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Hip and thigh anatomy: want to learn more about it?

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Hip and thigh anatomy

Hip and thigh (posterior view)

If you’ve ever watched the videos for Shakira’s Hips don’t lie or Justin Timberlake’s Can’t stop the feeling, you must’ve wondered how these artists can create such a wide range of hip movements. Well, they have exactly the same anatomy as all of us who use those muscles to support us while we spend countless hours sitting studying the textbooks. Shakira and Justin just use the hip and thigh anatomy to its full potential.

In this page, we will focus on the anatomy of the hip and thigh, and discover the incredible functions of this part of the human body. 

Key facts about the hip and thigh
Pelvis Bones: hip bones, sacrum, coccyx
Joints: pubic symphysis, sacroiliac, sacrococcygeal
Femur Proximal end, shaft, distal end
Hip joint Ball and socket joint formed by the femur and acetabulum of the pelvis
Ligaments: annular ligament of the hip, transverse acetabular, iliofemoral, pubofemoral, ischiofemoral
Hip muscles Gluteal muscles: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, tensor fasciae latae
Inner hip muscles: iliacus, psoas major, psoas minor, obturator externus, obturator internus, superior gemellus, inferior gemellus, piriformis, quadratus femoris muscles
Thigh muscles Anterior thigh muscles: sartorius, rectus femoris, vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius
Posterior thigh muscles: biceps femoris, semimembranosus, semitendinosus
Medial thigh muscles: gracilis, pectineus, adductor longus, adductor brevis, adductor magnus, obturator externus

Pelvis

The bony framework of the pelvis, called the pelvic girdle, is comprised of two hip bones, the sacrum and the coccyx. The hip bone is made by fusion of three bones; ilium, ischium and pubis.

The hip bones articulate with themselves via pubic symphysis, and with the sacrum via the sacroiliac joint. The coccyx articulates with the sacrum through the sacrococcygeal joint. The pelvis provides protection and passageway for the lumbar plexus and the sacral plexus (together forming the lumbosacral plexus), as the nerves travel inferiorly to supply the structures of the lower extremity

Pelvic anatomy is interesting because of its variations among the sexes. The bones are essentially the same, but the female pelvis is larger and broader than the male pelvis, the pelvic inlet is more rounded and the subpubic angle is wider. 

Solidify your knowledge with the help of these study units:

Hip joint

Hip joint (overview)

The hip joint is a large ball and socket synovial joint between the head of the femur and the acetabulum of the pelvis. It is structured in such a way that enables movement in all axes, while bearing both our summer and winter body mass and providing stability for the body during movement.
The hip joint is reinforced by a capsule and strong ligaments; the annular ligament of the hip, transverse acetabular, iliofemoral, pubofemoral and ischiofemoral ligaments.

Femur anatomy

Now we’ve come to the largest bone of the human body, the almighty femur. The femur is a long bone, with a proximal end, a shaft, and a distal end. The proximal end participates in the hip joint, while the distal end takes part in the knee joint. The shaft of the femur features origin and insertion attachments for many lower extremity muscles.

To find out everything about the femur, check out this study unit:

Hip muscles

The hip muscles are all the muscles that act on the hip joint. Here we will look at the gluteal muscles and the inner hip muscles. 

Gluteal muscles

The gluteal muscles give the buttocks it’s characteristic curve. There are four gluteal muscles, located at the posterior side of the hip bone: gluteus maximus, gluteus mediusgluteus minimus, and tensor fasciae latae. All are very powerful hip extensors and flexors, which makes them essential for maintaining the upright posture of human body. 

Key facts about the gluteal muscles
Gluteus maximus Origin: Lateroposterior surface of sacrum and coccyx, Gluteal surface of ilium (behind posterior gluteal line), Thoracolumbar fascia, Sacrotuberous ligament
Insertion: Iliotibial tract, Gluteal tuberosity of femur
Innervation: Inferior gluteal nerve (L5, S1, S2)
Function: Hip joint: Thigh extension, Thigh external rotation, Thigh abduction (superior part), Thigh adduction (inferior part)
Gluteus medius Origin: Gluteal surface of ilium (between anterior and posterior gluteal lines)
Insertion: Lateral aspect of greater trochanter of femur
Innervation: Superior gluteal nerve (L4-S1)
Function: Hip joint: Thigh abduction, Thigh internal rotation (anterior part); Pelvis stabilization
Gluteus minimus Origin: Gluteal surface of ilium (between anterior and inferior gluteal lines)
Insertion: Anterior aspect of greater trochanter of femur
Innervation: Superior gluteal nerve (L4-S1)
Function: Hip joint: Thigh abduction, Thigh internal rotation (anterior part); Pelvis stabilization
Tensor fasciae latae Origin: Outer lip of anterior iliac crest, Anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS)
Insertion: Iliotibial tract
Innervation: Superior gluteal nerve (L4-S1)
Function: Hip joint: Thigh internal rotation, (Weak abduction); Knee joint: Leg external rotation, (Weak leg flexion/ extension); Stabilises hip & knee joints

Inner hip muscles

There are nine inner hip muscles, found at the anterior side of the pelvis: iliacus, psoas major, psoas minor, obturator externus, obturator internus, superior and inferior gemelli, piriformis, and quadratus femoris muscles. Nine may seem like quite a lot, but these muscles are essential for creating the wide range of hip movements used by dancers, sportspeople and music lovers. 

Key facts about the inner hip muscles
Iliacus Origin: Iliac fossa
Insertion: Lesser trochanter of femur
Innervation: Femoral nerve (L2-L4)
Function: Hip joint: Thigh flexion, Thigh external rotation
Psoas major Origin: Vertebral bodies of T12- L4, Intervertebral discs between T12-L4, Transverse processes of L1-L5 vertebrae
Insertion: Lesser trochanter of femur
Innervation: Branches of lumbar plexus (L1-L3)
Function: Hip joint: Thigh/trunk flexion, Thigh external rotation; Trunk lateral flexion
Psoas minor Origin: Vertebral bodies of T12 & L1 vertebrae
Insertion: Iliopubic eminence, Pectineal line of pubis
Innervation: Branches of lumbar plexus (L1-L3)
Function: Hip joint: Thigh/trunk flexion, Thigh external rotation; Trunk lateral flexion
Obturator externus Origin: Anterior surface of obturator membrane, Bony boundaries of obturator foramen
Insertion: Trochanteric fossa of femur
Innervation: Obturator nerve (L3, L4)
Function: Hip joint: Thigh external rotation, Thigh abduction (from flexed hip); Stabilises head of femur in acetabulum
Triceps coxae Obturator internus
- Origin: Ischiopubic ramus, Posterior surface of obturator membrane
- Insertion: Medial surface of greater trochanter of femur
- Innervation: Nerve to obturator internus (L5-S2)
- Function: Hip joint: Thigh external rotation, Thigh abduction (from flexed hip); Stabilises head of femur in acetabulum
Superior gemellus
- Origin: Ischial spine
- Insertion: Medial surface of greater trochanter, (via tendon of obturator internus)
- Innervation: Nerve to obturator internus (L5-S2)
- Function: Hip joint: Thigh external rotation, Thigh abduction (from flexed hip); Stabilises head of femur in acetabulum
Inferior gemellus
- Origin: Ischial tuberosity
- Insertion: Medial surface of greater trochanter, (via tendon of obturator internus)
- Innervation: Nerve to quadratus femoris (L4-S1)
- Function: Hip joint: Thigh external rotation, Thigh abduction (from flexed hip); Stabilises head of femur in acetabulum
Piriformis Origin: Anterior surface of sacrum (between the S2 and S4), Gluteal surface of ilium (near posterior inferior iliac spine), Sacrotuberous ligament
Insertion: Apex of greater trochanter of femur
Innervation: Nerve to piriformis (S1-S2)
Function: Hip joint: Thigh external rotation, Thigh abduction (from flexed hip); Stabilises head of femur in acetabulum
Quadratus femoris Origin: Ischial tuberosity
Insertion: Intertrochanteric crest of femur
Innervation: Nerve to quadratus femoris (L4-S1)
Function: Hip joint: Thigh external rotation; Stabilises head of femur in acetabulum

Thigh muscles

Hip and thigh muscles (overview)

The thigh is the region between the hip and knee joints. People who play soccer have these specific muscles of the leg very well defined, so they’re like a walking anatomy atlas for thigh muscles. The thigh muscles are divided into three compartments:

  • Anterior thigh muscles - flexors of the hip joint, extensors of the knee joint
  • Posterior thigh muscles - extensors of the hip joint, flexors of the knee joint
  • Medial thigh muscles - adductors of the hip joint

There are five muscles in the anterior thigh compartment: sartorius, and the four quadriceps muscles; rectus femoris, vastus medialis, vastus lateralis and vastus intermedius. One further muscle of the anterior knee is the small articularis genus muscle, it is occasionally is blended with vastus intermedius. 

Key facts about the anterior thigh muscles
Sartorius Origin: Anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS)
Insertion: Medial surface of proximal tibia (via Pes anserinus)
Innervation: Femoral nerve (L2-L4)
Function: Hip joint: Thigh flexion, Thigh abduction, Thigh external rotation; Knee joint: Leg flexion, Leg internal rotation
Quadriceps femoris Rectus femoris
- Origin: Anterior inferior iliac spine, Superior margin of acetabulum
- Insertion: Tibial tuberosity (via patellar ligament)
- Innervation: Femoral nerve (L2-L4)
- Function: Hip joint: Thigh flexion; Knee joint: Leg extension
Vastus medialis
- Origin: Intertrochanteric line, spiral line and linea aspera, medial supracondylar line of femur
- Insertion: Tibial tuberosity (via patellar ligament) (medial condyle of femur)
- Innervation: Femoral nerve (L2-L4)
- Function: Knee joint: Leg extension
Vastus lateralis
- Origin: Linea aspera of femur, Greater trochanter of femur
- Insertion: Tibial tuberosity (via patellar ligament) (lateral condyle of femur)
- Innervation: Femoral nerve (L2-L4)
- Function: Knee joint: Leg extension
Vastus intermedius
- Origin: Anterior surface of femoral shaft
- Insertion: Tibial tuberosity (via patellar ligament)
- Innervation: Femoral nerve (L2-L4)
- Function: Knee joint: Leg extension

There are three posterior compartment muscles, also known as the hamstring muscles: biceps femoris, semimembranosus and semitendinosus muscles.

Key facts about the posterior thigh muscles
Semimembranosus Origin: Medial impression of ischial tuberosity
Insertion: Medial condyle of tibia
Innervation: Tibial division of sciatic nerve (L5-S2)
Function: Hip joint: Thigh extension, Thigh internal rotation; Knee joint: Leg flexion, Leg internal rotation; Pelvis stabilization
Semitendinosus Origin: Medial impression of ischial tuberosity
Insertion: Proximal end of tibia below medial condyle of tibia (via pes anserinus)
Innervation: Tibial division of sciatic nerve (L5-S2)
Function: Hip joint: Thigh extension, Thigh internal rotation; Knee joint: Leg flexion, Leg internal rotation; Pelvis stabilization
Biceps femoris Origin
- Long head: Medial impression of ischial tuberosity
- Short head: Linea aspera of femur (lateral lip), Lateral supracondylar line of femur
Insertion: Head of fibula
Innervation
- Long head: Tibial division of sciatic nerve (L5-S2)
- Short head: Common fibular division of sciatic nerve (L5-S2)
Function: Hip joint: Thigh extension, Thigh external rotation; Knee joint: Leg flexion, Leg external rotation

The medial compartment of the thigh is comprised of six muscles: gracilis, pectineus, adductor longus, adductor brevis, adductor magnus and obturator externus.

Key facts about the medial thigh muscles
Pectineus Origin: Superior pubic ramus (Pectineal line of pubis)
Insertion: Pectineal line of femur, Linear aspera of femur
Innervation: Femoral nerve (L2, L3)
Function: Hip joint: Thigh flexion, Thigh adduction, Thigh external/internal rotation; Pelvis stabilization
Adductor magnus Origin
- Adductor part: Inferior pubic ramus, Ischial ramus
- Ischiocondylar part: Ischial tuberosity
Insertion:
- Adductor part: Gluteal tuberosity, Linea aspera (medial lip), Medial supracondylar line
- Ischiocondylar part: Adductor tubercle of femur
Innervation:
- Adductor part: Obturator nerve (L2-L4)
- Ischiocondylar part: Tibial division of sciatic nerve (L4)
Function: Hip joint: Thigh flexion, Thigh adduction, Thigh external rotation (adductor part), Thigh extension, Thigh internal rotation (ischiocondylar part); Pelvis stabilization
Adductor minimus Origin: Inferior public ramus
Insertion: Gluteal tuberosity of femur
Innervation: Obturator nerve (L2-L4)
Function: Hip joint: Thigh adduction, Thigh external rotation
Adductor longus Origin: (Anterior surface of) body of pubis 
Insertion: Linea aspera of femur (medial lip)
Innervation: Obturator nerve (L2-L4)
Function: Hip joint: Thigh flexion, Thigh adduction, Thigh external rotation; Pelvis stabilization
Adductor brevis Origin: (Anterior surface of) Body and inferior ramus of pubis
Insertion: Linea aspera of femur (medial lip)
Innervation: Obturator nerve (L2-L4)
Function: Hip joint: Thigh flexion, Thigh adduction, Thigh external rotation; Pelvis stabilization
Gracilis Origin: (Anterior surface of) Body and inferior ramus of pubis, ischial ramus
Insertion: Medial surface of proximal tibia (via pes anserinus)
Innervation: Obturator nerve (L2-L3)
Function: Hip joint: Thigh flexion, Thigh adduction; Knee joint: Leg flexion, Leg internal rotation

Mnemonic

In order to remember the innervation of thigh compartments you can use the following mnemonic; MAP OF Sciatic.

  • Medial compartment - Obturator nerve
  • Anterior compartment - Femoral nerve
  • Posterior compartment - Sciatic nerve

In order to make your life easier, we have designed this custom quiz about the hip and thigh anatomy. As the quiz focuses especially on the bones, muscles and neurovasculature of the hip and thigh, you'll master this topic in no time!

Hip and thigh anatomy: want to learn more about it?

Our engaging videos, interactive quizzes, in-depth articles and HD atlas are here to get you top results faster.

What do you prefer to learn with?

“I would honestly say that Kenhub cut my study time in half.” – Read more. Kim Bengochea Kim Bengochea, Regis University, Denver

Register now and grab your free ultimate anatomy study guide!