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Main muscles of the upper limb

Learning objectives

After completing this study you will be able to:

  1. List the main muscles of the upper limb.
  2. Name each muscle's origin, insertion and action.
  3. Discover the main movements for each region of the upper limb.

Watch video

The upper limb contains many muscles that produce countless movements and enable you to grasp and manipulate objects and express yourself with various gestures. The upper limb muscles can be grouped according to the regions of the upper limb: 

  • shoulder muscles,
  • arm muscles,
  • forearm muscles, and
  • hand muscles.

To learn about the main muscles of the upper limb, their insertions, neurovascular supply and functions, take a look at the video below.

Take a quiz

Now that you have watched the video, solidify your understanding of the upper limb muscles by testing yourself with the following quiz.

To challenge yourself further, take a broader quiz on the bones and muscles of the upper limb.

Browse atlas

Review the main muscles of the upper limb, this time highlighted individually in the following images. Take some time to compare their locations and insertions as this is what defines their functions.


Key points
Main muscles of the upper limb Shoulder muscles: deltoid, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres major, teres minor, subscapularis
Anterior compartment of arm
: brachialis, biceps brachii 
Posterior compartment of arm
: triceps brachii muscle
Anterior compartment of forearm
: pronator teres, flexor carpi radialis, palmaris longus, flexor carpi ulnaris, flexor digitorum superficialis, pronator quadratus
Posterior compartment of forearm
: extensor digitorum, extensor carpi ulnaris, extensor carpi radialis longus, brachioradialis
Hand muscles
: thenar muscles, hypothenar muscles, dorsal metacarpal muscles, adductor pollicis, palmaris brevis
Main actions of the upper limb muscle groups Shoulder muscles: abduction, adduction, flexion, extension, internal and external rotation of the shoulder joint
Anterior compartment of arm
: flexion of the forearm
Posterior compartment of arm
: extension of forearm
Anterior compartment of forearm
: flexion of the hand and fingers
Posterior compartment of forearm
: extension of the hand and fingers
Hand muscles
: adduction, abduction, flexion, extension and opposition of fingers

Well done!

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