Location of skeletal muscles…. and their actions

If you have already ploughed through our anatomical terminology section then you will know that when we refer to the muscles on the front of the body we use the term anterior. When we are referring to the muscles to the rear of the body we use the term posterior.

Anterior muscles

Muscle Location Action
Deltoids Muscles that cross the shoulder joint. Abduction, flexion and extension of shoulder.
Biceps brachii Front of the upper arm. Flexion of elbow, supination of forearm, flexion of shoulder.
Trapezius Muscles of the upper back. Elevation, retraction and depression of shoulder girdle.
Rhomboids Mid back. Retraction of shoulder girdle.
Pectoralis major Muscles of chest. Horizontal flexion, adduction.
External obliques Sides of the abdomen. Close to the surface. Rotation and lateral flexion of spine.
Internal obliques Sides of the abdomen. Deeper to external obliques. Rotation and lateral flexion of spine.
Rectus abdominus Along the centre of the abdomen. Flexion of spine, lateral flexion of spine.
Quadriceps Front of the thigh. Extension of knee and flexion of hip (rectus femoris only).
Tibialis anterior Front of lower leg. Dorsiflexion and inversion of ankle.
Iliopsoas (hip flexors) Through the pelvis and onto the femur. Flexion of hip.
Hip adductors Inner thigh. Adduction of hip.
Diaphragm Beneath the ribcage. Depresses and aids in expiration.
Intercostals Between the ribs. Elevates ribs and aids in expiration.
Pelvic floor The muscles that run underneath the pelvis. Help prevent stress incontinence.


Posterior muscles

Muscle Location Action
Triceps brachii Back of the upper arm. Extension of elbow, extension of shoulder.
Latissimus dorsi Sides of the back. Adduction and extension of shoulder.
Hamstrings Back of the thigh. Extension of hip and flexion of knee.
Gastrocnemius Muscles of the calf, visible from the outside of the body. Plantarflexion of ankle, flexion of knee.
Soleus Muscles of the calf, not visible from the outside of the body. Plantarflexion of ankle.
Erector spinae Muscles that run either side of the spine. Extension and lateral flexion of spine.
Gluteus maximus Muscles of the buttocks.
Extension and external rotation of the hip.

Hip abductors 

Outside of upper thigh/hip. Abduction and flexion of hip.


Now see how many muscle locations you can remember!

Ok great, now what about their actions?

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