Nicole Thompson by Nicole Thompson
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Studying human anatomy can be fascinating and challenging. There are many detailed aspects of anatomy and it can be difficult to discern what level of understanding is needed for the exam and for practical application as an exercise professional. Exam candidates often ask how to study anatomy and if it is imperative to memorize everything. This blog covers what you need to know, how to approach your studies, and ideas for applying what you are learning.

  1. What You Need to Know

It is important to understand what you need to know and what is nice to know. While it will not be imperative to identify the location of every muscle that makes up the human body on an anatomical figure, for example, you should have a basic understanding of how the major muscle groups work as a whole. Knowing the names of muscle groups, where they are located, how they make the body move, and what exercises target each group is central to both preparing for the exam and the successful application of exercise program design and implementation. The following blog articles help to identify those components:

Muscles That Move the Leg

Muscles That Move the Arm

Muscles That Move the Scapulae

Core Anatomy

One way to learn and apply this information is to focus on the muscles and movements of one muscle group each week. Use your own body to learn muscle locations, how they make the limbs and body parts move, and which exercises target each group – get up, move, and create actions for your own muscles. Look at a picture of the muscle, find it on your body, and visualize how activating the muscle causes movement. Understanding where muscles are located and where they originate and insert can help you develop a better understanding of the movements associated with that muscle.

  1. Understand How You Learn Best

There are different ways to learn new information and it is important to make your preferred learning style a priority. Maybe you’re a visual learner, maybe you learn best by practicing, or maybe you prefer making flashcards and taking notes. If you don’t know how you learn best – experiment! Play around with different learning styles and see what works for you. And how will you know what is working? Test yourself. After trying different study methods, quiz yourself to see what you retained. There are lots of resources and tools in your online ACE account as well as outside resources, such as Quizlet Flashcards, anatomy websites like GetBodySmart, or YouTube videos.

  1. Taking It to the Next Step

Once you’ve identified what you need to know about human anatomy and how you can learn it, think about Connecting the Dots between memorization and practical application. This includes examining anatomical and regional terms describing locations of muscles and bones and how making observations during assessments indicates both functional and dysfunctional muscle actions. Also, if knowing the origin and insertion points helps you to understand muscle actions and joint movements to comprehend anatomy better, then take the time to learn it.

Lastly, apply what you are learning. You can incorporate anatomical terminology and information into your everyday activities without even studying. For example, while reaching for your coffee mug, shutting the car door, exercising at the gym, or bending down to pick up a book, feel the action, and then picture the muscles associated with that movement. Then try to name the muscles used.  

Understanding and applying anatomy is important not only for the exam but it is foundational knowledge that all exercise professionals need to critically observe client movements, successfully create and implement exercise programs, and to confidently interact within the allied healthcare continuum.

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