How to Learn the Skeletal Muscles

Scroll down to the middle of the page for an alphabetical list of medical prefix, suffix and word root meanings

This page is under construction. Thank you for your understanding. Last updated 1/08/2018

More About Muscles Presented by Mr. Ford's Class YouTube Channel

How to Learn the Skeletal Muscles on Your Own Terms

The best way to learn the skeletal muscle is the way that works best for you.  To find the way that works best for you, you will have to study in as many different ways as you can.  In the beginning, it may feel like an overwhelming task.  Studying in a group can provide support and open you up to different ways of thinking about how to go about learning the voluntary muscles.

The use of flash cards are a classic approach and creating your own written flash cards can be a great way for some to begin to process the information and form a mental connection with the material.  The Muscle Chart's on getmassagsmart.com are designed to be utilized as digital Flash Cards, for those who do not want to buy a set or take the time to make their own flash cards.  For others using an anatomy coloring book can help create a visual connection with the general location of muscles on the anterior or posterior aspect of the skeleton. 

An important prerequisite to learning your skeletal muscles is having a firm grasp of your bones and bony landmarks.  The voluntary muscles attach to the named bony landmarks found on each bone of the skeleton.  You may find that coloring the skeletal system within an Anatomy Coloring Book may be the most beneficial way to learn your bones and bony landmarks. 

The skeleton model is a vital tool for those studying to be a massage therapist, manual therapist, physical therapist or health care provider.  Take advantage of the skeleton found in your anatomy classroom or lab, for many students its the fastest way to integrate all the detailed information on the skeletal muscles.  Student-sized individual desktop skeletons are available for purchase online.  If studying in a group or team you can use sticky notes to label the bony landmarks on each bone. 

The use of muscle models can work well in a study group or individual study.  The MANIKEN student series models are intended to be utilized by shaping the muscles out of clay and place the formed muscles on the model from deep to superficial.  Using the clay to shape the muscle and attachments helps students learn kinesthetically through the model building with clay. We highly recommended to anyone to take advantage of the MANIKEN models If you have the opportunity to work with them.

You will need to utilize muscle diagrams that present the muscles as single structures attached to the skeleton and in group views as either attaching to the anterior or posterior skeleton.  Most anatomy and physiology classrooms or labs have a skeleton.  If you work in a group or team you can use red and blue sticky notes.  Using the red sticky note to write the name of the muscle and its origin, then taking the blue sticky note and writing the muscle insertion. 

Using the sticky notes can make for an easy classroom study activity.  If you are just a little more adventurous, you can use felt to cut the muscle shapes out using the classroom skeleton to help with sizing.  Once you have the felt cut out of a muscle label it with origin and insertion, the name of the muscle and its action.  Next, you will take the felt muscle and tape it to the skeleton.  

Another way to begin the learning process is to take a grease pencil and draw the superficial muscles on a volunteer.  This method works great for massage therapy students that can use a massage table and drape appropriately.  Palpation is a very important skill for the manual therapist and a great way to learn the skeletal muscles.  Palpation is to touch with purpose or intent.  In a medical examination, a physician may palpate a region of a patient's body for the purpose of gathering information in order to formulate a diagnosis.  

For our purposes, we use the term palpate to touch with the intent, in order to feel the soft tissues of the body.  Especially the contraction of a skeletal muscle.  Palpating a muscle or having it perform its action or function will lead to better retention when considering how to learn the skeletal muscles.  Palpation is a skill that is essential for the manual therapist, massage therapist, or physical therapist and best learned in the presence of an experienced practitioner or therapist. 

How to Learn the Skeletal Muscles
Know the Attachment Points of Muscles or Bony Landmarks

Bony Landmarks with Medic Tutorial's YouTube Channel. Scroll down to see How to take advantage of Brain Science for best Study Habits.

How to Learn the Skeletal Muscles
Origin, Insertion, Action, and Nerve Innervation

Before you begin to use rote memorization of muscle attachments origin and insertion followed by the function or action, then learning the name of the nerve that communicates with the muscle; it can be very helpful to take a broader view.  Literally take a few steps back from the material and look at the big picture.   The skeletal muscles attach to the skeleton, know it every bump and rough spot.  The muscles produce a contraction that allows for movement.  Motion only takes place at a joint.  Know your joints, all of them.  

Joints within the human skeleton are organized by both their structural anatomy and by the amount of movement that they permit.  Although there are some abnormal DNA anomalies’ that can happen to an individual the vast majority skeletons all possess the same bony landmarks and muscles that attach to them.  The point is that figuring out how to learn the skeletal muscles can be a bit intimidating, but most bodies are very much alike.  With time, effort, and repetition anyone can learn the bones and muscles that make up their body.  Your best study aid is your own body.

Do not be afraid to palpate or touch appropriately others in your study group or class, but more importantly, do not forget that you can touch and palpate your own joints and muscles.  If you use your own body as a tool while learning your skeletal muscles you can use it as a figurative and literal cheat sheet when taking examinations on the bones and muscles.  Some of the bony landmarks are superficial enough that they can actually be palpated.

For example, the olecranon process of the ulna commonly referred to as your elbow.  Go ahead and touch the tip or pointed part of your elbow.  You have palpated your olecranon process.  Now slide just above the olecranon process and palpate the muscle that attaches to the posterior aspect of your arm or humerus.  Straighten or extend your arm as you palpate, you have just felt the triceps brachii contract.  Slide your hand around to the anterior aspect of the arm and flex your forearm towards you as you palpate the musculature.  You have now felt the biceps brachii contract. 

Before you focus on learning the skeletal muscles in detail, make sure you know your directional terminology, planes of motion, and the axis of motion.  Increasing your understanding axis of motion and direction of movement will greatly reduce the amount of time you will need to spend on learning the skeletal muscles.  Understanding the types of contractions that a muscle can undergo can also be helpful as you increase your ability to think through the information necessary when determining how to learn the skeletal muscles. 

As you continue your detailed study you will need to familiarize yourself with the general location, name, size and appearance of the muscles found on a muscle chart of the anterior or posterior aspect of the body.  The names of muscles can provide an enormous amount of information about that muscle.  If you are in the first phase of your muscle studies take some time to review our muscle names defined page read the translation, then open the University of Michigan's image file.  At first, they will seem to be difficult to remember, but as you begin to increase your skill with  medical terminology you will find that understanding the skeletal muscles are much more straightforward than they first appears.

It cannot be emphasized enough how valuable it is to take the time to study the basics.  Begin with a medical terminology course, or if you have moved on in your classes but are lost in the material, simply back up and start again.  Des Moines University offers a free online medical terminology course and here is another link to a free course on medical terminology , formatted as terminology flash cards.

There is an abundance of educational materials available online,  you will always want to utilize the tools provided for you in the classroom and your textbooks first.  There is no substitute for making this information real in the real world by appropriate touching with fellow students, as well as, family members and friends who volunteer to help.  Make sure that they understand the palpation process.  Images or even 3D models alone will not be enough for those who plan on using the information as manual therapists, such as, Massage Therapists, Physical Therapist, Physiotherapists, Chiropractors, Exercise Physiologist, Athletic Trainers, and Doctors of Physical Medicine of any kind.

Those training to become Doctors will have a great advantage.  Access to dissection lab.  There is no substitute for kinesthetic or tactile learning with a cadaver.  The next best thing for manual therapists is to take an MANIKEN course.  Some areas of the world, including the US, offer nonmedical degree-seeking learners the opportunity to attend a human dissection course, we highly recommend to anyone to take advantage of any opportunity to do so.   Joe Muscolino and Gi Hedley offer cadaver dissection workshops with the manual therapist in mind:  The Art and Science of Kinesiology Cadaver Dissection Workshop or Hands on Dissection Workshop.

Get Massage Smart's Muscle Chart's used in combination with our Muscle Video Series can go a long way towards helping the massage therapist learn their skeletal muscle anatomy.  Our resources are designed for the manual therapist and are useful for anyone training for a career in the health care field.  We understand that time may have elapsed since you graduated from the classroom setting.  We built much of this site with you in mind.  We are on a mission to spread the benefits of Touch Therapy and Smart Massage Education.

If you have not yet passed your licensing examination keep studying.  It is possible for anyone to learn the Anatomy of the Human Form and how to safely provide therapeutic and relaxation massage. 

Marty Lobdell from Pierce College offers an upbeat fun look at how to study less, study smart.  He helps you understand why that feeling of struggle accompanies study.  He then helps you develop new learning habits.

How to Learn the Skeletal Muscles
Use Brain Science on How to Improve Memory

How to take advantage of the Spacing effect and where to make your own flash cards online with Thomas Frank's YouTube Channel.  Scroll down to learn how to use visual tricks to remember your muscles & medical terms easily with association techniques.

How to Learn the Skeletal Muscles
A List of Latin or Greek Roots for the Musculoskeletal System

A

ab-

away from

acanth/o

spiny; thorny

acetabul/o

acetabulum (hip socket)

acr/o

extremeties; top; extreme point

acromi/o

acromion (extension of shoulder bone)

ad-  

toward

-ad

toward

af-  

toward

-al

pertaining to

alb/o

white

alges/o

sensitivity to pain

-algesia

sensitivity to pain

-algia

pain

ambi-  

around, on both sides, about

an/o

anus

-an

pertaining to

ankyl/o

stiff

ante-

before; forward

anter/o

front

anti-

against

aponeur/o

aponeurosis (type of tendon)

arter/o 

artery

arteriol/o  


arteriole (small artery)

arthr/o 

joint

articul/o  

joint

astr/o

star, star-shaped

ather/o

plaque (fatty substance)

axillo/o 

armpit

axi/o

axis

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Go to Learn Bones Video Series

How to Learn Your Skeletal Muscles
Use a Song to Know Your Bones

Mr. Parr's Science Songs can get us fired up to Learn.  Scroll down to Learn How Ronnie White demonstrates how to remember medical terms.

How to Learn the Skeletal Muscles
B List of Latin or Greek Roots for the Musculoskeletal System

B

bar/o 

pressure; weight

bary-

weight, pressure

-basia

walking

bi-  

two

brachi/o

arm

bucc/o

cheek

bunion/o

bunion

burs/o   

bursa (sac of fluid near joints)

-globin

protein

-globulin

protein

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Go to Learn Your Articulations and Joints Video Series

How to Learn the Skeletal Muscles
Simple visual Association Tips & Tricks for Remembering Terminology

How to Memorize Medical Terms with Ronnie White YouTube Channel.  Scroll down to Learn How Dr. Taylor Williams turns a muscle action group into a song.

How to Learn the Skeletal Muscles
C List of Latin or Greek Roots for the Musculoskeletal System

C

calc/o

calcium

calcane/o

calcaneus (heel bone)

calci/o

calcium

calcul/o, -calculia

to compute

calor/i

heat

capillar/o

capillary (tiniest blood vessel)

caps/o, capsul/o

capsule, container

carp/o

wrist bones (carpals)

cata-  

down

-cataphasia

affirmation

cathar/o, cathart/o

cleansing, purging

-cathisia, -kathisia

sitting

caud/o

tail; lower part of body

caus/o

burn; burning

cauter/o

heat; burn

cav/o, cavit/o

hollow, cavity

celi/o 

belly; abdomen

centr/o 

center

cephal/o 

head

cerebell/o 

cerebellum (posterior part of the brain)

cerebr/o

cerebrum (largest part of the brain)

cervic/o 

neck; cervix (neck of uterus)

cheil/o  

lip

chir/o 

hand

chondr/o 

cartilage

cine/o 

movement

circum- 

around

cis/o 

to cut

-clasis 

to break

-clast

to break

claustr/o 

enclosed space

clavicul/o 

clavicle (collar bone)

cleid/o

clavicle

-clysis 

irragation; washing

coccyg/o 

coccyx (tail bone)

cochle/o

cochlea (inner part of ear)

conjunctiv/o  

conjuctiva (lines of eyelids)

constrict/o 

narrowing, binding

-constriction 

narrowing

contra- 

against; opposite

contus/o

to bruise

cor/o  

pupil

core/o

pupil

corne/o

cornea

coron/o 

heart

corpor/o

body

cortic/o

cortex, outer region

cost/o

rib

cox/o    

hip

crani/o

skull

cry/o

cold

cubit/o 

elbow, forearm

cutane/o 

skin

cyt/o

cell

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Go to Learn Muscles Video Series

How to Learn the Skeletal Muscles
Turn a Region or Action Group into a Song

Dr. Taylor Williams M.D. does a Wonderful Job of Showing us How to Build a Song around Anatomy.  Scroll down to listen to a song about the Shoulder & Thorax.

How to Learn the Skeletal Muscles
D List of Latin or Greek Roots for the Musculoskeletal System

D

dactyl/o

fingers; toes

de-

lack of; down; less; removal of

dent/i

tooth

derm/o


-derma


dermat/o

skin

dextr/o

right

dia-

complete; through

diaphor/o

sweat

-dilation  

widening; stretching; expanding

dilat/o

to enlarge, expand

dipl/o

double

dips/o 

thirst

dis-

apart, to separate

dist/o

far; distant

dolich/o

long

dolor/o

pain

dors/o

back

-dote

to give

-drome

to run

duct/o

to lead; carry

dynam/o

power, strength

-dynia

pain

dys-

bad: painful: difficult: abnormal

 

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Go To Learn Muscles Videos

How to Learn the Skeletal Muscles
Turn a Region or Action Group into a Song

The Thorax and Shoulder Muscle Song form Veiled01Truth YouTube Channel provides an excellent overview of the Shoulder Joint.  Scroll down to Hear Mr. Parr's introduction to muscle tissue "Muscles Make You Stronger" Song.  Scroll down to watch Ronnie Whites 10 tips for better study time.

How to Learn the Skeletal Muscles
E List of Latin or Greek Roots for the Musculoskeletal System

E

ec-  

out; outside

-ectasia

dilation; dilatation; widening

-ectasis

dilation; dilatation; widening

ecto-  

out; outside

ectro/o 

congenital absence

-ectomy

removal; excision; resection

-edema

swelling

-ema

condition

embolo/o

embolus

-emesis

vomiting

-emia

blood condition

-emic

pertaining to blood condition

emmetr/o

in due measure

-emphraxis

stoppage, obstruction

en-

in; within

enanti/o  

opposite, opposed

encephal/o

brain

end-  

in; within

epi-

above; upon; on

epitheli/o

skin; epithelium

equi-

equality, equal

-er 

one who

erg/o

work

erethism/o

  irritation

erythem/o

flushed; redness

erythem/o

red

eschar/o

scab

-esis

action; condition; state of

eso-

inward

esthes/o 


esthesi/o 


-esthesia

nervous sensation

estr/o

female

eti/o

cause

eu- 

good; normal

-eurysm

widening

ex-

out; away from

extra-

outside

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Go to Muscle Chart Lower Extremity

How to Learn the Skeletal & Involuntary Muscles
Turn the Characteristics of Muscle Tissue into a Song

How to Learn the Skeletal Muscles
F List of Latin or Greek Roots for the Musculoskeletal System

F

faci/o

face

fasci/o

fascia (membrane supporting muscles)

femor/o

femur (thigh bone)

-ferent  

to carry

ferr/i, ferr/o

iron

fibr/o

fiber

fibros/o

fibrous connective tissue

fibul/o

fibula

-fication

process of making

-fida

split

fil/i, fil/o

thread, threadlike

filament/o

thread, threadlike

flav/o

yellow

flex/o

to bend

fluor/o

luminous

follicul/o

follicle; small sac

fore-

before, in front

-form

resembling; in the shape of

four

quadri, tetra-

frig/o, frigid/o

cold

funct/o

performance

furc/o

forking; branching

-fusion

to pour; to come together

Return to the Index

How to Learn the Skeletal Muscles
Study More Effectively with 10 Memory Tips

How to Learn the Skeletal Muscles
G List of Latin or Greek Roots for the Musculoskeletal System

G

ganglion/o

ganglion; collection of nerve cell bodies

gastr/o

stomach

gel/o

to freeze, congeal

gemell/o

twins

-gen

substance that produces

-genesis

producing; forming

-genic

produced by or in

geni/o

chin

genit/o

reproduction

ge/o

earth, soil

ger/o

old age

geront/o

old age

gest/o

pregnancy

gigant/o

huge

gingiv/o

gum

glauc/o

gray

gli/o

glial cells; neuroglial cells

-globin 

protein

-globulin

protein

glomerul/o

glomerulus

gloss/o

tongue

gluc/o

glucose; sugar

glyc/o

glucose; sugar

glycogen/o

glycogen; animal starch

glycos/o

glucose; sugar


gnath/o

jaw

gnos/o

knowledge

gon/o

seed

gonad/o

sex glands

goni/o

angle

-grade

to go

-gram

record

granul/o

granule(s)

-graph

instrument for recording

-graphy

process of recording

gravid/o

pregnancy

-gravida

pregnant woman

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Go to Muscle Chart Lower Extremity

Learn the Skeletal Muscles
of the Anterior Thigh in 4 Minutes

How to Learn the Skeletal Muscles
H List of Latin or Greek Roots for the Musculoskeletal System

H

half 

demi, hemi, semi

hallucin/o

hallucination

hapl/o

simple, single

helc/o

ulcer

heli/o

sun

-helminth

worm

hem/o

blood

hemat/o

blood

hemi-

half

hemoglobin/o

hemoglobin

hepat/o

liver

heredo-

heredity

herni/o

hernia

-hexia

habit

hidr/o

sweat

hirsut/o

hairy

hist/o

tissue

histi/o

tissue

holo-

entire, complete

home/o

sameness; unchanging; constant

hormon/o

hormone

humer/o

humerous

hydr/o

water

hygr/o

moisture

hyper-

above; excessive

hypn/o

sleep

hypo-

deficient; below; under; less than normal

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Go to Muscle Chart Lower Extremity

Learn the Skeletal Muscles
of the Posterior Thigh in 3 Minutes

How to Learn the Skeletal Muscles
I List of Latin or Greek Roots for the Musculoskeletal System

I

ia

condition

-iac

pertaining to

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