Phone: 03 8822 3723

Why I Love Using The Serratus Anterior Wall Slides Drill

Written by: Nick Jack
Category: 2014
on 04 June 2019
Hits: 9743

I must admit when I first saw the serratus anterior wall slides I thought it was a complete waste of time and would do absolutely nothing to help me with my shoulder injury. After a few mediocre attempts at trying it I stopped and went back to what I was doing before. However, as the months went by and my shoulder continued to worsen with many different methods I began researching what the experts in shoulder rehabilitation were using. And I continually found that the Serratus Anterior Wall Slides was a common exercise drill used by several highly respected practitioners. Upon investigating this further I found this was an exercise founded by movement function pioneer Shirley Sahrmann in her book "Movement Impairment Syndromes". I realized I needed to open my mind to this and decided to spend the time to really understand the purpose of this exercise and how to apply it correctly and see if it could help me. And within weeks I saw huge improvement which led me to finding the long term solution to my injury. This article I will explain what I learned and how it changed my approach to shoulders forever.

The quote by Vladimir Janda above is a great one to keep in mind anytime you come across injury to the shoulder. There is so many muscles in this region that it can be very difficult to identify where the problem is and this is why so many isolated methods fail.

The shoulder is the most dynamic joint in the body which is great for doing athletic movements like throwing a ball or serving in tennis but this incredible mobility creates instability. The area from where the clavicle and the spine of the scapula and the acromion meet, between this area, the AC joint, and the humeral head of the shoulder, we have a very small space called the subacromial space. If you develop an inflamed tendon from poor movement or maybe sit for long periods in poor posture, it doesn’t take much to decrease the space we have in that area. When that space gets decreased, we end up with some shoulder impingement which is exactly what happened to me.

The muscles in this area that focus on controlled mobility of the scapula include the trapezius, and very much the lower trapezius muscle. We also have the upper back muscles of the trapezius and rhomboids and possibly the most important muscle for us when we look at the shoulder which is the serratus anterior.

The serratus anterior along with the lower traps as you will see soon are such important muscles because it is what keeps the scapula attached to to the thorax and in optimal alignment. Read our article 3 Key Factors Needed For Optimal Shoulder Function for more on this.

Last but not least is the rotator cuff which is made up of the teres minor, infraspinatus, supraspinatus and subscapularis. These four muscles work together to externally rotate and internally rotate the shoulder but they are very important in keeping the humeral head stable and centered within the joint. If we lose that stability, we get some extra mobility of the humeral head within the joint, and that begins to pinch some of the structures around it. You can now see why this is such a tricky area to work with.

The scapula is the key here and it is very unique in that it needs lots of mobility but not too much, as the scapula also needs stability too but again not too much! The secret to restoring optimal mobility and stability at the right time to the right muscles is to teach movement mechanics, and very specifically with POSTERIOR TILT and UPWARD ROTATION of the scapula. This is the purpose of the wall slides exercise and it does an amazing job of restoring these movements.

Watch the two videos below of how to do this exercise.

I wish it was as easy as using this drill and that is all you have to do. Unfortunately there is more to it than that but the first thing you need is a test to help you see if what you are doing is working. One of the easiest test to use that takes no equipment and you can easily do on your own is shown below.

Shoulder Impingement Self Test

Shoulder impingement is one of the most common injuries and this is a very simple test to determine if there is a potential rotator cuff impingement. This is a test used a lot with many health practitioners and rehabilitation trainers. I myself used this almost daily to see where I was at in my own rehab process and it helped guide me through the process of choosing the right exercises.

What you are looking for when doing the test is 2 things.

  1. If there was any pain? If there is pain then this confirms impingement is present and that the supraspinatus muscle is at risk of being torn.
  2. How much difference between left and right shoulder?

How to do the test

  1. Stand in neutral position with feet together
  2. Get your hand and put it in the right shoulder
  3. Gently lift your elbow to the sky
  4. Repeat with the other side and note any difference

Using Mobility Drills & Trigger Point Release Between Sets

I found that using mobility work to the thoracic region and trigger point release on the Teres minor made a massive difference to the effectiveness of this movement. Previously I was trying to always stretch the pecs and lats and while this helped to some degree the difference by focusing more on the thoracic and teres minor was astounding. Using this between sets and also throughout the day made a huge difference.

The two drills I used are shown below in the videos.

There is many other things I used after this that put together all that I was trying to achieve, but I was unable to move to the strength exercises until I found a solution to the constant pain stiffness. The wall slides drill was the key in getting me to a point where I could feel the stiffness was gone and be able to move forward in my training without pain. I have since used this extensively with hundreds of clients over the past few years suffering with neck and shoulder pain to great effect. This changed my approach to training the shoulder forever and gave solutions to some of the very complex problems I had struggled with for some time.

You will find all of the other mobility, stability, and strength exercises I used in our Shoulder Pain Report you can download by clicking here. I also provided you with a FREE checklist below to guide you on putting together the information discussed in this article.

Free Shoulder Pain Checklist

Summary

I hope this article sheds some light on the value of the serratus anterior wall slides drill. It does take some time to get used to using it and many people do not quite get it at first which is fine. Keep trying and watch the videos a few times to grasp the concept of what it is trying to do and eventually it will come to you. The benefits to sticking with it are well worth it, trust me! By using specific drills to reprogram these muscles into movements of everyday life is how to get your function back without pain and restriction.

If you live in Melbourne and would like to know more about this exercise or any of our Personal Training programs click the image below to request a free consultation.