Gastrocnemius Muscle Anatomy

Overview
Origin Lateral and medial condyles of femur
Popliteal surface of femur
Insertion Posterior surface of the calcaneus via the calcaneal tendon
Action Plantarflexes the foot at the ankle joint
Flexes the leg at the knee joint
Nerve Tibial nerve (S1-S2)
Artery Sural arteries

Location

The gastrocnemius muscle is a fundamental muscle of the lower leg used for walking and postural purposes. The gastrocnemius has two heads, a medial and a lateral head. The medial head is generally thicker and wider than the lateral head. These two heads connect to the epicondyles of the femur. Combined together with the soleus, the gastrocnemius forms what is commonly referred to at the ‘calf muscle’. The official term for the grouping of these two muscles is the ‘triceps surae’. Along with the plantaris muscle, these three muscles make up the superficial flexor group of the lower leg. The gastrocnemius is the most superficial of these three muscles, meaning it is closest to the skin’s surface [1]Bordoni B, Varacallo M. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Gastrocnemius Muscle. [Updated 2021 Jul 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available … Continue reading [2]Andjelkov K, Atanasijevic TC, Popovic VM, Sforza M, Atkinson CJ, Soldatovic I. Anatomical aspects of the gastrocnemius muscles: A study in 47 fresh cadavers. J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg. 2016 … Continue reading [3]Binstead JT, Munjal A, Varacallo M. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Calf. [Updated 2021 Jun 3]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: … Continue reading.

The aponeurosis of the gastrocnemius muscle connects to the calcaneal tendon. The calcaneal tendon is also more commonly known as the ‘Achilles tendon’ and is the longest and widest tendon of the human body. Achilles was a character of Greek mythology who’s entire body was made invulnerable except for the calcaneal tendon, which is where the reference ‘Achilles heal’ comes from in relation to a weakness in spite of overall strength [4]Bordoni B, Varacallo M. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Gastrocnemius Muscle. [Updated 2021 Jul 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available … Continue reading [5]Bordoni B, Varacallo M. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Gastrocnemius Muscle. [Updated 2021 Jul 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available … Continue reading [6]Binstead JT, Munjal A, Varacallo M. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Calf. [Updated 2021 Jun 3]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: … Continue reading.

Origin & Insertion

The gastrocnemius has two heads which originate from the lateral and medial condyles of the femur. Its origin also crosses onto the popliteal surface of the femur. As the muscle works its way down the leg, the two heads join together. They then form a large aponeurosis which inserts into the calcaneal tendon. This calcaneal tendon then inserts onto the posterior surface of calcaneus [7]Binstead JT, Munjal A, Varacallo M. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Calf. [Updated 2021 Jun 3]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: … Continue reading [8]Moore KL, Agur AMR, Dalley AF. Clinically Oriented Anatomy. 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincot Williams & Wilkins; 2017..

Actions

The first action of the gastrocnemius muscle is to cause plantarflexion of the foot at ankle joint. This action is commonly performed when walking/running/jumping for example during the ‘pushing away’ part of the movement. It also works alongside its neighbour the soleus as part of the triceps surae group to accomplish this. Another action of the gastrocnemius muscle is to cause flexion of the leg at knee joint. However, the gastrocnemius is not able to exert its full power when flexing the knee and plantarflexing the ankle at the same time. Rather, it is most powerful when performing its actions separately [9]Bordoni B, Varacallo M. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Gastrocnemius Muscle. [Updated 2021 Jul 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available … Continue reading [10]Bordoni B, Varacallo M. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Gastrocnemius Muscle. [Updated 2021 Jul 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available … Continue reading [11]Binstead JT, Munjal A, Varacallo M. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Calf. [Updated 2021 Jun 3]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: … Continue reading.

Innervation

The gastrocnemius is innervated by the tibial nerve (S1-S2). This nerve innervates the majority of the calf muscle [12]Binstead JT, Munjal A, Varacallo M. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Calf. [Updated 2021 Jun 3]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: … Continue reading [13]Bordoni B, Varacallo M. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Gastrocnemius Muscle. [Updated 2021 Jul 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available … Continue reading.

Blood Supply

Blood is supplied to the gastrocnemius via the sural arteries. The sural arteries are collateral arteries of the popliteal artery, which is derived from the femoral artery [14]Bordoni B, Varacallo M. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Gastrocnemius Muscle. [Updated 2021 Jul 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available … Continue reading [15]Aragão JA, Reis FP, Pitta GB, Miranda F Jr, Poli de Figueiredo LF. Anatomical study of the gastrocnemius venous network and proposal for a classification of the veins. Eur J Vasc Endovasc Surg. 2006 … Continue reading.

Images

gastrocnemius muscle

Here we can see pictured the gastrocnemius muscle in isolation.

gastrocnemius muscle and calcaneal tendon

Here we can see pictured the gastrocnemius muscle, as well as the calcaneal tendon (also known as the Achilles tendon) highlighted in green.

origin of the gastrocnemius muscle

Here we can see the origin of the gastrocnemius muscle highlighted in red on the lateral and medial condyles of femur. You can also see how the origin spans slightly onto the popliteal surface of femur as it approaches the medial side of its origin.

insertion of the gastrocnemius muscle

Here we can see the insertion of the gastrocnemius muscle highlighted in blue.

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Gastrocnemius Flashcards

References

References
1, 4, 5, 9, 10, 13, 14 Bordoni B, Varacallo M. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Gastrocnemius Muscle. [Updated 2021 Jul 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532946/
2 Andjelkov K, Atanasijevic TC, Popovic VM, Sforza M, Atkinson CJ, Soldatovic I. Anatomical aspects of the gastrocnemius muscles: A study in 47 fresh cadavers. J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg. 2016 Aug;69(8):1102-8. doi: 10.1016/j.bjps.2016.04.002. Epub 2016 May 4. PMID: 27292288.
3, 6, 7, 11, 12 Binstead JT, Munjal A, Varacallo M. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Calf. [Updated 2021 Jun 3]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459362/
8 Moore KL, Agur AMR, Dalley AF. Clinically Oriented Anatomy. 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincot Williams & Wilkins; 2017.
15 Aragão JA, Reis FP, Pitta GB, Miranda F Jr, Poli de Figueiredo LF. Anatomical study of the gastrocnemius venous network and proposal for a classification of the veins. Eur J Vasc Endovasc Surg. 2006 Apr;31(4):439-42. doi: 10.1016/j.ejvs.2005.10.022. Epub 2005 Dec 15. PMID: 16359881