Serratus anterior muscle activity during selected rehabilitation exercises

Am J Sports Med. Nov-Dec 1999;27(6):784-91. doi: 10.1177/03635465990270061601.


The purpose of this study was to document the electromyographic activity and applied resistance associated with eight scapulohumeral exercises performed below shoulder height. We used this information to design a continuum of serratus anterior muscle exercises for progressive rehabilitation or training. Five muscles in 20 healthy subjects were studied with surface electrodes for the following exercises: shoulder extension, forward punch, serratus anterior punch, dynamic hug, scaption (with external rotation), press-up, push-up plus, and knee push-up plus. Electromyographic data were collected from the middle serratus anterior, upper and middle trapezius, and anterior and posterior deltoid muscles. Each exercise was partitioned into phases of increasing and decreasing force and analyzed for average and peak electromyographic amplitude. Resistance was provided by body weight, an elastic cord, or dumbbells. The serratus anterior punch, scaption, dynamic hug, knee push-up plus, and push-up plus exercises consistently elicited serratus anterior muscle activity greater than 20% maximal voluntary contraction. The exercises that maintained an upwardly rotated scapula while accentuating scapular protraction, such as the push-up plus and the newly designed dynamic hug, elicited the greatest electromyographic activity from the serratus anterior muscle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Electromyography
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Joint Instability / rehabilitation*
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Shoulder Joint / injuries*
  • Weight-Bearing