Anatomy and Functional Terminology

I try to write in clear language. Nonetheless, you will see the following terminology for anatomy throughout the fitness literature, especially in research. It can help to have this basis of common terms to overcome any technical understanding that may limit you from gaining knowledge.

Anatomical Position

Form follows function.

– Louis Sullivan

Anatomical position is a standing upright body with the arms at the sides. The palms face forward. The head faces forward along with the legs placed together with the feet pointing forward. This position serves as the standard reference point.

Some authorities prefer to use the fundamental position instead. This places the arms in a relaxed posture with the palms facing the body. Assume anatomical position as the reference unless told otherwise though.

Zero degrees as the starting point begins with anatomical position.

Location and Positioning

Anterior (ventral) denotes the front.

Posterior (dorsal) denotes the back.

Superior (cranial or cephalo) means toward or closer to the head.

Inferior (caudal) means toward or closer to the feet.

Medial means closer to the midline of the body.

Lateral means away from the midline of the body.

Proximal indicates a location toward the body or an attachment.

Distal indicates a location away from the body or an attachment.

Superficial means barely beneath the exterior.

Deep means further from the exterior and close to the interior.

Central represents the center.

Peripheral indicates toward the surface of the body.

Varus represents an inward deviation in alignment from the proximal to distal end of a body segment.

Valgus represents an outward deviation in alignment from the proximal to distal end of a body segment.

Supine indicates lying face up on the back.

Prone indicates lying face down.

(In older health and fitness works, these two terms are sometimes incorrectly substituted for one another.)

Pronated or overhand grip means the palms down and knuckles up.

Supinated or underhand grip means the palms up and knuckles down.

Regional Groups

Upper Body:

Head

Neck

The arm exists between the shoulder and the elbow.

The forearm exists between elbow and wrist.

Hand

Trunk:

The thorax represents the upper trunk or chest.

The abdomen represents the lower trunk or belly.

Lower Body:

The thigh exists between the hip and the knee.

The leg exists between the knee and the ankle.

(In common language, many refer to the thigh and leg as a unit by just saying the leg.)

Foot

Regional Terminology

Antibrachial associates with the forearm.

Axilla associates with the armpit.

Brachial represents the shoulder to the elbow.

Calcaneal associates with the heel bone.

Carpal associates with the wrist.

Cervical associates with the neck.

Cubital associates with the elbow.

Femoral associates with the thigh.

Hallux associates with the great toe.

Lumbar associates with the small of the lower back.

Metacarpal associates with the hand.

Metatarsal associates with the foot.

Nuchae associates with the back of the neck.

Pectoral associates with the anterior chest.

Peroneal associates with the leg.

Plantar associates with the sole of the foot.

Pollex associates with the thumb.

Popliteal associates with the back of the knee.

Tarsal associates with the ankle.

Thoracic associates with the chest.

Volar associates with the palm of the hand.

Planes and Axes

The borders for each plane present barriers impeding movement.

The axis appears as a straight line about which an object rotates.

The cardinal planes and axes pass through the midpoint of the body.

The Sagittal (anteroposterior) or Medial Plane runs from anterior to posterior and superior to inferior. It divides the body into right and left halves as it passes from front to back. The median plane represents the mid-sagittal plane that divides the body into two equal halves. Any plane running parallel to the median plane is sagittal.

(Resistance training movements usually take place in the sagittal plane.)

Transverse Axis: Runs from left to right perpendicular to the sagittal planes. This is the intersection of the transverse plane with the frontal plane.

Coronal (lateral) or Frontal Plane: Divides the body into front and back halves as it passes from right to left or side to side and running from superior to inferior, dividing the body into anterior and posterior parts. Any plane running parallel to the frontal plane is frontal.

(Stabilizing muscles that contract with little or no movement usually operate in the frontal plane.)

Anteroposterior Axis: Runs from anterior to posterior and perpendicular to the frontal planes.

Transverse or Horizontal Plane: Runs from side to side and anterior to posterior. Divides the body until superior (top) and inferior (bottom) halves as it passes perpendicular to the long axis of your body.

Longitudinal Axis: Runs top to bottom perpendicular to the transverse planes.

Sagittal Plane, Transverse Axes Movements

Flexion represents a decrease in the joint angle with the skeletal structures moving closer together. This occurs around the transverse axes in the sagittal plane through the range of motion away from anatomical position.

Extension represents an increase in the joint angle with the skeletal structures moving farther apart. This occurs around the transverse axes in the sagittal plane through a range of motion that returns the limbs to their anatomical position.

Hyperextension represents extension past anatomical position.

(Hyper movements should not occur in resistance training.)

Dorsiflexion occurs when the top of the foot moves upward toward the shin or leg.

Plantarflexion occurs when the bottom of the foot moves downward into the ground and away from the leg.

Frontal, Anteroposterior Axes Movements

Abduction represents movement away from the midline of the body and away from the anatomical position.

Adduction represents movement toward the midline of the body returning to the anatomical position.

Ulnar deviation, adduction, or flexion represents medial movement through the wrist that directs the hand toward the body and small finger.

Radial deviation, adduction, or flexion represents lateral movement through the wrist that directs the hand toward the body and thumb.

Inversion represents adduction of the ankle and foot when the medial side of the sole of the foot lifts.

Eversion represents abduction of the ankle and foot when the lateral side of the sole of the foot lifts.

Elevation represents upward or superior movement of the scapula (shoulder blade).

Depression represents downward or inferior movement of the scapula (shoulder blade).

Upward rotation takes place as the medial border moves inferiorly and the shoulder joint moves superiorly.

Downward rotation occurs as the medial border moves superiorly and the shoulder joint moves inferiorly.

Lateral flexion occurs as the trunk, head, or neck move laterally.

Transverse, Longitudinal Axes Movement

Internal or medial rotation occurs with movement toward the midline of the body. The shoulders, hands, hips and knees turn inward toward the body.

External or lateral rotation occurs with movement away from the midline of the body. The shoulders, hands, hips and knees turn outward away from the body.

Pronation occurs as rotation along the radioulnar joint causing the palms to turn toward the body.

(The forearms and elbows also turn toward as the hand faces palm-down or overhand.)

Supination occurs as rotation along the radioulnar joint causing the palms to turn away from the body.

(The forearms or elbows also turn away as the hand faces palm-up or underhand grip.)

The neutral grip serves as the midpoint between these two movements.

Horizontal extension or transverse abduction begins with either hip or shoulder flexion until the arm or thigh functions in the transverse plane followed by movement around a longitudinal axis that moves the arm or leg away from the midline of the body.

Horizontal flexion or adduction begins with either hip or shoulder flexion until the arm or thigh functions in the transverse plane followed by movement around a longitudinal axis that moves the arm or leg toward the midline of the body.

Rotation of head, neck, and trunk to the left and right occurs transversely.

Multiple Planes and Axes

Circumduction occurs as circular movement of a joint takes place at a fixed point, which combines flexion with abduction or extension and then extension combined with abduction and then adduction.

Ipsilateral describes activity and positions occurring on the same side of the body.

Contralateral describes activity and positions occurring on the opposite side of the body.

Joint actions also may occur in diagonal planes and axes.

Major Bones and Joints

Upper Body:

The skull or head begins at the most superior location.

The humerus represents the bone of the arm.

The radius and ulna form the bones of the forearm.

The carpals form the bones of the wrist.

The metacarpals form the bones of the hand.

The phalanges form the bones of the fingers.

The scapula represents the shoulder blades.

The clavicle represents the collarbone.

Lower Body:

The femur forms the thigh bone.

The tibia and fibula form the leg bones.

The tarsals form the bones in the ankle.

The metatarsals form the bones in the foot.

The phalanges form the bones of the toes.

The pelvis represents the lower abdomen.

Skeleton

The skeleton provides a supporting framework of connective tissue that forms levers operated by the muscles to create forces. Two main sections exist: the axial and appendicular skeletons.

The axial skeleton is composed of the head, neck, and trunk segments, which contain the skull, vertebral column (C1-coccyx), ribs, and the sternum.

The appendicular skeleton comprises of the upper and lower extremities, and also includes the shoulder and pelvic girdles along with all distal bones to these girdles.

Terminology for Anatomy

Use this as a reference of terminology for anatomy.

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