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Posterior compartment of the forearm

Learning objectives

After completing this study unit you will be able to:

  1. Name the superficial extensors of the forearm.
  2. List the deep extensors of the forearm.
  3. Become familiar with the attachments, innervation and function of each extensor of the forearm.

Watch videos

Functionally, the forearm is divided into compartments; the flexor (anterior) compartment, and the extensor (posterior) compartment. The posterior compartment of the forearm contains 11 muscles which share a common function of extending the hand and digits and are thus called the extensor muscles of the forearm. The extensors of the forearm are further subdivided into a superficial and deep layer. Most of the muscles in the superficial layer have a common origin on the lateral epicondyle of the humerus, while the muscles of the deep layer typically originate from the distal part of the ulna.

Find out more about the origin, insertion, neurovascular supply and function of these muscles by watching the video below.

Take a quiz

After watching the video you should be ready to test and solidify your knowledge of the extensors of the forearm with the following quiz!

If you want a broader focus of questions, customize your own quiz by clicking on the link below.

Download the PDF worksheets and learn the posterior muscles of the forearm.


Browse atlas

Examine the extensor muscles of the forearm individually in this gallery.


Key points about the extensors of the forearm
Superficial layer Brachioradialis, extensor carpi radialis longus, extensor carpi radialis brevis, extensor digitorum, extensor carpi ulnaris and extensor digiti minimi
Deep layer Supinator, abductor pollicis longus, extensor pollicis brevis, extensor pollicis longus and extensor indicis
Innervation Radial nerve (C5-C8)
Functions Mainly extension of hand and digits

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