Muscles Acting at the Hip Joint

adductor brevis adductor longus adductor magnus adductors biceps femoris gluteus maximus gluteus medius gluteus minimus gracilis hamstring muscles hip adduction hip extension hip extensor muscles hip flexion hip flexor muscles hip medial rotators iliopsoas lateral hip rotators lateral rotators muscles acting at the hip joint pectineus rectus femoris sartorius semimembranosus semitendinosus tensor fascia lata

Muscles of the hip joint physiotherapy solihull simon evans


  • The hip is a multiaxial joint allowing movement in all 3 cardinal planes
  • Functionally the muscles acting at the hip joint are divided into their functional groups:
    • Flexors
    • Extensors
    • Adductors
    • Abductors 
    • Medial Rotators
    • Lateral Rotators
  • Most muscles however produce more than a single cardinal movement

Hip Flexion

  • The main hip flexors are 2 muscles situated in the posterior aspect of the abdomen
  • Collectively known as Iliopsoas
  • Separated from the superior pubic ramus/anterior hip by the iliopsoas bursa
  • Action - flexion of the hip joint, anterior pelvic tilt and lumbar flexion
  • Assisted by:
    • Rectus Femoris (Quadriceps)
    • Sartorius
    • Tensor Fascia Lata (Abductors)
    • Pectineus (Adductors)
  • Anatomically and functionally all belong to other muscle groups but have secondary role as hip flexors  
  • Rectus Femoris:
    • O: Straight head from AIIS, reflected head from groove above the acetabulum
    • I: Base of patella
    • A: Knee extension/hip flexion
    • Sartorius:
      • O: ASIS
      • I: Pes Anserine insertion - medial tibial shaft
      • A: Hip Flexion / Lateral rotation, Knee Flexion / Medial Rotation
      • NS: Femoral nerve L2, 3 & 4
    • Tensor Fascia Lata:
      • O: Outer lip of iliac crest – ASIS to tubercle
      • I: ITB
      • A: Hip Abduction / Flexion / Medial Rotation
      • NS: Superior gluteal nerve L4, 5 & S1
      • Pectineus:
        • O: Superior Pubic Ramus
        • I: Pectineal line on Femur
        • A: Flexion/adduction of hip - may assist with medial rotation
        • NS: Femoral nerve L2/3 and Obturator nerve L2/3

        Hip Extension

        • Very powerful movement brought about by:
          • Gluteus Maximus
          • Large, powerful, quadrilateral shaped muscle forming contour of buttock
          • Hamstring Muscles:
            • Semimembranosus
            • Semitendinosus
            • Biceps Femoris
            • (3 fusiform muscles forming the posterior compartment of the thigh - span both the hip and knee therefore will have dual action)
        • Actions include hip, extension and lateral rotation
        • When working on a fixed femur will assist with bringing the pelvis up from flexion (muscles working with reversed attachment)
        • Upper fibres can assist with abduction of the hip
        • NS: Inferior gluteal nerve L5, S1 & 2

        The Compartments of the Thigh

        • As with any other body segment the thigh region is divided into compartments containing functional groups
        • Divisions are made by the intermuscular septa
        • 3 compartments to consider: 
          • Anterior
          • Posterior 
          • Medial

         The Hamstrings

        • Found in the posterior compartment of the thigh:
        • Semimembranosus:
          • O: Ischial tuberosity
          • I: Posterior aspect of medial condyle of tibia – forms posterior oblique ligament of knee

        • Semitendinosus:
          • O: Ischial tuberosity
          • I: Pes anserine insertion – medial shaft of tibia
          • Actions – both extend hip and flex/medially rotate the knee
          • NS: tibial division of sciatic nerve L5, S1 & 2
        • Biceps femoris
          • O: Long head – from ischial tuberosity
          • Short head – from lower ½ of linea aspera
          • I: Head of fibula
          • Action: extension of hip, flexion and lateral rotation of knee
          • NS: Tibial division of sciatic nerve (long head), Common Peroneal division of sciatic nerve (short head), L5, S1 & S2

          Hip Adduction

          • Relatively weak movement brought about by the muscles of the medial compartment of the thigh
          • Muscles include:
            • Adductor Longus
            • Adductor Brevis
            • Adductor Magnus
            • Gracilis
            • Pectineus

            Medial Compartment

            • Contains the Adductor Group:
              • Gracilis
              • Pectineus
              • Adductor Longus, brevis and magnus
            • All arise from ischial tuberosity & ramus and pubis and rami

            Gracilis and Pectineus

            • Most medial adductor
            • O : Body of pubis, inferior pubic ramus and adjacent ischial ramus
            • I: Pes anserine insertion between sartorius and semitendinosus
            • A: Adduction of the hip, weak flexor and medial rotator of the knee
            • NS: Obturator nerve (L2, 3)
            • For details of pectineus see above

            Adductor Longus

            • Most anterior of main adductor group
            • O: Via short rounded tendon from anterior aspect of body of pubis
            • I: Middle ½ of linea aspera
            • A: Adductor and flexor of the hip
            • NS: Obturator nerve L2,3 and 4

            Adductor Brevis

            • Middle and smallest muscle of main adductor group
            • O: Via flat attachment to body of pubis and inferior pubic ramus
            • I: Upper ½ of linea aspera and lower part of pectineal line
            • A: Adductor of the hip
            • NS: Obturator nerve L2,3 and 4

            Adductor Magnus

            • Most posterior and largest of main adductor group
            • O: Via large fleshy attachment to ischial tuberosity (ischial head) and ischiopubic ramus (adductor head)
            • I: Whole of linea aspera, medial supracondylar ridge and adductor tubercle (ischial portion) – note adductor hiatus
            • A: Adductor and extensor of the hip
            • NS: Obturator nerve (L2, 3 & 4) and tibial nerve (L4, 5)

            Abductors/Medial rotators of the Hip 

            • Abductors 
              • Gluteus maximus (upper fibres)
              • Gluteus medius
              • Gluteus minimus
              • Tensor Fascia Lata
            • Medial Rotators
              • Gluteus medius
              • Gluteus minimus
              • Tensor Fascia Lata
              • (Psoas major and iliacus - some debate over its role)
              • Note dual role of these muscles as abductors and medial rotators

              Abductors of the Hip Joint

              • All arise from the gluteal surface of the innominate bone
              • Gluteus maximus (predominantly a hip extensor) is the most posterior & superficial 
              • Gluteus medius lies deep & anterior to G max
              • Gluteus minimus lies deep & anterior to medius
              • Tensor fascia lata (see above) lies superficial & anterior to minimus

              Gluteus Maximus

              • Predominantly a hip extensor
              • Secondary role as a lateral rotator and abductor (upper fibres) or adductor (lower fibres) 

              Gluteus Medius, Minimus & TFL

              Tensor Fascia Lata (TFL)

              • O : Outer lip of iliac crest - ASIS to tubercle
              • I : Between 2 layers of ilio-tibial tract

              Gluteus Medius

              • O : Gluteal surface of ilium between posterior and anterior gluteal lines
              • I : Via a flat tendon on upper lateral aspect of greater trochanter (roughened area)

              Gluteus Minimus

              • O : Gluteal surface of ilium between anterior and inferior gluteal lines
              • I : Via a small thickened tendon into small depression on ant/sup aspect of greater trochanter
              • Note presence of trochanteric bursa separating tendon of gluteus medius from greater trochanter 

              Abductors/Medial Rotators


              • All act as abductors and medial rotators of the hip joint (gluteus minimus, TFL and anterior fibres of gluteus medius)
              • Note direction of fibres in relation to hip joint axis
              • Tensor fascia lata also acts as a hip flexor


              • Most important role is during weight bearing phase of gait to maintain a level pelvis

              Nerve Supply

              • Superior gluteal nerve L4, 5 and S1  

              Lateral Rotators

              • In addition to Gluteus maximus note deep group of muscles 
              • Act as lateral rotators of the neutral hip and abduct the flexed hip
              • In addition to the above there is a 6th lateral rotator…Obturator externus
              • Note their relative positions, courses and their relationship to the Sciatic nerve
              • Make brief notes on their attachments

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