What are the different muscles in the legs?

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There are a number of muscle groups in the upper leg anatomy, each of which contain separate muscles. The muscle groups can function independently for specific movements. However, many of the leg muscles here function together with other leg muscles. This means that they work together in order to carry out larger, more natural movements. This is why there is much duplication in terms of muscle groups worked between the various compound leg exercises.

What is the function of the various leg muscles?

The following list contains a description of some of the possible functions of the muscles in the leg anatomy. We’ll explain each movement by describing it in more universal terms instead of simply listing an exercise which may be ambiguous or altogether unfamiliar to come.

Hip Abduction

With a straight hip joint, move your leg away from the centre-line of your body outward and upward.

Hip Extension

Move your leg towards the centre-line of your body.

Internal and External Hip Rotation

Rotate your upper leg and pelvis to the inside or outside of your body’s centre line.

Internal and External Knee Rotation

Rotate your lower leg towards the inside or outside from a bent-leg position.

Knee Extension

The knee extension constitutes the movement from a bent-knee position to a straight leg position.

Knee Flexion

Knee flexion involves curling your leg backwards by raising the heel of your foot towards the ceiling.

Transverse Hip Adduction

Move your leg towards the centre-line of your body on a horizontal plane and with your hip joint bent.

What are the quadriceps muscles?

The quadriceps muscles are the large muscles that make up the front of the thighs:

  • Rectus femoris
  • Vastus lateralis
  • Vastus intermedius
  • Vastus medialis

The roles of the quadriceps include the following:

  • Knee extension (main function)
  • Hip flexion

What are the hamstrings?

The hamstring muscles are located towards the back of your thighs. These include the following:

  • Biceps femoris (long head)
  • Biceps femoris (short head)
  • Semitendinosus
  • Semimembranosus

The overall hamstring functions include the following:

  • Knee flexion (main function)
  • Internal knee rotation
  • External rotation
  • Hip extension

What are the gluteal muscles?

The term ‘gluteal muscles’ refers to the individual muscles of the glutes. These are located on your bottom. The individual names of the gluteal muscles are the following:

  • Gluteus maximum
  • Gluteus minimus
  • Gluteus medius

The major roles of the gluteus are to perform the following:

  • Hip extension (main function)
  • Hip abduction

There are several exercises which can be performed to work out the legs. Here is how to do one – the leg extension.

Adjust the seat back as well as the footpad of a leg extension machine so that when you sit in it, your knees are at the edge of the bench and that your ankles are just below the footpad rollers. Sit back with your back, pressed tightly against the back pad.

Grasp the handles of the seat edges behind the hips and keep the upper boy stable as the legs extend in a smooth, controlled movement until fully extended. Contract the quadriceps at the top of the movement and then slowly lower the weight down to the starting position. Perform as many reps as necessary for the desired results.

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