What does your current chest workout look like? Bench press, followed by dumbbell press, followed by incline / decline bench or dumbbell press… see a common theme? The problem with this approach is it can lead to unhealthy shoulders by generally failing to activate the serratus anterior muscle – a well-functioning serratus anterior is crucial to your overall shoulder health. Its primary role is to protract your shoulder blade (imagine lying on your back and reaching for the ceiling as high as you can), however it also stabilises and upwardly rotates your shoulder blade as you move your shoulder, and these actions are very important to maintaining good shoulder health.
To fully activate your serratus anterior during a pressing movement, you need to protract your shoulder blades at the top of the movement. This is very difficult to do during a bench press as you will tend to keep your shoulder blades locked back, however it is much easier to achieve whilst doing a push up as you can protract your shoulder blades at the top of the movement.
- Start lying face down with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and arms straight, holding your torso up and thinking of your body as one straight line from head to toe – keep your butt down.
- Steadily lower yourself until your elbows are roughly at a 90-degree angle, until your nose, chin, or chest nearly touches the floor. Try to keep your elbows relatively close to your body, they will tend flare out as you become more fatigued. Pause slightly and then press back up to the starting position (see picture 1).
- To better activate the serratus anterior, try to fully protract your shoulders at the top i.e. try to make your arms and long as possible (see picture 2).
Give this a go and make it part of your chest routine! If you are having issues with your shoulders or would simply like more information on other ways to maintain good shoulder health, come and see one of our Physiotherapists at Bend + Mend Martin Place or Barangaroo – King Street Wharf.
To learn how to avoid wrist pain when performing push ups read here.