How to Master Muscular Anatomy Fast & Avoid the 5 Most Common Anatomy Mistakes
Anatomy = Foundation of Exercise Science
Learning anatomy as a fitness professional is like learning to build a foundation as an architect; it supports everything else!
Everything else is built on top of it!
Personal training is super dynamic and intimate, so I suppose you could make the same claim about personality being foundational; if the client doesn’t want to spend time with you because of your bad attitude or bad communication skills, it really doesn’t matter how much you know!
But that is why we break up personal training sills into categories. Because training is so dynamic, it is helpful to break up the various skill sets into 3 key mega-competencies: interpersonal skills, exercise science, and business acumen.
Anatomy and biomechanics are the very foundation of exercise science, with physiology secondary. (What is physiology anyway, except your anatomies response to forces/mechanics? Feel free to disagree in the comments, I know this isn’t a popular perspective, but I think it is one worth examining.)
It really doesn’t matter how much you know about other areas of exercise science, if you don’t have a strong foundation in biomechanics and anatomy, you will not be able to accurately and safely apply your knowledge.
Types of Anatomy
Within anatomy, there are multiple focuses; neural anatomy, bony anatomy, muscular anatomy. As a trainer, it is VERY important to keep in mind how many other structures there are in the body that affects its performance and health.
Yes, initially we should be focused on muscular anatomy, but as fitness professionals, we have to keep in mind that we tend to be too focused on muscles sometimes. Often, a tight muscle will tighten because of a fascial restriction! Everything is connected to everything through the fascial network. Just keep this in mind when you are problem solving and studying.
As you advance, more time should be spent on learning more advanced anatomy like fascial anatomy, and the anatomy of the tendons, ligaments, and how they attach to bony surfaces.
Practice Makes Perfect
There are a lot of great tools out there to learn anatomy. Use these tools, the first one is free, and practice with other trainers. Make cards, quiz each other, and try to link the specific names to your own exercise routine when you workout.
[Anatomy for fitness] getbodysmart.com – This website is AWESOME! It is a digital animation of the muscular system. Click and drag a little slider under each joint, and it will build the muscular support system around it from the most deep to the most superficial. Very cool and definitely worth checking out, you can also click to see each muscles action, which is good but very simplified. (Be sure to read “Most Common Anatomy Mistakes” below). And it’s free! Also, you can take a quiz on the site. Every new fitness professional should know about this site and spend time on it, it is great.
Human Anatomy Atlas of Human Anatomy DVD Set -This dvd set is AMAZING! I have watched all but one of the dvds (the 6th one is about the organs). While it is on the pricey side to get all 6 at once, it is a great reference for anyone who wants to take their anatomy to the next level. They basically build a fresh cadaver in front of you, with precise animation to show each origin and insertion. They start with the bony anatomy, and then build the muscles from deep to superficial on top, show the tissues from 360 views. Then they show the vascular and neural anatomy, and have quizzes between each section. You can also start with just one DVD at a time, and watch just 10 minutes a day. It is fascinating! All these intricate structures are the bodies evolutionary reaction to FORCE! DVD 1, 2, and 3 are most important for newer trainers, as they are upper extremity, lower extremity, and trunk/core.
Fitness Anatomy Strength Training Anatomy Book – This is a great book. Detailed, colorful, and just plain fun to look at. The muscles illustrations are very much of a jacked body builder, it is not what you will normally find in a general population client, but it is a cool guide to basic anatomy. There is not as much attention to anatomy of the “passive structures” (bones, ligaments, tendons) and spinal anatomy.
Cadaver Course – One of the best ways to learn is to get your hands dirty! I went to this class and it was AWESOME! We are so used to thinking of these tissues as separate, as they appear in books, but they are all intertwined together! It was eye opening to see the fibers of the rhomboid fan into the fibers of the Serratus! It looked like one muscle! This is a link to the RTS website. They have a cadaver class in Pittsburgh and in Connecticut. If you are in another part of the world, you should be able to find a cadaver class at any university with related courses. The cool thing about the RTS anatomy elective is you can get continuing education credits, and it is a requirement for your Resistance Training Specialist certification. But don’t let it stop you if you are not in CT or Pittsburgh, find a class and get your hands dirty!
Most Common Anatomy Mistakes!
These are the BIGGEST mistakes that fitness professionals AND BOOKS make about anatomy:
1. The action of the muscle tissue is entirely dependent on its position! Yes, your hip adductors move your legs inward toward each other if they are abducted, BUT they will extend the hip if you are in the hip is fully flexed, or extend the hip if it is fully flexed. If you are just starting out, don’t get confused, just focus on the most obvious muscular action, but keep in mind that each muscles function is positional, and will change based on the position of the joints.
2. Each muscle has some kind of function in every plane, and it has an eccentric action, concentric action, and isometric action. Oh, and by every plane, I don’t mean all 3 planes because there is an INFINITE # of planes (another major yet common anatomy mistake.) What plane is cutting a diagonal with your arm? If this blows your mind, I recommend taking the RTS certification ASAP!
3. We tend to focus on superficial muscles and anterior muscles because they are easier to see and appease our vanity! Do not make this mistake with your own body or your clients; without balance, symmetry, and the deeper/smaller stabilizers, you WILL become a cripple sooner or later!
4. Do NOT try to impress your clients with your knowledge of anatomy! Naming the deep 6 hip rotators will not impress your prospect! Unless they are a doctor, they will only be confused and maybe intimidated! ALWAYS talk to your client in a language they understand; this is better for communication and sales. Yes, as you build a relationship, you should expand your client’s knowledge so they take control of their fitness, but even then, focus giving them practical knowledge and not Latin names. In the beginning, if they say “I want smaller arms, they look like old lady arms”, you say “Well this program will specifically target those granny arms.” You will sell more packages guaranteed.
5. One other quick note on language. At all costs, avoid using the word “Functional” where ever you want just to sound knowledgeable. Yes people like it, and it is a buzz word, but buzz words are often very ineffective at communication. Instead of “functional” say “exercise or program xyz will help you function better at ABC or perform better at ABC or transfer over to activity ABC”. Major pet peeve of mine! Don’t just sound smart when you can be smart!
I sure hope this is helpful! Please leave me some questions in the comments and I will get right back to you. SHOW ME YOU ARE ALIVE!
o How did you learn anatomy?
o What is the hardest part?
o What mistakes have you made?
Leave me some comments and let me know.
Until next time, keep your business fit.