Running along either side of your rib cage is a muscle that almost everyone ignores. It’s responsible for pulling your shoulder blades forward when you press a weight, perform a pushup, or throw a punch. Some people call it the “boxer’s muscle,” because it’s often pronounced in fighters. When it’s developed, it looks like a set of shark gills. It’s called the serratus anterior, and strengthening it will boost your performance in just about every upper body exercise you do.
So how do you strengthen it? Add the dumbbell rotational punch to your workouts. Not only does this exercise target the serratus anterior, but it can also build rotational power through your core, and boost strength and stability in your shoulders.
Exercise Instructions for the Standing Rotational Punch
Muscles targeted: Core — especially the serratus anterior — and shoulders.
Stand tall with your feet slightly beyond shoulder-width. Hold a dumbbell in each hand in front of your ribs, palms facing each other. Rotate your torso to your left, pivoting your right foot as you punch straight out from your shoulder with the dumbbell in your right hand. Now rotate to your right right, pivoting your left foot as you punch straight out from your shoulder with the dumbbell in your left hand. Continue alternating sides.
Make it easier: Use lighter weights, or ditch the weights entirely.
Make it harder: Use heavier weights, or add a squat between each punch (i.e., rotate left and punch, return to center and do a squat, rotate right and punch, return to center and do a squat, etc.)
Bonus tip: Use light dumbbells (10 pounds or less) for this exercise. The goal isn’t to overload your arms, but rather to activate your core and develop explosive upper-body power. Also, you want to have full extension of your arm during each punch. In short, don’t pull any.