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Muscles of the leg

Learning objectives

This study unit will help you to:

  1. Identify and name the muscles of the leg and learn how they are arranged into compartments. 
  2. Learn the functions, attachments and innervation patterns for these muscles. 
  3. Understand the anatomical relations between muscles of the leg.

Watch videos

The muscles of the leg surround the tibia and the fibula from the anterior, lateral and posterior aspects. These muscles span either from the distal thigh or proximal leg, cross the ankle joint and attach in the foot. Therefore, their primary function is to produce the movements on the ankle joint. According to their location, which also defines their function, the leg muscles are divided into three compartments:

  • The anterior (dorsiflexor) compartment, which consists of the tibialis anterior, extensor digitorum longus, fibularis tertius and extensor hallucis longus muscles. Crossing the ankle from the anterior aspect, these muscles primarily cause dorsiflexion of the foot.
  • The lateral (fibular) compartment, which houses the fibularis longus and fibularis brevis muscles. The major function of this compartment is to evert the foot.
  • The posterior (plantar flexor) compartment, which is divided into the superficial and deep parts. The former contains the triceps surae (gastrocnemius + soleus), and plantaris muscles, while the latter consists of the popliteus, tibialis posterior, flexor digitorum longus and flexor hallucis longus muscles. The main function of this compartment is to plantar flex the foot.

The video below will provide you with an overview of the muscles of the leg.

For a more detailed look at the groups of muscles of the leg, take a look at the videos below.

Take a quiz

Now that you learned all you need to know about the muscles of the leg, check your knowledge by taking a quiz.

To finetune which aspects of the lower limb you want to focus on, try out the customizable quiz below. 

Download the following PDF worksheets and learn the muscles of the leg.


Browse atlas

Revise everything that you have learned about these muscles by browsing through our atlas gallery.


Key points about the muscles of the leg
Anterior compartment Tibialis anterior, extensor digitorum longus, fibularis tertius, extensor hallucis longus 
Lateral compartment Fibularis longus, fibularis brevis  
Posterior compartment Superficial part: Triceps surae (gastrocnemius + soleus), plantaris 
Deep part
: Popliteus, tibialis posterior, flexor digitorum longus, flexor hallucis longus 

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