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Muscle Groups

There are more than 600 muscles in the body, which together account for about 40 percent of a person's weight.

Most skeletal muscles have names that describe some feature of the muscle. Often several criteria are combined into one name. Associating the muscle's characteristics with its name will help you learn and remember them. The following are some terms relating to muscle features that are used in naming muscles.

  • Size: vastus (huge); maximus (large); longus (long); minimus (small); brevis (short).
  • Shape: deltoid (triangular); rhomboid (like a rhombus with equal and parallel sides); latissimus (wide); teres (round); trapezius (like a trapezoid, a four-sided figure with two sides parallel).
  • Direction of fibers: rectus (straight); transverse (across); oblique (diagonally); orbicularis (circular).
  • Location: pectoralis (chest); gluteus (buttock or rump); brachii (arm); supra- (above); infra- (below); sub- (under or beneath); lateralis (lateral).
  • Number of origins: biceps (two heads); triceps (three heads); quadriceps (four heads).
  • Origin and insertion: sternocleidomastoideus (origin on the sternum and clavicle, insertion on the mastoid process); brachioradialis (origin on the brachium or arm, insertion on the radius).
  • Action: abductor (to abduct a structure); adductor (to adduct a structure); flexor (to flex a structure); extensor (to extend a structure); levator (to lift or elevate a structure); masseter (a chewer).