How to Study Anatomy as an Exercise Science Professional

By Dominique Groom on September, 14 2020

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Dominique Groom

Dominique Groom is a certified ISSA trainer in personal training, youth fitness and corrective exercise, and adjunct professor for ISSA's College of Exercise Science and stay at home mother of three who strives to stay active as well as get others active. She has a Bachelor's degree in Exercise and Sports science with an emphasis in rehabilitation. Her passion is running and exercising and keeping her family active.

It’s an unavoidable reality that you’ll need to learn how to study anatomy if you want to be an exercise science professional—it can be one of the more challenging subjects to study. Yet knowing anatomy is a necessity, from programming the perfect program for a client to answering the question, “what muscle does this exercise work.”

Building a base of knowledge of anatomy, and continually learning more as you grow and expand your experience, can help you build a thriving career. It can also help you shift into new fields of exercise science if you choose to. 

On a deeper level, it is important to understand not only the muscles but also the movements they perform. This is all easier said than done when there are more than 600 muscles and 206 bones in the body. 

However, studying anatomy does not have to be overwhelming if you view it as a marathon, not a sprint. Just like you don’t want clients to hope for big results after two training sessions you also don’t want to assume you will memorize and know everything you need to know for anatomy in a short period of study time. It will take some time and effort. 

If you want to know how to study anatomy to be a successful exercise science professional, this is the guide for you. Use the following tips to get all the information you need without overwhelming yourself in the process.

 

Plan It Out

Creating a schedule is the first must-do when learning how to study anatomy. This makes it feel manageable and helps you understand what time you’ll need to dedicate each week or month. 

Start by deciding how often you will study—what’s realistic for your current schedule? Keep a schedule and hold yourself accountable, just like you would with your clients. Break down what you need to study into groups and determine how much time you will spend on those areas. 

For example, you may want to spend a week on the muscles in the arm then move onto the next muscle group. You need to have a long-term mentality. You’re studying to be able to use them in your career so retention is key. If you’re taking an anatomy course, you may need to follow the class’s schedule, so create your own study schedule around that. I.E. Wednesdays are for reading and Fridays are for flashcards. 

 

Find Supportive Learning Tools

Anatomy is a very visual subject so it can be valuable to find other learning tools that will allow you to expand on the text and better understand what you’re reading. For example, there are many apps that bring the human body to life, making it easier to see how the body works. 

Here are a few apps to consider:

 

Use Retention-Supporting Study Techniques

When using your resources, just looking at the muscle isn’t enough. It’s helpful to use a variety of techniques to ensure you’re truly retaining what you’re learning. Learn how to study anatomy most effectively with these simple tips

  • Repeat it and reproduce it with your own body. Do the movement yourself and repeat it to yourself as you do—don’t just read flashcards or the pages of your textbook. 
  • Label the muscle over and over. Be sure you’re spelling it correctly, so you save it into your memory correctly. 
  • Study the body from different angles and planes. It’s helpful to print a picture and place it into a paper protector or dry erase pocket and label the muscle with a dry erase marker. This way you can erase it and use it over and over again.
  • Draw the visuals. Even if your drawing skills aren’t great, it’s helpful to draw or trace the muscle in the location on the body rather than just looking at a picture of it. One helpful resource for this is The Anatomy Coloring Book or one similar. Coloring and labeling the muscles in the anatomy coloring book helps you better visualize and remember what you’re studying. It is also less mind-numbing than just staring and memorizing a picture of a muscle.  
  • If you’re studying a chart, for example, an origin and insertion chart, reproduce it from your own from memory more than once. You can also use flashcards with the picture of the muscle and the and practice that with repetition.
  • Incorporating the auditory domain of learning is important even when you’re studying pictures of muscles, for example. Say the muscles out loud as you’re pointing them out or writing them down. You can also find songs that can help you memorize the different muscles. Check out this extensive list of anatomy and physiology songs that will make the details stick in your mind with catchy lyrics.

 

Test Yourself Regularly

Test yourself regularly without using any resources or answer keys. When studying, you might feel like you have a grasp on the content, but when you test yourself without any resources, it can be much harder to organize all your knowledge into answers. If you’re taking a course, your teacher may have access to practice tests for you to use. 

Conversely, you can find your own tests online, but be sure the source is legitimate. For example, look for associations that offer practice tests, like this one from the American Association of Medical Assistants.

You can also test yourself by printing pictures and labeling the muscles, insertion points, etc. without the help of an answer key. 

 

Get Hands-On

One of the most important tips for how to study is anatomy is simple: get hands-on. Labeling a body on paper is helpful, but when you start to work with clients you will need to be able to know the muscles on a human body. Use yourself or a friend to locate the different muscles and watch how they move. 

The best part of the anatomy is that you are able to use your body and your movements to study for it. Label the muscles, insertion points, joints, and body parts as you workout or watch someone running by you on the street. There’s always an opportunity to put your knowledge to the test when studying anatomy.

 

How to Study Anatomy: Take Your Time and Practice, Practice, Practice

If you don’t know how to study anatomy, the best tip is to take your time and make practice a priority. Label the muscles, use apps, move your body, and say terms out loud. Use all your senses and resources to truly understand—and retain—your anatomy knowledge to build a thriving exercise science career.

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Dominique Groom

Dominique Groom is a certified ISSA trainer in personal training, youth fitness and corrective exercise, and adjunct professor for ISSA's College of Exercise Science and stay at home mother of three who strives to stay active as well as get others active. She has a Bachelor's degree in Exercise and Sports science with an emphasis in rehabilitation. Her passion is running and exercising and keeping her family active.

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