How to Learn the Muscles of the Body for Artists - Part 6 - The Muscles of the Leg and Foot

Before we get started, I'd just like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. To do this, I've created a virtual little Christmas card for you, dear reader.

Now let's get on with some anatomy. We've spent a long time looking at the location of the pelvis in the previous instalments, so now, it's time to reap the rewards of this and learn the muscles of the leg and foot. We'll need to learn the names, the origin points (where they start from), and the insertion points (where they end). We'll also be starting to familiarise ourselves with the shapes of the muscles.

I've included all of the muscles, even if they are hidden beneath others. This will give you full and in-depth knowledge of what is going on beneath the surface of the skin. Again I have been using the Muscle Premium software to generate the images and check the origin and insertion points. This is an invaluable piece of software for artists, and not just for the physiotherapists that it's aimed at.

I've used numerous different tactics to learn these muscles because - and I'll warn you here - it's not easy. But to improve your figure drawing, it is entirely necessary. Let's have a look at the techniques I've used.

  1. Write down the muscle names using the book Anatomy for Artists by Jenő Barcsay. This gets the long process started and familiarises you with the muscles.

  2. Watch the videos for each muscle on Kenhub. These show the origin and insertion points and give a brief description of what the muscles are used for.

  3. Use the Muscle Premium software to explore the body. You are able to easily find the origin and insertion points of each muscle and it's a doddle to see how all of the muscles fit together. I'll say it again; this is invaluable.

  4. Making simple sketches of the muscles, in isolation and as part of a larger group.

  5. Drawing the origin and insertion points onto a human figure. This is where your pelvis knowledge will come in very handy.

  6. Creating the images below. I had to write the names so many times in labelling and renaming files. It's all good practice.

One of the things I found hard was just learning the muscle names. But there are some handy hints I can now give you to make this easier. There are some words that keep cropping up and they describe the muscle or its function.

  1. Longus - This shouldn't be too tricky to work out. It means long. For example, Extensor Hallucis Longus.

  2. Brevis - Think of the word brevity to help with this. It means short. For example, Extensor Hallucis Brevis.

  3. Extensor - This is the function of the muscle, to extend or straighten.

  4. Flexor - Again, this is the function, to flex or bend away from the straight position.

  5. Adductor - A muscle that moves a limb or other part towards the midline of the body.

  6. Abductor - A muscle that moves a limb or other part away from the midline of the body.

  7. Hallucis - This one is all about the big toe.

  8. Digitorum - This refers to the fingers or the toes. Muscles with digitorum in their names don't include the big toe. For example, the Extensor Digitorum Longus has insertion points on the four smaller toes. The Extensor Hallucis Longus has an insertion point on the big toe.

Another tip is to set up a file on your computer that has all of the things you need to practise so that you can go through them regularly, definitely on a weekly basis, if not daily at the start. You can include any images that help you to draw the pelvis plus the quizzes that I'll include in this post are also really useful.

This post can also be used to go through the muscles and remind yourself of the origins and insertions.

So without further ado let's go through each muscle in image form. You'll see the origin points marked in red, or magenta if the points are on the reverse side of the bone. The insertion points are in blue, or green if they are on the reverse. I'll also include an image of what each muscle looks like. The quizzes will be at the end of each section followed by an image of the muscles together.

Top of the Leg - Front View


Rectus Femoris


Adductor Longus

Adductor Brevis


Vastus Lateralis

Vastus Medialis

Vastus Intermedius

Tensor Fascia Lata and Iliotibial Tract

The Iliotibial Tract is shown below in blue.

Quiz: Top of the Leg - Front View


  1. Sartorius - origin.

  2. Rectus Femoris - origin.

  3. Vastus Lateralis - origin.

  4. Vastus Medialis - origin.

  5. Gracilis - origin.

  6. Adductor Brevis - origin.

  7. Adductor Longus - origin.

  8. Pectineus - origin.

  9. Vastus Intermedius - origin.

  10. Tensor Fascia Lata - origin.

  11. Iliotibial Tract - origin.


  1. Rectus Femoris - insertion.

  2. Vastus Intermedius - insertion.

  3. Vastus Lateralis - insertion.

  4. Vastus Medialis - insertion.

  5. Sartorius - insertion.

  6. Gracilis - insertion.

  7. Adductor Longus - insertion.

  8. Adductor Brevis - insertion.

  9. Pectineus - insertion.

  10. Tensor Fascia Lata - insertion.

  11. Iliotibial Tract - insertion.

Top of the Leg - Rear View

Gluteus Maximus

Gluteus Medius

Gluteus Minimus

Biceps Femoris Long Head

Biceps Femoris Short Head



Adductor Magnus

Quiz: Top of the Leg - Rear View


  1. Gluteus Maximus - origin.

  2. Gluteus Medius - origin.

  3. Gluteus Minimus - origin.

  4. Adductor Magnus - origin.

  5. Semitendinosus - origin.

  6. Semimembranosus - origin.

  7. Biceps Femoris Long Head - origin.

  8. Adductor Magnus (also 12) - insertion.

  9. Semimembranosus - insertion.

  10. Semitendinosus - insertion (on front side of tibia).

  11. Biceps Femoris Long Head - insertion.

  12. Adductor Magnus (also 8) - insertion.

  13. Gluteus Maximus - insertion.

  14. Gluteus Medius - insertion.

  15. Gluteus Minimus - insertion.

  16. Biceps Femoris Short Head - origin.

  17. Biceps Femoris Short Head - insertion.

Pelvis Area - Rear View


Gemellus Superior

Obturator Externus

Obturator Internus

Gemellus Inferior

Quadratus Femoris

Quiz: Pelvis Area - Rear View


  1. Piriformis - origin (on the front side of the sacrum).

  2. Piriformis - insertion.

  3. Gemellus Superior - insertion.

  4. Obturator Internus - insertion.

  5. Gemellus Inferior - insertion.

  6. Obturator Externus - insertion.

  7. Quadratus Femoris - insertion.

  8. Quadratus Femoris - origin.

  9. Gemellus Inferior - origin.

  10. Gemellus Superior - origin.

  11. Obturator Internus - origin.

Pelvis Area - Front View

Psoas Major

Psoas Minor


Quiz: Pelvis Area - Front View


  1. Psoas Major - origin.

  2. Iliacus - origin.

  3. Psoas Major - insertion.

  4. Iliacus - insertion.

  5. Psoas Minor - insertion.

  6. Psoas Minor - origin.

Lower Leg - Front View

Tibialis Anterior

Extensor Digitorum Longus

Fibularis Longus

Extensor Hallucis Longus

Fibularis Brevis

Fibularis Tertius

Quiz: Lower Leg - Front View


  1. Extensor Digitorum Longus (also see 4) - origin (small magenta area on diagram).

  2. Tibialis Anterior - origin.

  3. Fibularis Longus - origin.

  4. Extensor Digitorum Longus - origin.

  5. Extensor Hallucis Longus - origin.

  6. Fibularis Brevis - origin.

  7. Fibularis Tertius - origin.

  8. Fibularis Tertius - insertion.

  9. Fibularis Brevis - insertion.

  10. Extensor Digitorum Longus - insertion.

  11. Tibialis Anterior - insertion.

  12. Fibularis Longus - insertion (on underside of foot).

  13. Extensor Hallucis Longus - insertion.

Underneath of Foot

Flexor Hallucis Brevis

Abductor Hallucis