When we first started learning all the shoulder, arm, forearm, and hand muscles in anatomy, I felt extremely helpless. There were SO many muscles in the forearm that sounded so similar, with such long names – flexor carpi radialis, extensor carpi radialis, flexor digitorum radialis, etc. It didn’t help that the muscles were pretty difficult to distinguish from each other on a cadaver, too, especially when you get into the muscles of the hand.
Initially, my strategy was to look through Netter diagrams and memorize the locations of each muscle, then see if I could identify the muscles on unlabeled diagrams. This in itself took quite some time to master, as the number of muscles we learned in a week seemed far greater than any amount of anatomy I had learned to date. Once I started getting the hang of the drawings, however, I realized that I was still far from the road to success when I actually went into the anatomy lab and tried to identify the muscles grossly on a cadaver. It really is no exaggeration when anatomists tell us that we need to come into the anatomy lab to practice, as Netter images can be mis-representative or unrealistic.
I learned that in order to truly succeed on anatomy practicals, you must expose yourself to the real thing multiple times. The main technique that helped me improve was to detach myself from Netter drawings and go straight to the cadavers. If you find that you can identify the same structures on multiple cadavers (given the variation in different bodies), then you will be gold when it comes to identification questions.