An Introduction on How to Learn Muscles
that move the Human Body

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Go to Muscles of the Upper Extremity: Shoulder, Elbow, Wrist

Go to Muscles of the Lower Extremity: Hip, Thigh, Knee, Ankle

In order to learn muscles of the human body, it is helpful to understand a few basic concepts about how muscles contract and move joints.  The movement of joints allows us to interact with our environment.  The following educational videos from various authors will discuss these basic concepts.  These concepts include how muscles cross joints in order to produce movement, origin and insertion of muscles, isotonic and isometric contractions, paired agonist and antagonist muscle complex as well as muscle cell anatomy and the functional unit of contraction the sarcomere. 

Understanding the meaning of word roots found in medical terms can reduce the time needed to understand and remember the skeletal muscles.  How to learn the skeletal muscles is an active process that is facilitated by understanding recent brain science and how to utilize the spacing effect.  This review of basic muscular system information can help students preparing to take the MBLx massage therapy licensure exam or other state examinations.

Learn Muscles an Educational Video Series Basic Concepts

Kristina Lisk is an Instructor at Humber College, Toronto and does a wonderful introduction to the study of skeletal musculature. Get Massage Smart thanks Kristina Lisk for her well presented 3D anatomy videos.  Get massage Smart offers this video for its educational value and does not validate its accuracy.

How Muscles Function and Contract in an Agonist and Antagonist Complex

Get Massage Smart offers this introductory video into how muscles function and contract in pairs or agonist and antagonist groupings.  Get Massage Smart offers the video for its educational value and does not validate its accuracy.  The video presents the quadriceps and hamstrings as an example of paired muscle groupings. 

In the action of bending the knee the hamstrings are the agonist and the quadriceps are the antagonist.  In the action of straitening the knee the quadriceps are the agonist and the hamstrings are the antagonist.  The video also presents the biceps and triceps as an example of a paired muscle grouping.  When the elbow bends the bicep is the agonist and the triceps is the antagonist.  When the elbow straitens the triceps is the agonist and the biceps is the antagonist.

The video then goes on to introduce the microscopic anatomy of skeletal muscles.  It presents the muscle proteins actin and myosin.  These paired proteins are arranged within a structural unit known as the sarcomere.  Skeletal muscle is made up of cells called fibers and proteins called filaments.  The protein filaments form sarcomeres within the structure of the fiber or skeletal muscle cell.  The video offers a simple introduction into the sliding filament theory of skeletal muscle contraction.

Remembering the Names of Muscles can be a Challenge for Anyone

Get Massage Smart presents Dr Lorena Canelon  AP educational video on naming skeletal muscles.  Understanding the basic categories of characteristics that have been used to name muscles can assist the learner and enhance retention.  Get Massage Smart offers this video for its educational value and does not validate its accuracy.  To Learn more about how muscles are named go to Muscle Names Defined.

Arrangement of Fascicles in Muscles

Understanding how muscle fibers or cells are arranged in fascicles can assist in remembering the names of muscles and visualizing how they function.  We present this video from Medic Tutorials posted on Feb 4, 2015. 

Fascicles and Levers

Here we have Bob Myers presentation of the fascicles and how muscles work within a lever system using the joints as a fulcrum.  This video was uploaded to YouTube on Dec 16, 2013, many have found this discussion on levers very helpful.

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Understanding the Difference Between Isotonic and Isometric Contractions

It is important to have a solid understanding of the types of skeletal muscle contractions that move a joint when the goal is to learn muscles of the human body.  Paula Jaspar is a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) and offers a clear presentation of the difference between Isometric and Isotonic contraction, as well as Eccentric and Concentric skeletal muscle contractions.  To check out Paula's other massage related educational materials please take a look at her web site Humanatomy.  Get Massage Smart offers Paula's anatomy video for its educational value and does not validate its accuracy.  Get Massage Smart thanks Paula Jasper for her clearly presented Human Anatomy educational videos.

The Importance of the Muscles Origin and Insertion

In order to understand how muscles contractions move joints, it is necessary to understand the origin and insertion of a joint and what joint that muscle crosses.  Human movement only takes place at a joint, for a muscle to move a joint it must cross that joint.  Paula Jasper a RMT from Canada introduces us to the concepts of Origin and Insertion of skeletal musculature.  To see more of Paula's educational videos check out her site at Humanatomy.  Get Massage smart presents Paula's videos for their educational value and does not validate their accuracy.

How Planes Divide the Body

To have a clear grasp of kinesiology and how muscles move joints it is necessary to understand the planes that divide the body.  As one continues to study the muscles and movements of the body as well as all aspects of anatomy understanding the medical terminology that is used to describe the human form is essential.  Paula Jasper presents another wonderful educational video.  Get Massage Smart presents this video for its educational value and does not validate its accuracy. 

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Understanding Directional Anatomical Terminology

The following video by Dr. Mario Ricci helps to explain the usefulness of directional anatomical terminology.   

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Directional Terminology with Ken Hub

More on Anatomical Terminology

To have a grasp of kinesiology and how muscles move joints its necessary to understand some basic anatomical terminology.  The following educational video produced by Gustrength.com (Ground Up Strength) provides an introduction to directional terms for some or a quick review for others.

Knowledge Check Point

Here are several short quiz's to see how well you have absorbed the concepts:

More About Isometric and Concentric Contractions

Isometric and Concentric contractions have been presented in two of the above posted educational videos.  We now offer a third presentation from Ground Up Strength.  The study of the human body will take time and effort.  Understanding of complex concepts will be developed by having a solid grasp of foundational or basic concepts.  Strength training basics can help us understand how muscles grow in bulk using concentric contractions.  Concentric actions in the prime mover or agonist conversely must produce an eccentric or lengthening action in the antagonist muscle or action group.  In this video example the biceps is performing a shorting or concentric action while the triceps must perform an lengthening or eccentric action. 

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