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The Musculoskeletal System

In this page we provide an overview of the musculoskeletal system, its function, and the key anatomical terms associated with it

What is the musculoskeletal system?personal%20training%20skeleton%20with%20%26%20without%20muscle

The musculoskeletal system is the combination of the muscular and skeletal systems working together and includes the bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments of the body.


What does the musculoskeletal system do?

The musculoskeletal system provides our bodies with shape, protection of our internal organs and the ability to move.

Every time you sit, stand, walk, jump and talk you're using the musculoskeletal system.  Without this system or if it’s injured and not able to function properly, our ability to complete these everyday tasks is greatly hindered.  Think of someone you know who has broken a bone or torn a muscle, how has it affected them?


Musculoskeletal system and fitness

Having good knowledge and understanding of the musculoskeletal system and its functions is important for those working in the fitness industry.  This is because it helps you communicate with other fitness professionals and clients, as well as complete everyday aspects of your job such as instructing correct exercise technique, assessing someone’s movement and creating a balanced exercise programme.


Musculoskeletal system terms

Looking at and analysing the anatomy and physiology of the musculoskeletal system can be challenging as there are many new terms to learn and understand.  For this reason some of the basic terms you are likely to encounter in your role as a personal trainer are explained in the following table.






The front

The mouth is on the anterior part of the head


The back

The spine is on the posterior part of the trunk


Toward the head

The head is superior to the stomach


Toward the feet

The knee is inferior to the hip


Toward the side/outside

The ears are on the lateral part of the head


Toward the midline/inside

The big toe is medial to the little toe


Nearer the trunk

The thighs are proximal to the toes


Further from the trunk

The toes are distal to the thighs


Face down

Lying on stomach about to do a push up


Face up

Lying on back about to do a sit up/crunch


Nearer to the surface

The skin is more superficial than the stomach


Further from the surface

The stomach is more deep than the skin


Another term which is important to understand is the ‘anatomical position’.

personal%20training%20anatomical%20positionThe anatomical position refers to a position of the body that is commonly used when analysing it.  The anatomical position is achieved by following the points below, an example of this can also be seen in the adjacent image.

    1. Stand upright with head facing forward
    2. Arms hanging by sides
    3. Palms of hands facing forward
    4. Feet slightly separated
    5. Toes pointing forward


Using the anatomical position allows everyone who works with the body to start from the same reference point so their descriptions in practice and research make sense to a wider audience.

Knowing the anatomical position also helps you understand movement descriptions and work effectively with other professionals such as doctors and physiotherapists etc.

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Client Back Care Guide

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