Maintaining healthy shoulders is vital for successful and long term resistance training. Over time, normal wear and tear as well repetitive use can cause shoulder dysfunction.

Optimizing scapular stabilizer and rotator cuff function is important in injury prevention as well as rehab. In this column, I am pairing a traditional body weight exercise with elastic resistance to further stimulate muscle activation of the serratus anterior.


Begin in a push-up position wrapping theraband around the upper back and anchoring it beneath the palms. Ensure there is enough tension initially so that resistance is maintained throughout the descent.


Slowly descend until the elbows are bent to 90 degrees, pause and then ascend to full elbow extension. In this extended position, actively protract the scapulae (shoulders will round) and then repeat the entire sequence. Perform 2 sets of 8-15 repetitions.

If upper body strength or fatigue is a limiting factor, consider performing only the protractions at the top the exercise. If this is still too challenging, perform the exercise on the knees. Finally, it could be regressed to a standing version if needed.

To advance the exercise, increase the strength of the elastic resistance, slow down the cadence (descent and ascent) and/or move the feet closer together to narrow the base of support.

This exercise can be used in shoulder prehab plans or as an advanced corrective exercise to optimize scapular stability. The serratus anterior is vital to preventing scapular winging and works synergistically with the upper and lower trapezius as a force couple during upward rotation. Maximizing serratus function and scapular stability will help prevent shoulder impingement and faulty scapular mechanics that contribute to overuse syndromes.

Brian Schiff, PT, OCS, CSCS, is a licensed physical therapist, respected author and fitness professional. Currently, he serves as the supervisor at Athletes' Performance at Raleigh Orthopaedic (formerly Athletic Performance Center) in Raleigh, NC. Brian presents nationally at several professional conferences and seminars on injury prevention, rehab and sport-specific training. For more cutting edge training information, subscribe to his monthly Training & Sports Medicine Update at