EN | DE | PT Contact How to study Login Register

Triceps surae muscle - 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.

Sign up for your free Kenhub account today and join over 1,130,639 successful anatomy students.

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

Triceps surae muscle

The triceps surae muscle is a three-headed muscle at the dorsal lower leg. It lies within the superficial posterior compartment. Its heads and body determine the surface anatomy of the calf. Its insertion, the calcaneal tendon, is easily visible and palpable at the heel.

Keys facts about the triceps surae muscle
Gastrocnemius Origins: Lateral head: Posterolateral surface of lateral femoral condyle; Medial head: Posterior surface of medial femoral condyle, Popliteal surface of femoral shaft
Insertion -Posterior surface of calcaneus (via calcaneal tendon)
Function -Talocrural joint: Foot plantar flexion; Knee joint: Leg flexion
Soleus Origin: Soleal line, Medial border of tibia, Head of fibula, Posterior border of fibula
Insertion - Posterior surface of calcaneus (via calcaneal tendon)
Function - Talocrural joint: Foot plantar flexion
Innervation Tibial nerve (S1, S2)
Vascularization Posterior tibial artery

Anatomy and Supply

The triceps surae muscle is innervated by the tibial nerve. It is made up by:

  • The gastrocnemius muscle is a large and strong plantar flexor of the ankle and flexor of the knee. It has two heads: medial and lateral. The medial head originates from the posterior surface of the medial condyle of the femur, whereas the lateral head originates from the superior part of the posterolateral surface of the lateral femoral condyle. Both heads insert at the posterior surface of the calcaneus, via the calcaneal tendon.
Recommended video: Functions of the gastrocnemius muscle
Functions and anatomy of the gastrocnemius muscle shown with 3D model animation.
  • The soleus muscle is deep to the gastrocnemius and is another plantar flexor. It arises from the soleal line on the dorsal surface of the tibia, medial border of the tibia and the posterior border of the fibular head. Just as the gastrocnemius muscle, it inserts onto the posterior surface of the calcaneus.
Recommended video: Functions of the soleus muscle
Functions and anatomy of the soleus muscle shown with 3D model animation.

Both the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles are innervated by the tibial nerve and vascularized by the posterior tibial artery.

Posterior tibial artery - dorsal view

Function

The triceps surae muscle crosses multiple joints. Its most important function is the plantar flexion in the upper ankle joint enabling the lifting of the heel against gravity when walking or jumping. As the body's centre of gravity is anterior to the ankle joint, the body has a natural tendency to lean forward. This is counteracted by a continuous state of plantar flexion produced mainly by the soleus when standing. The gastrocnemius muscle contributes to a small extent to the flexion of the knee.

Clinical Aspects

Clinically the triceps surae muscle is the reference muscle for the nerve root S1. It can be compressed due to a herniated disk or vertebral fracture. Classic symptoms are irritations and pain along the buttock and posterior lower leg and a weak or absent Achilles tendon reflex. Additionally the triceps surae muscle is often functionally restricted. The affected patients present with a so-called talipes calcaneus caused by the overbalance of the anterior muscles of the lower leg. Both walking on toes as well as rolling the foot from the heel becomes practically impossible.

The Achilles tendon is the strongest tendon of the human body. Its load bearing capacity amounts up to one tonne, which is why its rupture goes along with a loud “whipping” sound. It is usually associated with previous damages due to chronic false strain. The microtraumas disturb the blood supply of the tendon leading to a decrease of its strength. The region about 3 to 5 centimeters proximal to the tendon insertion is particularly vulnerable as it is relatively poorly supplied already. In adolescents, the Achilles tendon rupture often comes along with an osseous fracture of the calcaneus bone.

Triceps surae muscle - 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.

Sign up for your free Kenhub account today and join over 1,130,639 successful anatomy students.

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

Show references

References:

  • M. Schünke/E. Schulte/U. Schumacher: Prometheus – LernAtlas der Anatomie – Allgemeine Anatomie und Bewegungssystem, 2.Auflage, Thieme Verlag (2007), S.482-483
  • W. Graumann/ D.Sasse: CompactLehrbuch der gesamten Anatomie – Band 2 – Bewegungsapparat, Schattauer Verlag (2003), S.215-218
  • M. Schünke: Topographie und Funktion des Bewegungssystems, Thieme Verlag (2000), S.162-163
  • D. Drenckhahn/J. Waschke: Taschenbuch Anatomie, Urban & Fischer Verlag/Elsevier (2008), S.98
  • J. Heisel: Neurologische Differenzialdiagnostik, Thieme Verlag (2007), S.152-155

Author:

  • Achudhan Karunaharamoorthy

Illustrators:

  • Triceps surae muscle - dorsal view - Liene Znotina
  • Soleus muscle - dorsal view - Liene Znotina
  • Posterior tibial artery - dorsal view - Liene Znotina
© Unless stated otherwise, all content, including illustrations are exclusive property of Kenhub GmbH, and are protected by German and international copyright laws. All rights reserved.

Related diagrams and images

Continue your learning

Read more articles

Show 8 more articles

Watch videos

Show 13 more videos

Take a quiz

Browse atlas

Well done!

Register now and grab your free ultimate anatomy study guide!