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Muscles of the hand

Learning objectives

After completing this study unit you will be able to:

  1. Categorize the muscles of the hand into 5 groups.
  2. Name the thenar and hypothenar muscles of the hand.
  3. Understand the main functions of the muscles of the hand.

Watch videos

Although the hand largely outsources the strength needed for a handgrip to the muscles of the forearm, it employs a vast number of smaller muscles that enable it to perform the fine, dexterous movements unique to the human hand. These muscles, sometimes referred to as the intrinsic muscles of the hand, all originate and insert within the hand region.

Typically, the intrinsic muscles of the hand can be divided into three groups: the metacarpal, thenar and hypothenar muscles.

The muscles of the hand can also be categorized according to five compartments, where the metacarpal muscle group is subdivided into three further groups. These include: the thenar, adductor, hypothenar, central, and interosseous compartments. 

To start learning about these muscles and their characteristics, watch the following video.

Take a quiz

Now that you have watched the video, solidify your understanding of the muscles of the hand by testing yourself with the following quiz!

Of course, muscles are only one piece of the puzzle! Here you can customize your own quiz and get a broader array of questions about the anatomy of the wrist and hand.

Browse atlas


Key points about the muscles of the hand
Metacarpal muscles Dorsal interossei: Flexion, abduction and extension of fingers 2-4
Palmar interossei
: Flexion, adduction and extension of fingers 2, 4 & 5
: Flexion and extension of fingers 2-5
Thenar muscles Abductor pollicis brevis: Thumb abduction
Flexor pollicis brevis: Thumb flexion
Opponens pollicis
: Thumb opposition
Hypothenar muscles Abductor digiti minimi: Abduction, flexion and extension of little finger
Flexor digiti minimi
: Flexion, lateral rotation and opposition of little finger
Opponens digiti minimi
: Flexion, lateral rotation and opposition of little finger
Other Adductor pollicis: Thumb adduction
Palmaris brevis: Tightens palmar aponeurosis, tightens grip

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