Muscles of the Pectoral Girdle and Upper Limbs

Learning Objectives

  • Identify the muscles of the pectoral girdle and upper limbs
  • Identify the movement and function of the pectoral girdle and upper limbs

Muscles of the shoulder and upper limb can be divided into four groups: muscles that stabilize and position the pectoral girdle, muscles that move the arm, muscles that move the forearm, and muscles that move the wrists, hands, and fingers. The pectoral girdle, or shoulder girdle, consists of the lateral ends of the clavicle and scapula, along with the proximal end of the humerus, and the muscles covering these three bones to stabilize the shoulder joint. The girdle creates a base from which the head of the humerus, in its ball-and-socket joint with the glenoid fossa of the scapula, can move the arm in multiple directions.

Muscles That Position the Pectoral Girdle

Muscles that position the pectoral girdle are located either on the anterior thorax or on the posterior thorax (Figure 7.26). The anterior muscles include the subclaviuspectoralis minor, and serratus anterior. The posterior muscles include the trapeziusrhomboid major, and rhomboid minor. When the rhomboids are contracted, your scapula moves medially, which can pull the shoulder and upper limb posteriorly.

The left panel shows the anterior lateral view of the pectoral girdle muscle, and the right panel shows the posterior view of the pectoral girdle muscle.
Figure 7.26. Muscles That Position the Pectoral Girdle
The muscles that stabilize the pectoral girdle make it a steady base on which other muscles can move the arm. Note that the pectoralis major and deltoid, which move the humerus, are cut here to show the deeper positioning muscles.
 

Muscles That Move the Humerus

Similar to the muscles that position the pectoral girdle, muscles that cross the shoulder joint and move the humerus bone of the arm include both axial and scapular muscles (Figure 7.27 and Figure 7.28). The two axial muscles are the pectoralis major and the latissimus dorsi. The pectoralis major is thick and fan-shaped, covering much of the superior portion of the anterior thorax. The broad, triangular latissimus dorsi is located on the inferior part of the back, where it inserts into a thick connective tissue shealth called an aponeurosis.

The top left panel shows the lateral view of the pectoral and back muscles. The top right panel shows the posterior view of the right deltoid and the left back muscle. The bottom left panel shows the anterior view of the deep muscles of the left shoulder, and the bottom right panel shows the deep muscles of the left shoulder.
Figure 7.27. Muscles That Move the Humerus
(a, c) The muscles that move the humerus anteriorly are generally located on the anterior side of the body and originate from the sternum (e.g., pectoralis major) or the anterior side of the scapula (e.g., subscapularis). (b) The muscles that move the humerus superiorly generally originate from the superior surfaces of the scapula and/or the clavicle (e.g., deltoids). The muscles that move the humerus inferiorly generally originate from middle or lower back (e.g., latissiumus dorsi). (d) The muscles that move the humerus posteriorly are generally located on the posterior side of the body and insert into the scapula (e.g., infraspinatus).
 
 
This table describes the muscles that move the humerus. The pectoralis major is an axial muscle that brings the elbows together and moves the elbows up (as during an uppercut punch). It originates in the clavicle, sternum, cartilage of ribs 1 through 6 or 1 through 7, and the aponeurosis of the external oblique muscle. The latissimus dorsi is an axial muscle that moves the elbow back (as in elbowing someone standing behind you) or spreads the elbows apart. It originates in the thoracic vertebrae (T7 through T12), the lower vertebrae, ribs 9 through 12, and the iliac crest. The deltoid is a scapular muscle that lifts arms at the shoulder. It originates in the trapezius, clavicle, acromion, and spine of scapula. The subscapularis is a scapular muscle that assists the pectoralis major in bringing the elbows together and stabilizes the shoulder joint during movement of the pectoral girdle. It originates in the subscapular fossa of the scapula. The supraspinatus is a scapular muscle that rotates the elbow outwards, as during a tennis swing. It originates in the supraspinous fossa of the scapula. The infraspinatus is a scapular muscle that rotates the elbow outwards, as during a tennis swing. It originates in the infraspinous fossa of the scapula. The teres major is a scapular muscle that assists the infraspinatus in rotating the elbow outwards. It originates in the posterior surface of the scapula. The teres minor is a scapular muscle that assists the infraspinatus in rotating the elbow outwards. It originates in the lateral border of the dorsal scapular surface. The coracobra chialis is a scapular muscle that moves the elbow up and across the body, as when putting a hand on the chest. It originates in the coracoid process of the scapula.
Figure 7.28. Muscles That Move the Humerus
 

The rest of the shoulder muscles originate on the scapula. The anatomical and ligamental structure of the shoulder joint and the arrangements of the muscles covering it, allows the arm to carry out different types of movements. The deltoid, the thick muscle that creates the rounded lines of the shoulder is the major abductor of the arm, but it also facilitates flexing and medial rotation, as well as extension and lateral rotation. The subscapularis originates on the anterior scapula and medially rotates the arm. Named for their locations, the supraspinatus (superior to the spine of the scapula) and the infraspinatus (inferior to the spine of the scapula) abduct the arm, and laterally rotate the arm, respectively. The thick and flat teres major is inferior to the teres minor and extends the arm, and assists in adduction and medial rotation of it. The long teres minor laterally rotates and extends the arm. Finally, the coracobrachialis flexes and adducts the arm.

The tendons of the deep subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and teres minor connect the scapula to the humerus, forming the rotator cuff (musculotendinous cuff), the circle of tendons around the shoulder joint. When baseball pitchers undergo shoulder surgery it is usually on the rotator cuff, which becomes pinched and inflamed, and may tear away from the bone due to the repetitive motion of bring the arm overhead to throw a fast pitch.

Muscles That Move the Forearm

The forearm, made of the radius and ulna bones, has four main types of action at the hinge of the elbow joint: flexion, extension, pronation, and supination. The forearm flexors include the biceps brachii, brachialis, and brachioradialis. The extensors are the triceps brachii and anconeus. The pronators are the pronator teres and the pronator quadratus, and the supinator is the only one that turns the forearm anteriorly. When the forearm faces anteriorly, it is supinated. When the forearm faces posteriorly, it is pronated.

The biceps brachii, brachialis, and brachioradialis flex the forearm. The two-headed biceps brachii crosses the shoulder and elbow joints to flex the forearm, also taking part in supinating the forearm at the radioulnar joints and flexing the arm at the shoulder joint. Deep to the biceps brachii, the brachialis provides additional power in flexing the forearm. Finally, the brachioradialis can flex the forearm quickly or help lift a load slowly. These muscles and their associated blood vessels and nerves form the anterior compartment of the arm (anterior flexor compartment of the arm) (Figure 7.29 and Figure 7.30).

This multipart figure shows the different muscles that move the forearm. The major muscle groups are labeled.
Figure 7.29. Muscles That Move the Forearm
The muscles originating in the upper arm flex, extend, pronate, and supinate the forearm. The muscles originating in the forearm move the wrists, hands, and fingers.
 
 
This table describes the muscles that move the forearm. The biceps brachii are anterior muscles that perform a bicep curl; they also allow the palm of the hand to point toward the body while flexing. They originate in the coracoid process and the tubercle above the glenoid cavity. The brachialis originates in the front of the distal humerus. The brachioradialis is an anterior muscle that assists and stablizes the elbow during bicep-curl motion. It originates in the lateral supracondylar ridge at the distal end of the humerus. The triceps brachii are posterior muscles that extend the forearm, as during a punch. They originate in the infraglenoid tubercle of the scapula, the posterior shaft of the humerus, and the posterior humeral shaft distal to the radial groove. The aconeus is a posterior muscle that assists in extending the forearm; it also allows the forearm to extend away from the body. It originates in the lateral epicondyle of the humerus. The pronator teres is an anterior muscle that turns the hand palm-down. It originates in the medial epicondyle of the humerus and the coronoid process of the ulna. The pronator quadratus is an anterior muscle that assists in turning the hand palm-down. It originates in the distal portion of the anterior ulnar shaft. The supinator is a posterior muscle that turns the hand palm-down. It originates in the lateral epicondyle of the humerus and the proximal ulna.
Figure 7.30. Muscles That Move the Forearm
 

Muscles That Move the Wrist, Hand, and Fingers

Wrist, hand, and finger movements are facilitated by two groups of muscles. The forearm is the origin of the extrinsic muscles of the hand. The palm is the origin of the intrinsic muscles of the hand.

Muscles of the Arm That Move the Wrists, Hands, and Fingers

The muscles in the anterior compartment of the forearm (anterior flexor compartment of the forearm) originate on the humerus and insert onto different parts of the hand. These make up the bulk of the forearm. From lateral to medial, the superficial anterior compartment of the forearm includes the flexor carpi radialispalmaris longusflexor carpi ulnaris, and flexor digitorum superficialis. The flexor digitorum superficialis flexes the hand as well as the digits at the knuckles, which allows for rapid finger movements, as in typing or playing a musical instrument (see Figure 7.31). However, poor ergonomics can irritate the tendons of these muscles as they slide back and forth with the carpal tunnel of the anterior wrist and pinch the median nerve, which also travels through the tunnel, causing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. The deep anterior compartment produces flexion and bends fingers to make a fist. These are the flexor pollicis longus and the flexor digitorum profundus.

The muscles in the superficial posterior compartment of the forearm (superficial posterior extensor compartment of the forearm) originate on the humerus. These are the extensor radialis longusextensor carpi radialis brevis,extensor digitorumextensor digiti minimi, and the extensor carpi ulnaris.

The muscles of the deep posterior compartment of the forearm (deep posterior extensor compartment of the forearm) originate on the radius and ulna. These include the abductor pollicis longusextensor pollicis brevis,extensor pollicis longus, and extensor indicis (see Figure 7.31).

This table describes the muscles that move the wrist, hands, and forearm. These muscles make up the superficial anterior compartment of the forearm. The flexor carpi radialis bends the wrist toward the body; it also tilts the hand to the side away from the body. It originates in the medial epicondyle of the humerus. The palmaris longus assists in bending the hand up toward the shoulder. It originates in the medial epicondyle of the humerus. The flexor carpi ulnaris assists in bending the hand up toward the shoulder; it also tilts the hand to the side away from the body and stabilizes the wrist. It originates in the medial epicondyle of the humerus, the olecranon process, and the posterior surface of the ulna. The flexor digitorum superficialis bends the fingers to make a fist. It originates in the medial epicondyle of the humerus, the coronoid process of the ulna, and the shaft of the radius. These muscles make up the deep anterior compartment of the forearm. The flexor pollicis longus bends the tip of the thumb. It originates in the anterior surface of the radius and the interosseous membrane. The flexor digitorum profundus bends the fingers to make a fist; it also bends the wrist toward the body. It originates in the coronoid process, the anteromedial surface of the ulna, and the interosseous membrane. These muscles make up the superficial posterior compartment of the forearm. The extensor radialis longus straightens the wrist away from the body; it also tilts the hand to the side away from the body. It originates in the lateral supracondylar ridge of the humerus. The extensor carpi radialis brevis assists the extensor radialis longus in extending and abducting the wrist; it also stabilizes the hand during finger flexion. It originates in the lateral epicondyle of the humerus. The extensor digitorum opens the fingers and moves them sideways away from the body. It originates in the lateral epicondyle of the humerus. The extensor digiti minimi extends the little finger. It originates in the lateral epicondyle of the humerus. The extensor carpi ulnaris straightens the wrist away from the body; it also tilts the hand to the side toward the body. It originates in the lateral epicondyle of the humerus and the posterior of the ulna. These muscles make up the deep posterior compartment of the forearm. The abductor pollicis longus moves the thumb sideways toward the body; it also extends the thumb and moves the hand sideways toward the body. It originates in the posterior surface of the radius and ulna and in the interosseous membrane. The extensor pollicis brevis extends the thumb. It originates in the dorsal shaft of the radius and ulna and in the interosseous membrane. The extensor pollicis longus extends the thumb. It originates in the dorsal shaft of the radius and ulna and in the interosseous membrane. The extensor indicis extends the index finger; it also straightens the wrist away from the body. It originates in the posterior surface of the distal ulna and in the interosseous membrane.
Figure 7.31. Muscles That Move the Wrist, Hands, and Forearm
 

The tendons of the forearm muscles attach to the wrist and extend into the hand. Fibrous bands called retinacula sheath the tendons at the wrist. The flexor retinaculum extends over the palmar surface of the hand while the extensor retinaculum extends over the dorsal surface of the hand.

Intrinsic Muscles of the Hand

The intrinsic muscles of the hand both originate and insert within it (Figure 7.32). These muscles allow your fingers to also make precise movements for actions, such as typing or writing. These muscles are divided into three groups. The thenar muscles are on the radial aspect of the palm. The hypothenar muscles are on the medial aspect of the palm, and the intermediate muscles are midpalmar.

The thenar muscles include the abductor pollicis brevisopponens pollicisflexor pollicis brevis, and the adductor pollicis. These muscles form the thenar eminence, the rounded contour of the base of the thumb, and all act on the thumb. The movements of the thumb play an integral role in most precise movements of the hand.

The hypothenar muscles include the abductor digiti minimiflexor digiti minimi brevis, and the opponens digiti minimi. These muscles form the hypothenar eminence, the rounded contour of the little finger, and as such, they all act on the little finger. Finally, the intermediate muscles act on all the fingers and include the lumbrical, the palmar interossei, and the dorsal interossei.

This multipart figure shows the intrinsic muscles of the hand with the major muscle groups labeled.
Figure 7.32. Intrinsic Muscles of the Hand
The intrinsic muscles of the hand both originate and insert within the hand. These muscles provide the fine motor control of the fingers by flexing, extending, abducting, and adducting the more distal finger and thumb segments.