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Articles like the wikipedia entry for the Forearm distinguish between superficial, intermediate, and deep muscles. What is the difference between these muscle levels? What are some readily recognizable examples of each? Are deep muscles more significant or powerful than superficial muscles?

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I'm not sure this is in the scope of this site, but I'll give it the benefit of doubt since a great answer could save this question. –  VPeric Aug 3 '12 at 16:17
    
What knowledge of anatomy do you have? Because actually most of our muscles are superficial, so it would be more interesting to talk about deeper muscles. As for size, your m. quadriceps femoris or m. gluteus maximus are very powerful, yet right on the surface (obviously parts of the muscles are deep too), so what do you really hope to learn from all this? –  Ivo Flipse Aug 3 '12 at 20:08
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up vote 4 down vote accepted

It simply has to do with the location of the muscle in relation to the skin surface vs. bone.

  • Superficial - muscles you feel through your skin--the outermost layer
  • Intermediate - muscles sitting between the superficial muscles and the deep muscles
  • Deep - muscles closest to the bone--the innermost layer.

See Superficial Muscles of the Human Body for more examples.

Superficial muscles are the most visible, so body builders will spend time to make sure they look right. However, the deep muscles and intermediate muscles add to the overall mass of a person, as well as improving their ability to lift heavy things. All strength athletes (from body builders to Olympic weightlifters and power lifters) spend time developing the muscles you cannot see. Compound lifts are an important component of this process.

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