As often as possible, I use Common Names for bones when teaching.  Of course there is nothing wrong with learning the Anatomical Names that are often used by doctors and physical therapists.  But, here’s the thing – why make learning a new movement pattern more difficult by learning new terminology at the same time?   I want your brain to be focused on the movement and the experience, not on translating what I’m saying.

With that end in mind, here is a chart of the names that I use on this site and when I’m teaching.

Common Use Bone Names

Common Use Name Anatomical Name Notes
Breastbone Sternum The boney piece running from the notch at the base of the neck to the opening of the ribcage.
Collarbone Clavicle Locate the notch at the base of the neck.  The boney ridges extending 3-4” on either side are the collarbones.
Forearm Radius and Ulna The two bones that run from your wrist to your elbow.
Front Hip Bones Anterior Superior Iliac Spine (ASIS) Sit your hands on your hips, find the little bones that point forward on the front of your lower torso.
Kneecap Patella The hard point on the front of your knee.
Pelvis aka ‘hips’ Pelvis Sit your hands on your hips.  The basin shaped pelvis is everything from here to your public bone in front, and from here to your sit bones in back.
Ribcage Thoracic Cavity Shaped like a cylinder, the ribcage is made up the breastbone, 12 pairs of ribs, and 12 thoracic vertebrae.
Tail triangle, aka Sacrum Sacrum The boney triangle, about the size of a palm, just above your tailbone.
Shin Tibia The flat front of your lower leg, below the knee and above the ankle.
Shoulder Blade Scapula Sometimes referred to as the ‘wingbones,’ the triangular, flat shoulder blades sit on either side of the upper back.
Sit Bones Ischial Tuberosity Sit tall on a hard chair.  The bones that you feel hitting the chair are the Ischial Tuberosity.
Spine, aka ‘back bones’ Vertebral Column Also known as your backbone, the spine is made up of 24 small bones called vertebrae, plus the sacrum and tailbone.  The 7 neck bones are referred to as cervical vertebrae.  A pair of ribs attaches to each of the 12 mid-back bones, known as thoracic vertebrae.  The 5 bones that make up the curve of the low back are called the lumbar vertebrae.
Tailbone Coccyx The last bone at the end of the spine.
Thigh Bone Femur The meaty part of your thigh houses the longest and strongest bone in your body, the femur, which runs from the hip to the knee.
Upper Arm Humerus The humerus run from the shoulder to the elbow.


Some schools of Pilates training use Anatomical terms, and that language carries through to teaching situations.   Polestar, for instance, is a physical therapy-based Pilates program that many physical therapists choose for their Pilates training.  Those in the medical community communicate with each other using a common language: anatomical terminology.  This works well in a medical setting because anatomical terms are very precise.  There is very little chance for misinterpretation of what a PT means when they say “the medial rotation of her femur is limited.”  (Translation: she has difficulty turning her thighbone inward.)

When a Pilates teacher completes this type of program, it’s common to continue using those same anatomical terms with clients. The teachers simply use the words that they’re accustomed to using.

I have a differing opinion on this, based on my original training with Romana Kryzanowska.  Although we apprentices all took several anatomy courses where we learned Anatomical terms, I was often told to take care with the words I chose to use with clients.  ‘Don’t try to sound like a doctor, because you’re not doctor,” Romana would say.  Be proud of who you are and what you do.  If you mislead people, they may not give you credit for what you do know.