Leg Anatomy

Hi everybody!  Today’s blog post is about leg anatomy.  It is a good addition to my hip anatomy blog post, which you can see under the Anatomy and Physiology category which is linked below.

I hope you enjoy this blog post, and have a great day!


There are four major leg bones.  We discussed some of them very briefly or very in depth (the femur bone!) in my hip anatomy blog post, but we’ll touch on all of them here.

Starting with the femur bone.  It is the longest and strongest bone in the body.  It originates at the acetabulum, or the hip joint, and ends at the knee, where it forms the joint due to its meeting with the tibia bone (lower leg).  This bone is the basis for lots of coordination and movements in ballet – and it provides lots of force you need for different steps, notably large leaps like saut de chats and grand jetés.

The femur contains two trochanters which are important for their muscle attachments in the hip region.  The greater trochanter is lateral and larger, whereas the lesser trochanter is medial and smaller.

The tibia is the primary lower leg bone.  It is bigger and stronger than the fibula, which is its nonidentical twin.  At the top, it forms the knee joint along with the femur bone.  At the bottom, it is a major part of many ankle joints and responsible for many ankle movements across almost all planes.

The fibula is the other, weaker, lower leg bone.  It is located next to the tibia, and serves all of the same purposes.  It bears less weight than the tibia.

The patella is a free-floating bone.  It’s also known as the knee bone.  You can “wiggle” it (by the way never do this in my presence…it totally grosses me out).  The technical name for a floating bone is a sesamoid bone, but for the purpose of this we’ll just call it a free-floating bone.  The patella can be stabilized with the large quadriceps muscles above the knee.  The bone is held in place by many ligaments, which will be discussed next.

So, let’s briefly review the bones and their locations:

  • Femur = Starts at hip and ends at knee
  • Tibia = Primary lower leg bone
  • Fibula = Next to tibia, secondary lower leg bone
  • Patella = Free-floating sesamoid bone at knee


There are two knee joints – and they both have a major impact on the success of your dancing and proper placement, not to mention injury prevention.

The first is the knee.  This is one of the most fragile major joints in the body.  It is a hinge joint formed between the femur and tibia bones.  Protecting it is the patella, a free-floating sesamoid bone that we just talked about.  Knee injuries can be prevented by stabilizing the ankle to prevent pronation and supination (rolling) and supporting the hip by turning out correctly.  Pelvis placement also has an effect on the knees.  Anterior and posterior tilts can cause disruption to the alignment of the knees.

The other of the two major leg joints is the acetabulum.  This is also known as the hip joint.  It is a ball-and-socket joint created by the femur bone and various pelvis bones.  It is discussed in much more detail in my Hip Anatomy blog post.

So, let’s overview the joints:

  • Knee = Hinge joint, between femur bone and tibia
  • Acetabulum or hip joint = Ball and socket joint, created by femur bone and various pelvis bones


The ligaments within the hip joint are the iliofemoral, pubofemoral, and ischiofemoral ligaments.  Their job is to hold the femur bone into the hip joint.  As you can tell from their names, the each attach either at the iliacus, pubis bone, or ischium.  They all, again, attach at the femur bone.

The ligaments of the knee are the medial collateral, lateral collateral, anterior cruciate, and posterior cruciate.  Their job is to connect the femur bone to the tibia bone and hold it in place to create the hinge joint that the knee is.

So, the ligaments of the legs include:

  • Hip ligaments = Hold pelvis and femur bone together
    • Iliofemoral
    • Pubofemoral
    • Ischiofemoral
  • Knee ligaments = Connect femur bone to tibia bone
    • Medial collateral
    • Lateral collateral
    • Anterior cruciate
    • Posterior cruciate


There are many muscles within the legs.  The first are the anterior thigh muscles – better known as the quadriceps.  The main quadricep is the rectus femoris, which runs all the way from the iliac spine to the tibia, crossing over the hip.  This is why it serves as one of the hip flexors.  The other three quadricep muscles are the vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, and vastus lateralis.  Notice that their names relate to their locations – medialis (medial), intermedius (in the middle), and lateralis (lateral).  They all originiate along the inside, outside, and back of the femur and insert into the patellar tendon.  Again, all three flex the hip and extend the knee.  In addition to these, there is the sartorius.  It originates at the upper iliac spine and runs all the way down to the inside of the tibia.  This is the longest muscle in your body.  It helps to extend the knee and turn out the legs.

The adductors are better known to dancers as the inner thighs.  They all originate at some point within the pelvis bones and insert into the femur.  They adductors are the adductor longus, adductor brevis, adductor magnus, pectineus, and gracilis.  The adductors can provide pelvic stability and increased turnout.  Notice by their names that the adductor longus is the longest, brevis is medium, and magnus is short.

The hamstrings are on the posterior side of the thigh.  They all bend the knee and extend the hip.  They are the biceps femoris, which originates along the ischial tuberosity or sit bone and femur and inserts into the lateral tibia and fibula.  The semitendinosus and semimembranosus originate by the ischium and insert into the medial tibia.

The gluteus maximus originates by the back of the pelvic bones and isnerts into the femur.  It also has fibrous attachments along the iliotibal band.  The gluteus maximus along with the hamstrings help with arabesque movements.

So, finally, let’s review the muscles:

  • Quadriceps = Extend the knee, flex the hip
    • Rectus femoris
    • Vastus medialis
    • Vastus intermedialis
    • Vastus lateralis
    • Sartorious
  • Adductors = Provide pelvic stability and increased turnout
    • Adductor longus
    • Adductor brevis
    • Adductor magnus
    • Pectineus
    • Gracilis
  • Hamstrings = Bend knee and extend hip
    • Biceps femoris
    • Semitendinosus
    • Semimembranosus
  • Gluteus maximus = Helps with arabesque movements along with hamstrings and lower back

Let’s take a quiz!

Take the quiz on this article HERE.

Thanks so much for reading today’s blog post.  You can expect informational posts here on gouletballet.com every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

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