Upper limb muscle volumes in adult subjects

Katherine R S Holzbaur*, Wendy M. Murray, Garry E. Gold, Scott L. Delp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

163 Scopus citations


Muscle force-generating properties are often derived from cadaveric studies of muscle architecture. While the relative sizes of muscles at a single upper limb joint have been established in cadaveric specimens, the relative sizes of muscles across upper limb joints in living subjects remain unclear. We used magnetic resonance imaging to measure the volumes of the 32 upper limb muscles crossing the glenohumeral joint, elbow, forearm, and wrist in 10 young, healthy subjects, ranging from a 20th percentile female to a 97th percentile male, based on height. We measured the volume and volume fraction of these muscles. Muscles crossing the shoulder, elbow, and wrist comprised 52.5, 31.4, and 16.0% of the total muscle volume, respectively. The deltoid had the largest volume fraction (15.2%±1%) and the extensor indicis propius had the smallest (0.2%±0.05%). We determined that the distribution of muscle volume in the upper limb is highly conserved across these subjects with a three-fold variation in total muscle volumes (1427-4426 cm3). When we predicted the volume of an individual muscle from the mean volume fraction, on average 85% of the variation among subjects was accounted for (average p=0.0008). This study provides normative data that forms the basis for investigating muscle volumes in other populations, and for scaling computer models to more accurately represent the muscle volume of a specific individual.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)742-749
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2007


  • Imaging
  • Muscle
  • Scaling
  • Upper limb

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Rehabilitation


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