How Many Muscles Can You Identify?

Grade Levels: 3 - 5


  • Students will observe and record body movements and identify the responsible muscles.
  • Students will develop the following skills:
    • Observing
    • Inferring
    • Classifying
    • Communicating
    • Researching

Materials Needed

  • Paper
  • Pencils


  1. Ask the students to raise one arm slowly. As it moves, have them try to identify the muscles that make it move.
  2. Instruct them to write down the movement and describe where they think the muscles causing the movement are located. For instance:

    Movement    Muscle Location
    Raise the arm    From shoulder to top of upper arm

  3. Ask them to lower the arm onto a table. Then have them push against the tabletop in an effort to lower the arm further. Tell them to focus on finding the muscles that seem to pull the arm down.
  4. Instruct them to write down the movement and describe where they think the muscles causing the movement are located.
  5. Have them continue this for different arm movements. Tell them to do the same with the hand, then the legs and feet, and then other body parts.
  6. Encourage them to compare their list of body movements and muscle locations with others. See how many more they can identify together.


  • Provide human muscular system references for the students. Instruct them to find out how many muscles there are in the human body. Encourage them to compare their lists from the above activity with these references. Ask them to identify the muscles they didn't find earlier, and have them add these muscles to their list.

Teacher Information

  • Essentially every movement of the body is produced by muscular action. Since muscles pull (contract) but do not push, a different set of muscles is used for opening the fingers than for closing them. The same can be said for many other body movements, such as moving the leg forward and backward, raising and lowering the arm, and so on. (Gravity should be taken into account.) Where ball joints are involved, muscular arrangements also allow a twisting motion.
  • The human body has over 650 different muscles. Students will be able to locate many of these as they examine their own body movements. There is some advantage in putting students in groups of two or three for this activity so they can analyze their movements together, discuss their observations, and learn from one another.

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