Complete Guide to Thigh Muscle Anatomy: Learn Parts, Names & Diagram

Overview of Thigh Anatomy

The thigh is the large part of your leg between your hip and knee. It is basically the upper leg. Inside, there is a big, strong bone called the femur. It makes a ball-and-socket joint at your hip and a hinge joint at your knee. Soccer players often have really defined thigh muscles because they use them a lot. Thigh muscle anatomy is a combination of the 3 compartments. Front Thigh Muscles help bend the hip and straighten the knee. They include the sartorius, quadriceps (rectus femoris, vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius), and sometimes the articularis genus. Back Thigh Muscles extend the hip and bend the knee. Inner Thigh Muscles bring the thigh toward the center of the body, known as adduction.

In this article, we will see the thigh anatomy with its different parts and functions to get detailed information about the thigh.

Parts of Thigh Diagram

Thigh Muscle Anatomy, Parts, Names & Diagram

Thigh Muscle Anatomy

Anterior Thigh Muscles

  1. Sartorius
  2. Rectus femoris
  3. Vastus medialis
  4. Vastus lateralis
  5. Vastus intermedius

Posterior Thigh Muscles

  1. Biceps femoris
  2. Semimembranosus
  3. Semitendinosus

Femur

  1. Proximal end
  2. Shaft
  3. Distal end

Medial Thigh Muscles

  1. Gracilis
  2. Pectineus
  3. Adductor longus
  4. Adductor brevis
  5. Adductor Magnus
  6. Obturator externus

Anterior Thigh Muscle Anatomy

Sartorius

The sartorius muscle is the body’s longest. It goes from the hip to the knee, like a long strap. It starts at the front upper part of the hip bone and goes diagonally to the inner side of the upper shin.

Its main jobs are bending the knee, lifting the thigh, moving the leg sideways, and turning the thigh outward. It gets its signals from the femoral nerve and its blood from the femoral artery.

The name “sartorius” comes from the Latin for “tailor” because it is related to the leg position when sewing. In the past, tailors had strong sartorius muscles from using antique sewing machines with crossbody pedaling.

Rectus Femoris

The rectus femoris is a significant thigh muscle that belongs to the quadriceps group. Unlike other quadriceps muscles, it is attached to both the hip and knee joints. It is known as the “kicking muscle” because it allows the knee to extend forcefully, similar to soccer kicks.

It begins at the front of the hip bone and ends at the kneecap and shin bone. The femoral nerve regulates it.
Squats and lunges, with or without weights, will help strengthen it. These workouts are particularly helpful in targeting the rectus femoris.

Vastus Medicalis

The vastus medialis (VM) is a thigh muscle that helps straighten the knee and keep the kneecap steady. It is part of a group of four muscles called the quadriceps femoris.

The VM has two parts, the upper Vastus Medialis Longus (VML) and the lower Vastus Medialis Obliquus (VMO), each with its own job in knee movement.

For blood, the VM gets nourishment from the femoral artery, deep femoral artery, and a branch of the popliteal artery.

Nerve signals come from both lower femoral nerve roots and higher lumbar spinal segments, making sure the muscle works smoothly with the central nervous system.

Vastus Lateralis

The vastus lateralis (VL) is the largest of the four quadriceps muscles in the front part of the thigh. It works with other thigh muscles to help straighten the knee. It is positioned on the outer side of the thigh, it connects the thigh bone to the kneecap.

The VL is vital for extending the knee, aiding in movement, building strength, and keeping the hip and knee joints stable. It starts from the hip bone and thigh bone, attaching to the kneecap through the quadriceps tendon.

The femoral nerve (L2 – L4) controls the VL, and a lack of proper warm-up before activity can lead to tears.
Understanding the basics of the vastus lateralis sheds light on its crucial role in supporting movement, strength, and joint stability, making it essential in musculoskeletal physiology.

Vastus Intermedius

The vastus intermedius is a muscle in your thigh, part of the quadriceps muscle group. It sits beneath the rectus femoris, between the vastus medialis and vastus lateralis muscles. This muscle helps to straighten your knee.

It is shaped like a thick, long piece and attaches to the upper two-thirds of your thigh bone and the tissues around it. It connects to your kneecap through the quadriceps tendon.

The vastus intermedius gets signals from the femoral nerve to work and gets its blood supply from specific arteries in the thigh.

Posterior Thigh Muscle Anatomy

Biceps Femoris

The Biceps Femoris is a muscle at the rear of your thigh that belongs to the hamstring group. It helps you bend your knees and expand your hips. It is made up of two parts, the long head and the short head, both of which emerge from the pelvis.

The long head travels around the rear of your leg, traversing both the hip and knee joints before connecting to the fibula’s head. The short head begins on the femur and continues to the fibula head.

Its principal duties are to bend the knee (pull your heel towards your buttocks) and stretch the hip (push your thigh rearward).

This muscle is necessary for activities like running and jumping, and it helps to stabilize your knee throughout various actions.

Semimembranosus

The semimembranosus is a hamstring muscle found on the back of the thighs. It is positioned on the inner side, beneath the semitendinosus. Its key actions include bending the knee, straightening the hip, and turning the thigh and knee inward.

It originates from the ischial tuberosity and continues to the shinbone’s inner part. The profound femoris artery supplies blood to the sciatic nerve, which governs movement.

It works with the other hamstrings to stabilize the knee during actions like running and leaping. Strengthening these muscles is essential for avoiding injuries and improving sports performance.

Semitendinosus

The semitendinosus is a muscle in the back of your thigh, along with the biceps femoris and semimembranosus. It helps with bending your knee, straightening your hip, and rotating your thigh and tibia (shin). It also helps to prevent over-bending at the hips.

The semitendinosus starts from the bottom of your pelvis and connects to the inside of your tibia bone (shinbone). The tibial nerve tells it what to do, along with the other muscles in the hamstring.

Athletes often get injured in this muscle, especially when they run fast or make sudden movements.

Medial Thigh Muscle Anatomy

Gracilis

The gracilis muscle is a thin, long muscle found on the inner side of your thigh. It starts from the inner part of the ischiopubic ramus and pubic bones, forming a rounded tendon in the thigh’s lower third. This tendon moves downward.

Its main jobs are to pull your thigh toward the center of your body and to bend your knee. It also helps keep your knee steady during movement.

Doctors sometimes use the gracilis muscle in surgery to fix torn ligaments by taking it from one place and moving it to another.

Pectineus

Pectineus is a flat muscle found in the upper inner part of your front thigh. It is unique because it belongs to both the front and inner compartments of thigh muscles.

Along with some other muscles, it helps bring your thigh closer to your body, a movement called adduction. But it also helps with bending your thigh, rotating it outwards, and rotating it inwards.

This muscle help you move your thigh and stabilize your pelvis while walking. So, it is not just about moving your leg but also about keeping your body balanced.

Adductor Longus

The adductor longus is a big, fan-shaped muscle in the inner thigh. It is part of a team of muscles that help bring the thigh toward the body’s midline. This muscle gets its commands from a nerve in the lower spine.

It is thought that these muscles developed from both straightening and bending movements. The adductor longus is shaped like a triangle and sits in a specific area of the thigh.

Starting from the front of the pubic bone, below the pubic ridge and to the side of the pubic joint, it attaches to the middle part of a bony ridge called the linea aspera. This spot is between where another muscle attaches and where a thigh muscle starts.

Adductor Brevis

The adductor brevis is a flat, triangle-shaped muscle found on the inside of your thigh. It helps with movements like pulling your thigh toward the center of your body. Also plays a role in hip flexion, rotation, and stabilizing your pelvis when standing or walking.

It starts from the front of your pubic bone and part of the side of your pelvis. Then, it widens out as it goes down toward your thigh bone (femur). It attaches to a wide area on the upper part of the inside of your thigh bone.

Although it is one of the shortest muscles in its group, it is not the strongest when it comes to pulling your thigh toward your body.

Adductor Magnus

The adductor magnus muscle is a big triangle in your leg. It starts at your hip bone and goes down to the back of your thigh bone.

It is in two compartments in your leg, so it gets two nerves to control it. Even though it is in the back and inside of your thigh, we call it a muscle of the inside part.

This muscle is the biggest and strongest in the inside part of your thigh. It works with four other muscles there, adductor longus, adductor brevis, pectineus, and gracilis.

Together, they are called thigh adductors, even though they do more than just bring your thigh in.

Besides pulling your thigh in, these muscles help with bending and straightening your thigh, twisting it in and out, and keeping your pelvis steady when you walk.

Obturator Externus

The obturator externus muscle is like a flat triangle in the hip area. It helps move your leg in different ways. When your hip is straight, it turns your leg outward.

But when your hip is bent, it moves your leg to the side. This muscle, along with others nearby, keeps your hip joint stable.

This muscle as a triangle with a wide base and a narrow top. It starts from the side of your pelvis and the bony ring around the hole in your pelvis.

Then its fibers come together into a strong tendon. This tendon runs along the bottom edge of your hip socket, then goes up and out on the back side of the upper leg bone, attaching near the top of the thigh bone.

Femur

Proximal Head

The femur, or thigh bone, has important features at its top end. The rounded part at the top is called the femoral head, which fits into the hip socket. The neck of the femur connects the head to the shaft and has different widths along its length.

The angle between the neck and shaft of the femur is important for movement and differs between individuals and genders. The neck also has a twist to it. The top of the neck is almost flat, while the bottom slopes down and out towards the leg.

On the back of the neck, there is a curved groove, and on the front, it is flat and connects to the rest of the femur. There are two bony bumps at the top of the femur, the greater trochanter on the side and the lesser trochanter towards the back.

These bumps are connected by lines on the front and back of the femur. The front line is called the intertrochanteric line, and the back one is the intertrochanteric crest. They help muscles and ligaments attach to the femur.

So, the femur’s top part has important structures like the head, neck, trochanters, and lines that help with movement and stability.

Shaft

The femur, or thigh bone, is shaped like a cylinder but varies in size and shape from person to person. It is wider at the top and narrows towards the middle before expanding again near the bottom. The front is smooth, while the back is rough to help muscles attach.

In the middle of the femur, there are three main surfaces and borders. The front is curved and has two rounded edges. Towards the back, there are two more surfaces, one on each side, divided by a ridge called the “linea aspera.” This ridge starts near the top and runs down the back of the femur.

At the top of the back of the femur, there is a bumpy area called the “gluteal tuberosity” and a smaller ridge called the “pectineal line” towards the inside.

The linea aspera splits into two lines towards the bottom of the femur, with one going towards the inside and one towards the outside. These lines help muscles attach and continue down to the knee area.

The back of the femur near the knee forms a triangle called the “popliteal surface,” which helps make up the bottom of the popliteal fossa, the space behind the knee.

Distal End

The distal femur is the widest part of the thigh bone and connects with the knee and patella. It has two main parts, the medial and lateral condyles. The medial one is smaller but more noticeable, sticking out slightly and causing the knee to bulge inward.

It has a bump called the adductor tubercle, where muscles attach. Below it is the medial epicondyle, where more muscles and ligaments attach.

The lateral condyle is larger and has a groove for the popliteal tendon. Three muscles attach to its back, and it also connects to ligaments and the fibula bone. The space between the condyles is the intercondylar fossa, which has indentations for crucial ligaments.

On the front of the distal femur is the patellar surface, which helps stabilize the kneecap. It is slightly tilted to the side.

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External Sources-

  • Wikipedia
  • KenHub
  • Optometrists
  • Cleveland Clinic
  • American Academy of Ophthalmology

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