Leg Muscles

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There are several different definitions of the term "leg." Some people exclude the thigh or upper leg. Others include the foot. In this section we consider the leg to include the upper and lower parts of the leg, but not the foot. The leg muscles allow you to stand, walk, run and jump. There are many muscles in the leg. These muscles work individually, and in cooperation with the other muscles, to provide movement of the legs and stability of the upper body. The following section describes the main leg muscles. Read on to learn more about leg muscles, and their role in movement.

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Leg Muscles

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Leg Muscles
Lower Leg Muscles

The leg muscles can be broken into two groups, the upper leg muscles and the lower leg muscles.The upper and lower leg muscles can be further divided into anterior (front) and posterior (back) of leg muscles.

The primary front leg muscles, also called the thigh muscles, are the four muscles of the quadriceps femoris. These are the vastus intermedius, vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, and rectus femoris. These muscles are responsible for extending or straightening the leg.

The muscles at the back of the upper leg are often called the hamstrings. These muscles include the biceps femoris, semitendinosus and semimembranosus. These muscles are responsible for flexing or bending the leg at the knee.

Sometimes the gluteus maximus, or "butt" muscles, running from the pelvis to the upper thigh are also considered leg muscles.

In the lower leg, the front of the shin has the tibilais anterior, extensor digitorum longus, extensor hallucus longus and peroneus tertius muscles. The shin muscles are responsible for dorsiflexion of the foot, or bending the foot upwards at the ankle. The outside lower leg contains the peroneus longus and peroneus brevis muscles. The are responsible for sideways flexion and extension of the foot at the ankle. The provide lateral stability to the foot. The back of the lower leg includes the calf muscles which are the gastrocnemius, soleus, and plantaris muscles. The calf muscles pull up the heel, and extend the foot, during the "push-off" phase of walking and running.


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