Stronger Athletes

Anatomy And Function: Terms

Aug 9 "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." Bernard M. Baruch

by Dr. Ken E. Leistner

I have a strong belief in the appropriate and proper use of the language. This is the only way that true communication can occur among professionals. Hav­ing grown up with a street hardened background, more than most, I know the usefulness of a widely under­stood nod of the head, the shortened patois that al­lows each specialized group to communicate in a rapid and often effective manner, and the time and place for a mix of street slang and Eubonics.

However, in the specialized field of strength training and athletic en­hancement, it is important to have a standardized "lan­guage" that allows those with different backgrounds, educational levels, and perspectives to communicate clearly.

Having grown up with the weights in the early 1960s, one could walk into any gym in the New York City area, not that there were many of them, and know that the exercise you referred to as a "seated dumb-bell lateral raise" was just that, it was not "shoulder flyes", "dumbbell side raise", or anything other than a seated dumbbell lateral raise. A "triceps pressdown" did not need a demonstration because it wasn't a "pushdown", or a "tricep pulley extension", that was a completely other exercise.

Anatomist have often disagreed and had to up­date their information in light of new findings. How­ever, an inability to clearly communicate led to a num­ber of agreements among the world's leaders in the field, that has allowed clear and concise communica­tion of anatomical structures, terms, positions, and functions. The purpose of this ongoing feature, will be to present clearly, the most accepted forms of com­munication relative to the anatomy of the human or­ganism, and enough information to allow either the professional or lay person, to speak confidently of a particular bodypart or muscular function. It will al­low one to better understand just where.things begin and end and what they do. Structure dictates func­tion in the body and a full understanding, an appli­cable understanding, will not only increase one's abil­ity to literally figure out what an exercise or piece of equipment does, but greatly enhance one's enjoyment of the entire subject matter.

Terms, agreed upon terms, have long been the bane of anatomists. One may ask, "gee, the body is the body. Didn't they have it figured out after cutting into a few of them long ago?" Yes and no. Misunderstanding of many functions and misidentification of numerous structures became gospel for decades at a time, often with a less incorrect, but still incorrect, observation making its way into the textbooks of the world's leaders in the field. The new interpretation may have been closer to the truth, but not nearly the truth, compared to previous belief. In 1955, there was a com­plete revision of the Basle Nomina Anatomica, or B.N.A.

This was a standard nomenclature, first adopted in 1895 that was meant to give a definitive identification to all of the anatomical structures. The revision was needed to exclude synonyms, mistakes, and differ­ences in interpretation between and among countries. The last major overhaul occurred in 1965 and the re­sult is now known as the N.A. or Nomina Anatomica. This provides the official and accepted terminology among scientists in the field and with as many as ten names for the same structure, it was sorely needed!

Terms are needed for the parts of the body, for the position of the body, and for both the direction and movement of the body. With an understanding of ba­sic terms, an understanding of human anatomy, with a subsequent understanding of the structures' func­tions, then becomes possible. It makes training a true experience once this is accomplished.

Latin of course formed the backbone of the anatomical language but has been greatly enhanced through the decades, especially for the body's parts. Location is done with the body in the ANATOMICAL POSITION. This is where much confusion occurs, even among professionals. The accepted anatomical position has the body standing erect, with the palms of the hands facing forward. This is the reference posi­tion when describing body location properly. Anything toward the belly is called VENTRAL. Anything toward the back is called DORSAL. These terms are inter­changeable with respectively, ANTERIOR and POSTE­RIOR. Dorsal and ventral are the more commonly used terms and can also be applied to four legged creatures. The skull is called the CRANIUM, thus, CRA­NIAL refers to the skull or occurring with the skull. Cranial relative to location, refers to "toward the head". CAUDAL means "toward the tail". In the study of man, cranial can also be synonymous with "superior to" and caudal with "inferior to".

Body location is easily considered if one thinks in terms of making cuts through the body, a body in the standard anatomical position of course. The various terms describe the axes of the body, its planes. A SAGGITAL cut or plane is one that divides the body into right and left halves, or any plane parallel to that. A CORONAL cut or plane is one that divides the body into front and back parts. If something is internal or external to another part, this should be easy to visualize. If something is superficial to or deep relative to another part, this too should be easy to understand. PROXIMAL means that a part is "closer to" and as it is usually used, it means that a limb or appendage (limb is the presently used proper term) is nearer to the attachment at the trunk. DISTAL means that a part is "further from" and again, is usually used in terms of limb attachments. Thus the hand is more distal than the elbow on the upper extremity.

The head of the body is the "catput", thus the word CAPITUS refers to the head. We already noted that the skull is called the cranium. "CRANIAL" refers to the skull or occurring within the skull, such as the cranial nerves. CEPHALIC is used similarly to cranium. CERVIX is defined as "neck", thus CERVICAL refers to the neck region, as in cervical nerves for example.

We can divide the trunk into distinct regions: the DOR­SUM is the back (recall above, our use of the word dorsal) and think of the dorsal fin of the shark cutting through the water to remember its on the back! The THORAX is the chest while the ABDOMEN is the area that lies below the chest. It is not the "stomach", that's an organ that lies inside the abdominal cavity. The PELVIS is considered to be the region of the hip bones. The LIMBS are called, by anatomists, MEMBRA but that is a term I don't believe I have ever seen in any paper on exercise science or physiology.

In the next installment, we'll discuss body move­ment and the appropriate and accurate terms that should be used. Once body location and movement are understood, it is a short leap to the understand­ing of the use of specific exercises and the application of rehabilitative and strengthening techniques. Within the pages of this newsletter, among other places, I've complained about the improper use of anatomical terms. This is step one in preventing that among those who read this newsletter!

***No Liability is assumed for any information written on the website. No medical advice is given on exercise. This advice should be obtained from a licensed health-care practitioner. Before anyone begins any exercise program, always consult your doctor. The articles are written by coaches that are giving advice on a safe, productive, and efficient method of strength training.***

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