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Muscles of the arm and shoulder

Learning objectives

This study unit will help you to:

  1. Identify and name the muscles of the arm and shoulder and learn how they are arranged in groups. 
  2. Learn the attachments and innervation patterns for all these muscles. 
  3. Understand the anatomical relationships between muscles of the arm and shoulder.

Watch videos

The muscles of the arm and shoulder occupy the proximal portion of the upper limb. Acting on the shoulder and elbow joints, these muscles ensure the mobility of the upper limb relative to the trunk. The shoulder and arm muscles are further subdivided into smaller groups:

  • The muscles of the shoulder, often defined as the scapulohumeral muscles, gather four components: the deltoid muscle, the teres major muscle, and the muscles of the rotator cuff. The latter includes four muscles: the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. All these muscles enable the movements and stabilize the shoulder joint. 
  • The muscles of the arm are divided into anterior and posterior compartments. Depending on the muscle attachments they act on the shoulder and/or elbow joint, either as flexors (anterior group) or extensors (posterior group) of the arm and/or forearm.

The following video tutorials will help you to learn the anatomy of the muscles of the arm and shoulder.

Take a quiz

Now that you learned all you need to know about the muscles of the arm and shoulder, check your knowledge by taking our quiz.

To adjust your focus and choose the topics you’ll get quizzed on, try out our customizable quiz:

Once you’re feeling confident, you can try labeling the structures yourself by filling in the blanks! For this you can simply download the free unlabeled arm and shoulder diagram PDF below. 


Browse atlas

Revise everything that you have learned about these muscles by browsing through our atlas gallery:


Key facts about the muscles of the arm and shoulder
Muscles of the shoulder (scapulohumeral muscles) Deltoid muscle
Teres major muscle
Rotator cuff
: Supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, subscapularis
Muscles of the arm Anterior compartment: Biceps brachii, coracobrachialis, brachialis
Posterior compartment
: Triceps brachii, anconeus

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