Muscles That Act on the Hip • Bodybuilding Wizard (2023)

Hip Joint Anatomy

The hip is a ball-and-socket joint between the upper end of the femur and the pelvic bone. The hip joint is formed by the femurs (upper leg bones) where they mesh with the pelvic girdle. The three bones of the pelvic girdle – the ilium, ischium, and pubis – come together in such a way that six basic movements are possible: flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, internal rotation, and external rotation. Since the hip joint can move in so many different directions (and because of this it’s inherently unstable) – it is protected by a variety of muscles. Many strong muscles that cross the hip joint have a significant stabilizing effect on the joint. Because of their importance in supporting the weight of the body and generating the large forces associated with locomotor movements, these muscles are more massive and stronger than those associated with the upper extremity. In this post we will mention only the most important muscles.

Most Important Muscles of the Hip Joint

Multiple muscles as well as several important ligaments surrounding the hip joint provide strong support, making possible the major movements of the lower extremities that are necessary for our daily activities. More precisely, twenty-two muscles cross the hip joint. However, despite the large number of muscles involved, they are arranged in a logical way that makes remembering their actions easier. There are four groups of muscles that act on the hip joint.

1. The anterior muscles of the hip (the anterior group) are all HIP FLEXORS
for hip flexion, bend your knee and raise it toward your trunk
2. The posterior muscles of the hip (the posterior group) are generally HIP EXTENSORS
for hip extension you move your leg behind your trunk
3. The lateral muscles of the hip (the lateral group) are all HIP ABDUCTORS
moving the thigh away from the midline of the body
4. The medial muscles of the hip (the medial group) are all HIP ADDUCTORS
moving the thigh towards or across the midline of the body

1. Anterior Muscles of the Hip (Hip Flexors)

The anterior muscles of the hip include the iliopsoas (this group includes three muscles—the iliacus, psoas major, and psoas minor), rectus femoris (one of the four quadriceps muscles of the thigh), and sartorius.

These muscles cross anterior to the axis of the hip joint for flexion – extension and so share the common action of hip flexion used in movements such as walking, running, or leaping. In other words, they function to bring the torso toward the thighs, or the thighs toward the torso.

The primary muscles that create hip flexion are part of a group called the iliopsoas. All insert through a common tendon on the femur to flex the hip and externally rotate the femur. Each psoas muscle also assists in lateral flexion of the trunk.Secondary muscles for hip flexion are the rectus femoris, and the sartorius. The rectus femoris is primarily a knee extensor, but because of its origin on the pelvis, it also is a hip flexor. The sartorius is a curious muscle that begins roughly in the area where one might suffer a hip pointer (anterior superior iliac spine) and then runs sort of diagonally down the medial thigh and inserts behind the tibia below the knee, giving it numerous actions: hip flexion, knee flexion, hip abduction, and lateral rotation of the hip.Although these muscles are secondary for hip flexion, they are no less important.

2. Posterior Muscles of the Hip (Hip Extensors)

The posterior muscles of the hip include the gluteus maximus (the largest muscle in the body), hamstrings (which consists of the biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus muscles), and deep outward rotators. All three of these muscle groups cross posterior to the axis of the hip joint for flexion – extension, and the gluteus maximus and hamstrings share the common action of hip extension. During hip extension you move your leg behind your trunk (opposite of hip flexion). The hip extensors are well suited for propulsive activity such as jumping and running due to their large cross-sectional area and the power they can generate.

The three hamstring muscles (biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus) originate near the bony prominences on which you sit and insert below the knee on the back of the tibia and fibula. Their main function is knee flexion, but the pelvic attachment means they also perform hip extension.

The other main muscle is the gluteus maximus, the large muscle of the buttocks. It forms the roundness of the back of the buttocks. This very powerful muscle has a broad origin along the back of the pelvis and narrows to insert on the back of the proximal end of the femur. Because of the diagonal direction of its fibers, the gluteus maximus also can rotate the femur laterally as well as assist in trunk extension. It is the most powerful hip extensor and is crucial for movements requiring large forces such as going up stairs, walking up hills, running, and jumping.

The deep outward rotators, or deep external rotator muscle group, is comprised of the piriformis, obturator internus, obturator externus, gemellus inferior, gemellus superior, and quadratus femoris. This group of six small muscles is located deep to the gluteus maximus in the region of the buttocks. As their name implies, this group of muscles is particularly known for its action of hip external rotation. External rotation is when you rotate one foot away from the other, so your toes are pointing out.

3. Lateral Muscles of the Hip (Hip Abductors)

The abductor muscle group is located on the lateral side (outside) of the thigh. The lateral muscles of the hip (abductor muscle group) include the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and tensor fasciae latae. Gluteus medius and the gluteus minimus are named for their relative size and position. They all cross lateral to the axis of the hip joint for abduction – adduction and so share the common action of hip abduction. This means moving the thigh away from the midline of the body. These muscles also play a very important stabilizing role in standing and locomotion. When the weight is on one leg, these muscles act to prevent the pelvis from dropping down on the opposite side or the support femur from excessively adducting (“sitting in the hip”).

The gluteus medius is a small muscle that lies laterally above the gluteus maximus. It is visible from the side and the rear. The gluteus minimus is also a quite small muscle that lies laterally below the gluteus maximus. Therefore, it is not visible at all. The tensor fasciae latae is a small muscle located at the front and side of the hip. Its name is derived from the fact that its action Is to lighten this fascia, thereby providing Important lateral support for the knee Joint. At the hip joint, in addition to its role in hip abduction, it assists with hip flexion and hip internal rotation (the latter at least when the hip is flexed).

4. Medial Muscles of the Hip (Hip Adductors)

The adductor muscle group, also known as the groin muscles, is a group located on the medial side of the thigh. These medial muscles are sometimes called the “inner thigh muscles”. The medial muscles of the hip Include the adductor brevis, adductor longus, adductor magnus, pectineus, and gracialis. Since all of these muscles cross medial to the axis of the hip joint, they all share the common action of hip adduction – moving the thigh towards or across the midline of the body.


What muscles act on the hip joint? ›

The primary extensor of the hip joint is the gluteus maximus muscle, assisted by the hamstring muscles (biceps femoris, semitendinosus, semimembranosus) and the adductor magnus muscle. The primary abductors of the hip joint are the gluteus medius and the gluteus minimus muscles.

How many muscles act on the hip? ›

Most modern anatomists define 17 of these muscles, although some additional muscles may sometimes be considered. These are often divided into four groups according to their orientation around the hip joint: the gluteal group; the lateral rotator group; the adductor group; and the iliopsoas group.

What muscles are used in hip flexion bodybuilding? ›

The principal muscles involved in hip flexion are the psoas and the iliacus, collectively known as the iliopsoas. Because they are deep-seated rather than surface muscles they may have been overlooked by bodybuilders who have traditionally been the major innovators in strength training.

What are the 3 hip flexor muscles? ›

What Are the Hip Flexor Muscles
  • Psoas major: A deep muscle that connects the legs to the spine. ...
  • Iliacus: This muscle rests deep within the pelvis and attaches to the femur. ...
  • Rectus femoris: This muscle is a part of the quadriceps group, which attaches the pelvis to the knee.
Nov 23, 2022

What are the 5 hip muscles? ›

The hip flexors consist of 5 key muscles that contribute to hip flexion: iliacus, psoas, pectineus, rectus femoris, and sartorius.

What muscle acts on hip and knee? ›

The quadriceps femoris is a hip flexor and a knee extensor. It consists of four individual muscles; three vastus muscles and the rectus femoris. They form the main bulk of the thigh, and collectively are one of the most powerful muscles in the body. It is located in the anterior compartment of the thigh.

What are the 4 muscles that flex the hip? ›

The primary hip flexors are the rectus femoris, iliacus, psoas, iliocapsularis, and sartorius muscles.

What are the 15 muscles in your hips? ›

There are many muscles around the hip. These muscles include the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, piriformis, obturator externus, obturator internus, adductor magnus, adductor longus, adductor brevis, pectineus, gracilis, psoas major, and iliacus.

What are the six deep muscles of the hip? ›

The six deep external rotator muscles of the hip (piriformis (PI), quadratus femoris (QF), obturator internus (OI), obturator externus (OE), superior gemellus (SG), and inferior gemellus (IG)) play a role in both hip stabilization and rotation and are damaged and relocated during total hip arthroplasty surgery.

What muscle is acting on hip extension? ›

The hamstring muscle group plays a prominent role in hip extension and knee flexion. The semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris muscles comprise the hamstring muscle group.

Which three 3 muscles are the best choice for performing hip flexion? ›

The muscles that make up the hip flexors include:
  • Psoas major : This deep muscle connects your spine to your leg. ...
  • Iliacus : This is a flat, triangular muscle situated deep within your pelvis. ...
  • Rectus femoris : This is one of the four quadriceps muscles that attach your pelvis to the tendon of your knee.
May 28, 2023

What muscles are activated during hip extension? ›

The primary hip extensors include the gluteus maximus, posterior head of the adductor magnus, and the hamstrings (TABLE 2).13 , 17 In the anatomic position, the posterior head of the adductor magnus has the greatest moment arm for extension, followed closely by the semitendinosus.

What are the 2 main hip flexor muscles? ›

The first two are the most important hip flexors - they're called iliacus, and psoas major.

What muscle is the most powerful flexor of the hip? ›

The iliopsoas muscle is the strongest flexor of the hip joint. Simultaneous contraction of the psoas major and iliacus muscles produces a powerful flexion of the thigh at the hip joint.

What are the hip abductor muscles? ›

The primary hip abductor muscles include the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and tensor fasciae latae. The secondary hip abductors include the piriformis, sartorius, and superior fibers of the gluteus maximus.

What are the symptoms of a tight psoas muscle? ›

Symptoms of a tight psoas muscle may include lower back pain, hip pain, difficulty standing up straight, and limited hip mobility. The psoas muscle may be the most critical, but often overlooked, muscle in your body.

What could be the cause of hip joint pain? ›

What causes hip pain? Hip pain is a symptom of several conditions, including arthritis, injuries to your hip (fractures, labral tears and dislocation), bursitis and structural issues. Athletes who move their hips in all directions, like dancers and gymnasts, are more likely to injure their hips and have hip pain.

What does a psoas strain feel like? ›

Pain in the lumbosacral region (the border between the lower part of the spine and the buttocks that can radiate up to lumbar vertebrae or down to the sacrum) when sitting or particularly when changing positions arising for sitting to standing. Difficulty/pain when trying to stand in a fully upright posture.

What does a psoas release feel like? ›

The muscles may release by trembling, vibrating or shaking off the stress that was stored. This is a natural and healthy way of releasing tension in the psoas. This physical release will then be able to be processed by the brain. This may cause fragmented emotions and memories to emerge.

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