stronger squatter or deadlifter, but I'd also argue that's just the tip of the iceberg. We also need our athletes to be able to move well in both the frontal and transeverse planes as well. I like to think of the sagittal plane as the "key" that unlocks the frontal and transverse plane.

If you're into the Postural Restoration Institute (PRI) , you can even take this a step further and think of it like this: we need the ability to shift into and load our left hip, while we need the strength and stability to push (or get off) our right hip, particularly in those demonstrating this heavily asymmetric postural presentation.

leftaic-275x300-2

Once we have that basic movement capacity, now we need to start cementing it. This can be done initially in the weight room, with exercises like dynamic chops, lifts, the TRX Rip Trainer, etc. I'm also a huge fan of concentric med ball throws as well. Start low to the hip initially, and then raise it up over time. Progress to eccentric as movement capacity and strength improve.

Taking this a step further, don't be shy in doing some aggressive lateral plyo progressions as well. Work on Heidens/skier jumps with a stick first to develop eccentric strength and control, then work on improving speed, power and explosiveness. Last but not least, we need to prepare our athletes for the specific demands of their sport, and this is where lateral acceleration and crossover stepping comes into play. At the end of the day, use the weight room to get strong in the sagittal plane, but don't forget that the frontal and transverse planes are critical for a highly-functioning athlete!

6. EC: Don't be afraid to progress birddogs.

The birddog is an awesome core stability and hip mobility exercise, but it can quickly become really easy for athletes with some training experience under their belt. Not all exercises need to be progressed, but the band-resisted birddog is one way to add some variety and additional challenge for this invaluable exercise:

As I noted earlier, Mike and Joe Kenn recently released their Elite Athletic Development 2.0 Seminar DVD set. I've reviewed this product now myself, and it's excellent. You can learn more HERE

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Exercise of the Week: 1-arm Serratus Wall Slides with Med Ball

It's been a while since I posted a new "Exercise of the Week" feature, but to atone for the wait, I've got a great one for you. I actually came up with this one myself while brainstorming a bit during my own warm-up a few weeks ago.

Serratus anterior is an incredibly important muscle for shoulder health, as it is really the big player in making sure there is a "rotation" component to scapular upward rotation (watch this video first if you need more information on that). Long story short, as you can tell from the picture below that depicts its positioning and line of pull, serratus anterior is hugely important for healthy shoulder function. This is particularly true in movement patterns involving reaching, whether it's out in front or overhead.

serratus

Loss of serratus anterior function is incredibly common in those with shoulder pathology, but we also see it really commonly in those who are pain-free but don't move well. To that end, we like to include specific serratus anterior targeted drills in our warm-ups and as low-key "fillers" between heavier compound lifts during our training sessions.

The research has demonstrated that serratus anterior recruitment is highest when you have more than 90 degrees of shoulder flexion, and this assertion really recognizes that this muscle does far more than just protract the shoulder blade; it is a key upward rotator. As such, we train it to assist that function:

Coaching Cues

1. Make sure the athlete is not in a heavily extended (arched lower back) posture, and don't allow forward head posture.

2. If range of motion allows, reach behind the back with the opposite hand to monitor the position of the inferomedial (inside/bottom) border of the scapula. It should stay "snug" to the rib cage, not wing off.

3. Think of "wrapping" the scapula to the armpit as the arm goes up. I'll usually manually guide the shoulder blade with my hands as I'm first instructing this. You can usually see if the movement is sufficient through an athlete's shirt.

4. Actively push the medicine ball into the wall the entire time. In addition to training the protraction function of serratus anterior, you'll also likely get some reflexive rotator cuff recruitment. This is a 4-pound med ball, but you can really work anywhere from one pound to six pounds.  

5. The athlete should only feel this along the scapula near arm pit (reference the anatomy picture above for a frame of reference). There should be no anterior shoulder discomfort. If there is, it's a sign of one of two things:

a. Pectoralis minor taking over to protract with anterior scapular tilt
b. Excessive movement of the humerus (upper arm) without sufficient scapular movement

5. Don't force upward range of motion. The arm really shouldn't get above 140-150 degrees, and most people don't even need to go this far. Note that the medicine ball doesn't say in the hand the entire time; it rolls to the elbow. This is a great ROM "check" that tells you how far up you should go.

6. Control things down slowly; don't yank to the bottom.

7. For added benefit, you can add a full exhale at the top of each rep to help solidify the pattern.

I'll generally program this for sets of 6-8 reps on each side. 

If you're looking for some more serratus anterior programming options and detailed coaching cues, check out this video:

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The Best of 2014: Strength and Conditioning Videos

With my last post, I kicked off the "Best of 2014" series with my top articles of the year. Today, we'll highlight the top five videos of the year. These videos only include instructional videos, not quick exercise demonstrations.

1. Thoracic Mobility and Back Squatting - Upper back positioning is a key factor in squat technique, but not everyone starts in the same position. Check out the video to learn more:

2. Serratus Wall Slide Variations - Serratus anterior is an incredibly important muscle for shoulder health and function. Here are two exercises we use in our serratus anterior activation progression.

3. Do You Really Have Poor Ankle Mobility? - It's been my experience that ankle flexibility restrictions are really "overdiagnosed," and in reality, people just don't know how to shut off their plantarflexors (calves) as part of a heavily extended posture. I elaborate in this video:

4. Are You Packing the Shoulder Correctly? - It's important to be able to pack the shoulder, but in many cases, folks don't know exactly what is or should be going on functionally. This webinar should clarify.

5. Limited Shoulder Flexion in Pitchers - We often hear that shoulder dysfunction relates to elbow pain in throwers, but very rarely do we hear the "why" behind this link. In this video, I elaborate:

I'll be back soon with the top guest posts of 2014!

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