Exercise show & tell: Serratus Anterior

It has been awhile since I have written an Exercise Show & Tell entry, but today seems like the right kind of Wednesday to show & tell. Tonight, I officially teach my first professional ballet dancer Pilate Reformer class and I can’t wait to emphasize & help dancers wake up helpful muscles all while lowering the dimmer on powerful muscle groups that innately take over & initiate movement.

Today’s example: When a dancer uses their upper trapezius muscles rather than initiating power from their serratus anterior muscle.

Wikipedia Definition of serratus anterior muscle: “The serratus anterior (/ˌsɨˈrtəs ænˈtɪəri.ər/) (Latin: serrare = to saw, referring to the shape, anterior = on the front side of the body) is a muscle that originates on the surface of the 1st to 8th ribs at the side of the chest and inserts along the entire anterior length of the medial border of the scapula.”

Functionality of serratus anterior muscle: The lower (inferior) part of the serratus anterior helps the scapula to move laterally & forward making it possible to lift the arm upwards (from arms in first position to arms in fifth position). The scapula is also responsible for moving the arm away from the body (from a la seconde position to arms in first position, or from arms in first position to arms in fifth position).

photo 1Kansas City Ballet dancer, Mona Meng with my hand showing you just the muscle I’m talking about.

Point of this lesson:  When lifting the arms, don’t think about your upper trapezius initiating the movement, but rather, think about your serratus anterior wrapping down and inward, to flatten your scapula.  You know you have done it right when your scapula/mid back is flat rather than your scapula poking out like chicken wings.  Practice this idea while shifting & flowing the arms through the basic ballet arm positions such as en bas to first position to fifth position. . .

photo 2Exercise to practice and wake up the serratus anterior:

1. Lie on your stomach.

2. Push up to a plank with your palms on the ground, fingers pointing away from your head.

3. Hinge your weight to your right arm by locking down your serratus anterior.  Lift your left arm to align both arms and your spine (as if your squeezing between 2 walls).

4. Push back to #2

5. Hinger your weight to your left arm by locking down your serratus anterior. Lift your right arm to align both arms and your spine (as if your squeezing between 2 walls).

6.  Hold each position for 30 seconds, repeat steps 1-5, 3 to 5 times.  Work up at a moderate rate.

photo 3 copy 2

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