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January 7, 2013, 12:00AM PT in Exam Preparation Blog  |  0 Comments

How should I study anatomy?

AnatomyAnatomy – what a pain in the ischial tuberosity.

Many exam candidates start the Human Anatomy chapter (Chapter 1 of the Essentials of Exercise Science Manual) and immediately become overwhelmed with the content, feeling that they need to memorize everything presented in this chapter. If this sounds familiar, please read on so I can explain why this isn’t necessary!

When you start chapter 1, I recommend that you read through the chapter first for an understanding of what is presented. Be familiar with the highlighted words and don’t get bogged down in the small details. (Hint: You don’t need to memorize the origin and insertions of the muscles for the exam.) Don’t stop reading until you reach the end of the chapter, then, take a deep breath!

Now let’s work out what you really need to focus on! You don’t need to try and learn all the anatomy in one week. It’s easier to space out the anatomy learning over the entire duration of your studies. Think of it as learning a second language—you can’t learn all the basics of a new language in one week and expect to remember or use the new words. You need to be patient with yourself and slowly learn these new words!

Here are some tips for learning the anatomy:

Choose a body part each week to learn the muscles and movements. A helpful way to learn the muscles is to get up out of your chair and move and create actions for the muscles you are learning that week. Look at a picture of the muscle, find it on your body, and picture how the muscle is contracting and what muscles are involved in the movement. Make the muscle contract and complete different actions that muscle is involved in.

You can even incorporate this into your everyday activities without even studying. While reaching for your coffee mug, shutting the car door or bending down to pick up a book, picture your action, and then picture the movement and the muscles associated with that action. Then try to name the muscles in your head. You can even create flashcards with the names of the muscles for the week and carry them with you. Watch the anatomy DVD and also use outside resources, such as anatomy websites like GetBodySmart and YouTube videos to search muscle actions and view the movements.

Anatomy is important content! You can see how understanding how the body moves and creates movement with the muscles is directly related to being a fitness professional. There is no way of getting around the fact that you need to know your anatomy. On the ACE exam, the anatomy is a small portion of the test, however, what you are studying is laying the foundation for the future. So take your time, spread out your studies and get your body moving!

By Bindi Delaney


Bindi Delaney is the Professional Education Coordinator for the American Council on Exercise. She is an ACE Master Trainer, ACE-certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor and Health Coach and holds a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science. Bindi moved to the USA from Australia in 2011 and is an exercise fanatic who loves to take on new challenges, recently completing an Ironman triathlon just for the fun of it!