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Easier Ways for Massage Students to Learn the Muscles


You are learning to be a muscle aficionado, but getting there can take some work. With all the information you need to learn about muscles, it’s helpful to have a few tricks up your sleeve to make the process easier.

Note It

When you write out information, it helps you move that information from your short-term memory to long-term memory for better recall later (like on a quiz or practical evaluation). Sign up for a free ABMP Student Life account and download ABMP’s Muscle Graphic Organizer. Use this organizer form to create a muscle notebook. Keep everything related to muscles in your muscle notebook to make study easier and more efficient.

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Label It

Your instructors or textbooks will provide you with diagrams of body regions. Make multiple copies of each diagram so you can label structures repeatedly until you have them completely memorized.

Color It

Purchase an anatomy coloring book if one is not provided as part of your schooling. Color in the structures you are learning and say, aloud, any pertinent information about that structure as you color it. When you say facts or information aloud, you remember it better, especially when it is tied to the physical movement of coloring.

Drill It

The only way to learn the attachment sites of muscles is to drill them over and over again. Write origins and insertions out multiple times, say them out loud multiple times, and create flash cards and practice with them every day. It’s only through drill and practice that you will fully memorize this type of information.

Move It

When you learn the actions of a muscle, it is helpful to say the action aloud while you perform the action with your own body.

Systemize It

At most massage schools, instructors teach muscles by region. In order to understand the muscles, you must first know the bones, bony landmarks, and joints in the region of study. If you don’t understand the structure of the region, it will be difficult to remember muscle attachment sites and movements. After you learn the bones, bony landmarks, and joints, follow these study steps to learn each muscle systematically:

  • On diagrams showing the anterior, posterior, and lateral views of the region, label each muscle using a textbook for a reference.
  • On diagrams showing the anterior, posterior, and lateral views of the region, label as many muscles as you can from memory and fill in the rest using a textbook for a reference.
  • Repeat the labeling activity until you can label every muscle from memory.
  • Complete one ABMP Muscle Graphic Organizer form for each muscle you are expected to learn for the region.
  • Identify muscle layers by determining which muscles are superficial and which are deep in the region.
  • Use an anatomy coloring book and color in each muscle. While coloring in the muscle, say its origin, insertion, and action aloud.
  • Move your body through the actions of each muscle and say the muscle name and the action aloud during the movement.
  • Use the Joints, Muscles, and Movement table and list a joint, the movements for that joint, and the muscles that perform that movement.
  • Create flash cards with muscle names, origins, insertions, and actions. Drill and practice until you learn the cards and know them by heart.
  • Participate fully in all classes and work to locate all instructor-selected structures through palpation.

Massage and bodywork students: for more helpful articles like this one, plus technique videos, study tips, and more, sign up for your own free ABMP Student Life account!

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