Functional Anatomy by Joint Action & Exercise: Upper Body

by Brent Brookbush DPT, PT, MS, PES, CES, CSCS, ACSM H/FS


Elevation (frontal plane)

Depression (frontal plane)

Upward Rotation (frontal plane)

Downward Rotation (frontal plane)

Protraction (transverse plane)

Retraction (transverse plane)

Anterior Tipping (sagittal plane)


Posterior Tipping (sagittal plane)


Shoulder Flexion (sagittal plane)


Shoulder Extension (sagittal plane)


Shoulder Adduction (frontal plane)

Shoulder Abduction (frontal plane)


Horizontal Flexion/Adduction (transverse plane)


Horizontal Extension/Abduction (transverse plane)



Shoulder External Rotation (transverse plane)


Shoulder Internal Rotation (transverse plane)


Elbow Flexion (sagittal plane)

  • Brachioradialis
  • Brachialis
  • Biceps Brachii


Elbow Extension (sagittal plane)

  • Triceps (all heads)


Radioulnar Supination (transverse plane)

  • Supinator
  • Biceps Brachii
  • Brachioradialis

Radioulnar Pronation (transverse plane)

  • Pronator Teres
  • Pronator Quadratus


Functional Anatomy of Common Upper Body Exercises:

Exercise: Reverse Fly
Plane:  Transverse
Joint ActionMuscles
ShoulderHorizontal AbductionPosterior Deltoid
ScapulaRetractionMiddle Trapezius, Rhomboids


Exercise: Chest Fly
Plane: Transverse
Joint ActionMuscles
ShoulderHorizontal AdductionPectoralis Major, Anterior Deltoid
ScapulaProtractionPectoralis Minor, Serratus Anterior


Exercise: Close Grip Row
Plane: Sagittal
Joint ActionMuscles
ShoulderExtensionLatissimus Dorsi, Teres MajorPosterior Deltoid, (Long head of triceps)
ScapulaRetractionMiddle Trapezius, Rhomboids
ElbowFlexionBrachialis, Biceps Brachii, Brachioradialis

Exercise: Overhead Press
Plane:  Frontal
Joint ActionMuscles
ScapulaUpward RotationUpper Trapezius, Serratus Anterior
ElbowExtensionTriceps (All