Author: Adrian Rad BSc (Hons)•Reviewer: Francesca Salvador MScLast reviewed: October 11, 2021Reading time: 17 minutes


This post will melted some light on the various types of motions in the human body. They will be grouped in bag of ‘antagonistic actions’ (actions the oppose one another), simply like particular muscle groups.

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In order to understand other medical students and physicians, you need to have an excellent grasp of the anatomical language. This have the right to simultaneously be a blessing and also a curse. If you see the glass half full, the language is extremely an exact and exact, leave no room because that errors, misinterpretation, or miscommunication. If you see the glass fifty percent empty, over there is just one particular term that deserve to accurately explain an anatomical structure/movement/relation, which method there are a many words the you require to discover in order to become fluent in this language.

Almost every anatomy room in the people naturally focuses its sources on to teach students the names and details that bones, muscles, vessels, nerves, etc. However, the straightforward concepts the planes, relations, and especially anatomical movements room glanced over in perhaps the an initial 30 minute to 1 hour. Planes and also relations eventually catch up through students since they space constantly used to said anatomical structures together, yet movements space usually forgotten or poorly understood.

Key facts around the movements in the person body
AbductionMoving far from the recommendation axis
AdductionBringing closer come the reference axis
ElevationSuperiorly to the reference axis
DepressionInferiorly come the recommendation axis
Lateral rotationRotation away from the midline
Medial rotationRotation toward the midline
PronationMedial rotation that the radius, bring about the palm that the hand dealing with posteriorly (if in anatomical position) or inferiorly (if elbow is flexed)
SupinationLateral rotation the the radius, resulting in the palm of the hand facing anteriorly (if in anatomical position) or superiorly (if elbow is flexed)Mnemonic: "Supinate to the Sun and also Pronate come the Plants"(Supinate: palm towards the Sun, Pronate: palm in the direction of the Plants)
CircumductionCombination of: flexion, abduction, extension, adduction
DeviationUlnar and radial abduction of the wrist
OppositionBringing the thumb in contact to a finger
RepositionSeparating the ignorance from the digits
InversionPlantar side toward the medial plane
EversionPlantar side far from the medial plane

Flexion/extensionAbduction/adductionProtrusion/retrusionDepression/elevationLateral/medial rotationPronation/supinationInversion/eversion

Without going into complicated physics explanations and equations, movement involves an entity relocating from suggest A to allude B. The movement is carried out about a fixed axis or fulcrum and also has a direction.

Anatomical motions are no different. They commonly involve skeletal or body components moving around fixed joints relative to the main anatomical axes (sagittal, coronal, frontal, etc.) or airplane parallel to them.

Therefore, the design template of anatomical movements is composed of the following (not all of them are compelled for every movement):

Anatomical structures affiliated in the movement.Reference axes around which the motion happens.Direction, i beg your pardon in anatomy is usually concerned a traditional plane, such as the median, medial, sagittal, frontal, etc.

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varieties of body activities explore study unit


The opposing motions of flexion and also extension take place in sagittal directions roughly a frontal/coronal axis. Flexion, or bending, entails decreasing the angle between the two entities taking component in the motion (bones or body parts). In contrast, extension, or straightening, entails increasing the respective angle.



Flexion and also extension that the knee consists the following:

Reference axes: The movement is in the sagittal plane. The fulcrum is detailed by the knee joint, v which the frontal/coronal axis passes.Direction: during flexion, the leg move backwards (posteriorly). During extension, it move forwards (anteriorly).


Flexion and extension of the elbow joint have the right to be described as follows:

Reference axes: The motion is in the sagittal plane. The fulcrum is provided by the elbow joint, roughly a frontal/coronal axis .Direction: throughout flexion, the forearm move upwards and ‘closer’ come the arm, bring about a decreased angle in between them. During extension the straightens, enhancing the angle loved one to the arm.



Flexion and also extension of the shoulder occur like this:

Direction: during flexion, the arm moves anteriorly and upwards (in complete flexion). Throughout extension the the arm/shoulder joint (from a flexed position), the arm moves posteriorly and also downwards, earlier to the anatomical position. If a full variety of activity is performed, it can proceed posteriorly, creating an imagine arc or semicircle.


Flexion and also extension that the neck follow the style below:

Reference axes: The movement is in the sagittal plane. The ‘fulcrum’ is no fixed because of the anatomy and movement that the cervical vertebrae, however it can loosely be positioned through the top thoracic vertebrae. Movement occurs around a frontal/coronal axis.

Vertebral column

Flexion and also extension the the vertebral column follow the complying with movement template:

Reference axes: The movement is in the sagittal plane. You have the right to imagine the ‘fulcrum’ together being loosely through the 2 hip bones and sacrum. Motion occurs roughly a frontal/coronal axis.Direction: throughout flexion, as soon as you room bending forward, the vertebral column moves anteriorly and downwards (in full flexion). Throughout extension, it move backwards and slightly downwards.


In the world of anatomy, flexion of the foot is referred to as dorsiflexion and also plantarflexion. Both movements occur at the fish eye joint. Dorsiflexion way flexion the the dorsum (top) component of the foot by to reduce the angle in between it and the anterior surface ar of the leg. That happens once you elevator the front part of her foot while maintaining your hoe on the ground.

Plantarflexion is flexion the the plantar (underside) component of the foot by relocating it down. This motion happens once you space standing on your toes or pointing them.


The motions of abduction and adduction room intimately concerned the mean plane. Castle both typically occur in the frontal airplane and room happening roughly an anteroposterior axis.

Are you struggling come remember every one of these terms like abduction, adduction and flexion? Master basic medical terminology with our quizzes and cost-free worksheets!

Arms & Legs

The easiest examples for understanding abduction and also adduction room the legs and arms, which are really similar:

Anatomical structures: The arm moves family member to the trunk and also the shoulder. The foot moves relative to the hip.Reference axes: The activity is in the frontal plane. You have the right to imagine the ‘fulcrum’ together axes that pierce the shoulder and also the i know good respectively, each one complying with in a forward-backward trajectory.Direction: throughout abduction, friend are moving your arm/leg far from the typical plane. Throughout adduction, you are moving them in the direction of the typical plane. To snapshot these movements, imagine a child jumping and also flailing his/her arms an extremely excitedly in order to grab your attention.


The digits of the hands and also feet are additionally capable the abduction and also adduction, however in a slightly certain way. The motions are also related come the medial plane, but this time come the medial aircraft of the palm or foot, not the human body itself.

Anatomical structures: The digits relocate relative to the third finger of the hand or the second toe that the foot. These two entities represent the medial planes.Reference axes: The movement deserve to be in lot of planes, depending upon the orientation of the hand or foot.Direction: during abduction, you are moving the digits away from the 3rd finger or second toe, therefore spreading them except the medial plane. Adduction is the opposite - the digits are carried closer.


The movements of protrusion and also retrusion take ar in the sagittal plane. Because they are also related come the frontal/coronal axis, but instead of only moving around it, these movements are also taking place parallel to it. Protrusion entails a movement going right ahead or forward.

Retrusion is the opposite and also involves walk backwards. Anatomical structures capable of together actions room the tongue, chin (mandible) and also lips.


Protrusion and retrusion of the mandible happen as follows:

Anatomical structures: The mandible moves family member to the viscerocranium (fused skeletal of the skull creating the face)Reference axes: The movement is mainly of a "sliding/gliding" nature, and also occurs in the sagittal plane. A an extremely slight level of rotation will additionally occur around a frontal/coronal axis.Direction: during protrusion, the mandible moves straight anteriorly (think underbite). During retrusion, the moves directly posteriorly (think overbite).

These movements are periodically interchanged v protraction and retraction. However, the latter pair have second movement added to them. Protraction is not just an anterior movement but an anterolateral one together well. This method that the structure moves forwards and laterally. Similarly, retraction additionally consists of one extra posteromedial movement. The scapulae are the standard instance of skeleton that carry out protraction and also retraction.


While protrusion and also retrusion move anatomical structures forward and backwards, depression and also elevation relocate them under (inferiorly) and also up (superiorly), respectively.


The theme for the mandible is as follows:

Anatomical structures: The mandible moves relative to the viscerocranium (fused bones of the skull creating the face)Direction: throughout depression, the mandible moves straight downwards. During elevation, it moves directly upwards. You space performing this two activities when girlfriend open and close your mouth or during mastication.

Lateral/medial rotation

Rotation happens in the transverse airplane around a vertical (longitudinal) axis that happens relative to the average plane. Medial rotation requires bringing the anatomical structure closer come the mean plane, if lateral rotation involves moving it additional away.

Although very similar, rotations are distinct from abductions/adductions, as result of the plane the activities are happening in.

Many anatomical entities take part in rotation, but a couple of examples are provided below.


Reference axes: The motion is in the transverse plane. The ‘fulcrum’ is the longitudinal/vertical axis happen up and also down v the vertebral column and also the crown of your head.Direction: These two movements happen by an altering the position the sleep is pointing to. Turning your head laterally synchronizes to lateral rotation, while turning it back to look directly ahead corresponds to medial rotation.


Anatomical structures: The anterior surface of the arm/leg turns family member to the trunk.Reference axes: The movement is in the transverse plane. The ‘fulcrum’ is the longitudinal/vertical axis happen up and down v the arm/leg itself.


Strictly speaking, pronation and also supination are taken into consideration as 2 special types of rotation. They are restricted to the forearm and involve the radius twisting over the ulna. The activity template is together follows:

Anatomical structures: The distal part of the radius rotates approximately the ulna. That is proximal component rotates in place.Reference axes: The activity is in the transverse plane. The ‘fulcrum’ is the longitudinal axis passing with the ulna.Direction: Supination is a lateral rotation that the radius, resulting in the palm of the hand dealing with anteriorly (if in anatomical position) or superiorly (if elbow is flexed). In contrast, pronation is a medial rotation that the radius, through the palm ending in opposite directions compared to supination. You room supinating and also pronating once you host a bowl of soup and also when you empty it, respectively.


Pronation and supination room very comparable and easily confused. Use the following mnemonic to never confuse pronation and also supination ever again!

Supinate come the Sun and also Pronate to the Plants

Supinate: palm in the direction of the SunPronate: palm towards the Plants


Circumduction is a special type of activity that is actually a combination of plenty of other ones. The in its entirety movement starts v flexion, followed by abduction, extension and also finally adduction. The order must be sequential, however it have the right to start from one of two people flexion or adduction. The result is a circular movement. As result of the multitude of movements, circumduction is minimal to ball-and-socket kind joints, such together the shoulder and also the hip.

Circumduction of upper limb (ventral view)


Deviation is a special form of movement that is limited to the wrist joint. The activity happens in a longitudinal plane through the wrist relative to an axis passing native palmar to dorsal through the wrist. That occurs together follows:

Anatomical structures: The carpal bones relocate in relation to the radius.Reference axes: The motion is in the longitudinal airplane through the wrist. The ‘fulcrum’ is the palmar come dorsal axis passing with the capitate bone of the wrist. The joint permitting the activity is the radiocarpal joint.Direction: Radial deviation requires the movement of the wrist in the direction of the “thumb side”. Ulnar deviation is composed of the moving the wrist in the direction of the next of the little finger (fifth digit). Together the angle in between the hand and also the forearm space reduced, deviation have the right to be referred to as radial/ulnar flexion.


These two motions are restricted to the digits of the hand. Essentially, lock involve pinching, together as as soon as sprinkling salt over food or snapping your fingers. Anatomically speaking, opposition entails touching the pad of any kind of one of her fingers with the ignorance of the same hand. Reposition is the reverse, which consists of separating them.

Opposition of ignorance (ventral view)


The antagonistic movements of inversion and also eversion take place relative come the average place and are particular to the foot. In eversion, the plantar next of the foot is relocated away native the median aircraft so the it is rotate laterally. In inversion, the plantar next is moved towards the mean plane, resulting in a medial turn.


In order to quickly remember the muscle that produce inversion and eversion you deserve to use the mnemonic referred to as "Second letter rule":

Eversion muscles

pEroneus longuspEroneus brevispEroneus terius

Inversion muscles

tIbialis anteriortIbialis posterior

Ready to check your understanding of person body movements? try out our quiz below:


Hyperflexion and hyperextension are exaggerated movements beyond the common limit permitted by a joint. The can occur in limbs or the vertebral column and can an outcome in ligament tear, damage, or dislocations.

Hyperextension that the vertebral column, which deserve to happen throughout sudden acceleration and deceleration, is specifically dangerous. The overextension that the cervical component of the shaft can an outcome in a whiplash injury and also can be a potential threat to the truth of the spinal cord.



K. L. Moore, A. F. Dalley, A. M. R. Agur: Clinically Oriented Anatomy, 7th edition, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins


Circumduction of top limb (ventral view) - Paul KimOpposition of ignorance (ventral view) - Paul Kim

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