Your body is comprised of hundreds of different muscles, but a select few often receive the most attention when it comes to fitness routines. While you're likely to hear a lot about triceps, biceps and quadriceps, muscles such as the serratus anterior sometimes can be overlooked. Your serratus anterior muscle covers the side and back of your rib cage, spanning from under your armpit to the middle of your torso. Despite the apparent lack of publicity, this muscle is important, and performing exercises to strengthen it can boost your performance in many activities.
As with any other type of exercise, working the serratus anterior only provides the desired benefits if you perform the exercises correctly. In addition to analyzing your form visually, you can figure out whether you're using proper motion by feeling the movement in your serratus anterior. Strengthening the serratus anterior will help stabilize your scapula, which helps drive movement of your arms at the shoulder joint. The serratus anterior plays a key role in activities such as swimming, as it moves your shoulder blade while your arms are over your head. Additionally, a strong serratus anterior helps you avoid rotator cuff injuries, which is important for athletes of all kinds.
Your serratus anterior muscles are far from show muscles like your biceps, but they drive movements such as abduction and upward rotation of your scapula, otherwise known as your shoulder blade. These movements result in the raising of your arms or their movement away from the center of your body. Thus, your serratus anterior is involved in everything from pushups to shooting a basketball. Swinging a golf club or tennis racket and raising your hands to catch a football all involve movement of the serratus anterior.
If you're not accustomed to working your serratus anterior, start with unweighted exercises. This helps you avoid strains or other injuries as you develop your strength gradually. Performing the cat-camel movement -- alternating between arching and rounding your back while on all fours -- as well as pushups and unweighted torso rotations can help develop your serratus anterior strength.
Once you have developed a base of strength in your serratus anterior and unweighted exercises feel too easy, you can move on to weighted serratus anterior exercises. These more challenging exercises can help you produce powerful movements to take your sports performance to the next level. Perform exercises such as barbell torso rotations, dumbbell pullovers, kneeling rope pulls, weighted pushups and seated overhead presses.