Thursday, 10 March 2011

Lower Limbs - Teaching myself about muscles

OK, Basics. Despite many years of eating various parts of chickens and other animals, I didnt realise that, the 'Leg' is only the bit between the knee and the ankle. It would appear that the bit between the hip and the knee is called the thigh. Of the leg, the bit at the back is the calf and the bit at the front is the shin. (I did know this last part, particuarly in reference to shin-pads).

My first internet port of call happens to be Wikipedia. There's a very in depth discussion of the leg here:, and I have to admit that on first thoughts its much more complicated than I thought. I quite like this click and look view

On second thoughts, its quite clear that for some of the excercises I do at pilates, there's a lot going on, and even when I take a moment to think how clever we can adjust our muscles to be able stand on one leg, then I shouldnt be suprised at the complexity. Therefore, its time to read the detail of the wikipedia page...

Part 1: Basic movements. There are a number of movement terms used in this, and on many other pages:
  • Lateral rotation - rotation away from the centre of the body.
  • Medial rotation - rotation toward the centre of the body.
  • Extension - making the angle of the joint bigger.
  • Flexion - making the angle of the joint smaller.
  • Abduction - movement away from the central plane of the body (i.e. spreading your legs)
  • Adduction - movement toward the central plane of the body (i.e. bringing your legs together in the middle)
There are some 'nice' pictures here which may help picture some of these movements:

Because muscles are only able to do useful 'work' when they contract, they are always grouped in pairs. So, when 'work' is done moving a part of the body one of the paired muscles contracts (with the other muscle relaxed). To reverse the motion the contracting and relaxed muscle swap over. Fortunatley, the various muscles are grouped together and given more accessible names. Apologies if anyone thinks I've over simplified this lot...

  • At the top, the 'Glutes' are your bottom/bum/buttocks/arse... muscles to extend the hip.
  • On the front, the 'Iliopsoas' are the Glutes opposite acting muscles to flex the hip.
  • The muscles at the front of the thigh are called the 'Quadriceps' (or quads) to extend the knee.
  • The opposite muscles at the back are called the 'Hamstrings' to flex the knee.
  • The shin doesnt seem to get much joy in an accessible name. the muscle to flex the foot is the 'Tibialis anterior'
  • The opposite muscles at the back are called the calf muscles to extend the foot. Note here soleus and a second set of triceps...

There are many more muscles which I have not mentioned which have different functions. The conclusion of my part 1 is to look for various leg streches that I can do to try and offset some of the overactivity in my muscles. There are many different web pages with leg stretches on. Here's one page, you may want to find others.

More in part 2 when I look at nerves.

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