The gastrocnemius muscle is a major muscle located at the back of the lower leg, forming part of the calf. It’s one of the most visible muscles in this area and works alongside the soleus muscle, which lies beneath it.

Together, these muscles form the calf muscle group.





  • Lateral head: lateral aspect of lateral condyle of femur
  • Medial head: popliteal surface of femur; superior to medial condyle


  • Posterior surface of calcaneus via calcaneal tendon


  • Plantarflexes ankle when knee is extended; raises heel during walking; flexes leg at knee joint

Clinical Relevance

Important for Knee, Hip, and Lower Back

The gastrocnemius muscle is connected through various fascial tissues, and the tension it produces affects not only the foot but also the knee, hip, and lower back. If the gastrocnemius muscle is shortened, it can disrupt the normal movements of the hip, reducing its ability to rotate inward (anteversion). The fascial system is crucial in spreading the force generated when the muscle contracts.

Fabella in Gastrocnemius

Close to its proximal attachment, the lateral head of the gastrocnemius may contain a sesamoid bone, the fabella, which articulates with the lateral femoral condyle. The fabella is visible in lateral radiographs of the knee in 3-5% of people.

~ Evidence-Based Exercises ~

According to an EMG study, the exercises that demonstrated significant muscle contractions of Gastrocnemius are;

  • Calf Raises
  • Leg Curl with Dorsiflexion
  • T-Band Kicks

Calf Raises

Calf Raises

Leg Curl with Dorsiflexion

Leg Curl

T-Band Kicks

Band Kick

< Reference >

  • Keith L. Moore, Anne M. R. AgurArthur F. Dalley. Moore Clinically Oriented Anatomy 7th Edition, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2013
  • Bordoni B, Varacallo M. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Gastrocnemius Muscle. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2024. Accessed April 30, 2024.
  • Dalip D, Iwanaga J, Oskouian RJ, Tubbs RS. A Comprehensive Review of the Fabella Bone. Cureus. 2018;10(6):e2736. doi:7759/cureus.2736
  • Gallucci JG, Challis JH. Examining the Role of the Gastrocnemius during the Leg Curl Exercise. Journal of Applied Biomechanics. 2002;18(1):15-27. doi:1123/jab.18.1.15
  • Cordova ML, Jutte LS, Hopkins JT. EMG Comparison of Selected Ankle Rehabilitation Exercises. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation. 1999;8(3):209-218. doi:1123/jsr.8.3.209