What is the Anatomy of Exercise

If you are wondering what is the anatomy of exercise, it means describing which muscles are activated during a specific exercise. Usually, the muscles involved are shown in an artist’s drawing of the human body with muscles exposed for clarity. This does not just apply to named exercises you might do in the gym, but also other forms of exercise like playing basketball, performing Tai Chi, or Yoga.

For those people that are training to be a personal trainer, the anatomy of exercise may also include what type of work the muscles are performing. For example, agonist means the muscle is contracting while antagonist means the muscle is lengthening or relaxing.

An example of a book demonstrating this concept is the Anatomy of Fitness Total Body Workout. Anatomy of Fitness has a series with some other books in the series being Anatomy of Fitness Tai Chi and Anatomy of Fitness Yoga just to name a few. All the books in the series have great reviews. For today’s post we will be looking at Anatomy of Fitness Total Body Workout.

This Book’s Strengths – Great Images

Anatomy of Fitness does a great job creating images to show the muscles being activated during a specific exercise. It does not describe what any of the muscles are doing such as contracting or relaxing, but that does not appear to be the goal of this book. Example pages for the Arm-Reach Plank are shown on the right. Included on these pages are the following:

  • Green box are tips for correct form and notes on what to avoid
  • The top of the right page is a modification used if you want to make the exercise easier.
  • In the top right of the pages is a blue box. Blue boxes detail a few items; the Level of the exercise being shown, the duration, the benefits of the exercise, and cautions for people with injuries. I have included an enlarged picture of the blue box below.
  • The drawing on the bottom right of the Arm-Reach Plank pages, depicts which muscles are activated during the exercise.
  • In the back of the book there is a poster, shown below, which includes drawings of the muscles, one from the front and one from the back. The poster also includes an example workout.image of poster included


The Workouts – Who Are They Good For?

As you can see in the example workout above, you would need some equipment at home or at your gym to do some exercises. That said, the book is divided into Body Weight, Added Weight, and Resistance Exercise so you should be able to find an exercise that works for you. There are other workouts in the back of the book. All the workouts require some equipment which you may have to purchase, otherwise you will have to find a modification of the exercise that does not require it.

The book does show some modifications to make an exercise easier, but not all that many. In my opinion this is not a good first book for either a less fit, a beginner, or more mature person. For instance, look at some foam roller exercises in the example workout above. Some exercises require a bit of upper body strength in order to perform.

The book is not written specifically for women and does not address any issues women might have like changing hormones, less upper body strength, etc. The book is authored by 2 women, Katrina Spilio and Erica Gordon-Mallin. I don’t see any description of the author’s in the book.

Odds & Ends – What Else Might You Find of Interest.

  • There is a glossary. That is always nice.
  • The introductory chapter is not very weighty, pun intended. Very brief really, 8 pages to be exact.
  • If you are interested in learning the names of groups of muscles, you are better off with one of Delavier’s books such as Women’s Strength Training Anatomy or Stretching Anatomy. The Anatomy of Fitness series does a good job of unique muscle names, but does a poor job of naming the muscle groups such as Quadriceps. Delavier’s books labels Quadriceps and then breaks down to muscles such as Rectus Femoris, Vastus Medialis, etc. When working with a personal trainer or just another trainee, you are more likely to be using terms for groups of muscles such as Quadriceps so it is good to know these terms.

Take Awayimage woman drinking water at lake


This book does a great job at what it’s goal appears to be, which is to have diagrams that show which muscles are engaged during specific exercises. If that is what you want, great choice. I like the book, and am glad I have it in my library.

If you are looking for a beginners book or a book to help you create your own workouts, then this is not your best choice. In addition, the book does not address any women specific issues, or aging body issues. Bottom line, if you are either a beginner, less fit person, or more mature person, I do not recommend this as a first book for you. As a supplement to a library would be fine, but not as a first book. The Books Reviewed tab will help you find the book best suited for your current needs.

I look forward to your comments below, and in achieving better fitness together.

Best Regards,


Founder of Strength Training Books for women

5 thoughts on “What is the Anatomy of Exercise”

  1. Hi Denise,
    My daughter is studying units 3/4 PE and will have her final exams later this year. Do you think this could be a good resource for her as she is working towards the exam?

    • Hello. I think it could only help. Remembering the names of all the muscles is difficult and the earlier she starts memorizing them, the better off she will be. You will also see that there are a couple of books I mention later in the article by Delavier that include the names of the muscle groups. Those might be a good choice for her as well.

  2. Thank you for defining what the anatomy of exercise is. It’s also great to learn which books to look for when one is looking to train and develop specific muscles and understanding the terminology that is used to describe the muscle groups and everything else involved. My question is that is it safe to purchase the book and do the training by yourself without the a personal trainer if you are a starter?

    • Hello Maggie. People should always check with their Dr. first to see if there are any exercise limitations for them. I think starting with a personal trainer is great, but many people can’t do that right now. There are also many personal trainers that aim their routines so that you have to go to the gym and also need to see them again to adjust your routines. I specifically told one trainer that I wanted to learn a routine that I could do at home, and he pushed me towards doing gym machines. Also, if you listen to your body and start off with light weights, you should be fine. See how you feel the next day before gradually increasing to heavier weights. Hope that helps. Denise

  3. It is important to understand what to expect when doing certain exercise. I have a good Kundalini yoga course in which the yogi goes into great detail of what is going on with each exercise. He even encourages you to go easy at first and pay attention to what is going on in your body.

    It Is paramount to have an instructor who knows what they are doing. My first martial arts instructor was also trained in physical fitness and was an excellent instructor. Some of my other Karate instructors had us doing some stretches that were not so wise, for they seemed to do more damage than good. You should always ease into your stretching.

    I know i struggle with some of Tom Brady’s training with resistance bands when it is more focused on squats. I really have to go easy on those, and I probably need to have a better understanding concerning those types of exercises.

    Thanks for the post… Brian


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