Anatomical Directions for Runners - Which Way is Which


By Rick Morris


Have you ever had someone giving you directions while you are driving and they say something like "turn left right here!" You don't know what the heck to do! Do you turn right or do you turn left immediately? Those kind of directions can get you lost in a hurry. Athletes can run into similar types of confusion when dealing with descriptions of some exercises and motions. For example, if you are told to move your leg to the side, does it mean the inside or outside?


There are a number of terms that can be befuddling when dealing with exercise science. To avoid that confusion many coaches, personal trainers and exercise physiologists use very specific terms that mean only one thing. Here is a list of some common anatomical directions for runners.




























Anterior - This term means the front part. Your chest is on the anterior portion of your body. Your knee cap is on the anterior portion of your leg.


Posterior - This is just the opposite of anterior. It means the rear portion. Your calf muscles are on the posterior portion of your lower leg.


Inferior - This means below in relation to another part or structure. Your ankle is inferior to your knee. Your mouth is inferior to your eyes.


Superior - The opposite of inferior. Superior refers to a structure that is located above another. Your knee is superior to your ankle.


Lateral - This means something is further away laterally from the midline of your body. For example, your arms a lateral to your spine. Your ear is lateral to your nose.


Medial - This term means the opposite of lateral. It refers to a structure that is closer to your midline. Using the above example your spine is medial to your arms and your nose is medial to your ear.


Distal - This means farther away from your trunk and is usually used in reference to your arms and legs. Your wrist is distal to your elbow.


Proximal - This term is the opposite of distal. It means closer to your trunk. Your shoulder is proximal to your elbow. Your hip is proximal to your knee.


Dorsal - This is a term that means on the top side of a structure. The top of your foot is the dorsal side of your foot. One good way to remember this is to think of the dorsal fin of a fish which is on the top side of the fish.


Prone - This refers to your body position. When you are in the prone position you are lying face downward on your stomach. You do pushups from the prone position.


Supine -This term is the opposite of prone and means face upward or lying on your back. You would begin full sit ups from a supine position.


Many time these terms are combined. They may look confusing but as long as you know the above terminology you will be able to figure out any of these terms. For example,  anterolateral or anterior/lateral would mean in front and to the outside. Posteroinferior or posterior/inferior means behind and below. Your butt is posterinferior to your chest.


Try to learn these terms to the next time you see some complicated exercise description you will know exactly what to do.






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