Triceps surae muscle

The triceps surae is a pair of muscles located at the calf – the two-headed gastrocnemius and the soleus. These muscles both insert into the calcaneus, the bone of the heel of the human foot, and form the major part of the muscle of the posterior leg, commonly known as the calf muscle.

Triceps surae
Posterior view of the human calf with the triceps surae. (Two heads of the gastrocnemius visible at first)
Pronunciation/ˈtrsɛps ˈsjʊəri/
Origindistal femur (gastrocnemius), posterior tibia (soleus)
Insertionachilles tendon, calcaneus
Arteryposterior tibial artery
Nervetibial nerve
Latinmusculus triceps surae
Anatomical terms of muscle


The two muscle layers that make up the triceps surae, namely the gastrocnemius and soleus.

The triceps surae is connected to the foot through the Achilles tendon, and has 3 heads deriving from the 2 major masses of muscle.[1]

  • The superficial portion (the gastrocnemius) gives off 2 heads attaching to the base of the femur directly above the knee.
  • The deep (profundus) mass of muscle (the soleus) forms the remaining head which attaches to the superior posterior area of the tibia.

The triceps surae is innervated by the tibial nerve, specifically, nerve roots L5–S2.


Contraction of the triceps surae induce plantar flexion (sagittal plane) and stabilization of the ankle complex in the transverse plane. Functional activities include primarily movement in the sagittal plane, stabilization during locomotion (walking, running), restraining the body from falling and power jumping. By controlling the disequilibrium torque, the triceps surae can affect force through the exchange of potential into kinetic energy.[2]

Clinical significance

Calf strain (torn calf muscle)

A torn calf muscle occurs when the calf muscle is pulled apart from the Achilles tendon. Severe pain is often felt by the victim and is often, but not always, accompanied by a "pop" sound.

This injury happens during acceleration or changes in direction. The torn calf muscle may spasm, and contract forcefully. The toes may also point down. Bruises can show up in the leg, foot and ankle due to pooling of blood from internal bleeding. It may take some time for the bruises to occur, from hours to days depending upon where the tear occurred. The circumference of the leg will likely increase. This injury may take several months to heal.

In order to localize strains to the gastrocnemius or soleus, palpation, strength testing and stretching is needed. A premature return before recovery is achieved will result in a prolonged recovery or incomplete return to baseline prior to injury.[1] Stretches such as alternating calf raises can improve flexibility as well as mobilize legs before running.[3]

Calf muscles are also very suspectable to Fasciculations and people with Benign Fasciculation Syndrome often complain of twitching in either one or both calves.

Additional images

Etymology and pronunciation

The term is pronounced /ˈtrsɛps ˈsjʊəri/. It is from Latin caput and sura meaning "three-headed [muscle] of the calf".


  1. Dixon JB (June 2009). "Gastrocnemius vs. soleus strain: how to differentiate and deal with calf muscle injuries". Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine. 2 (2): 74–7. doi:10.1007/s12178-009-9045-8. PMC 2697334. PMID 19468870.
  2. Honeine JL, Schieppati M, Gagey O, Do MC (2013-01-16). "The functional role of the triceps surae muscle during human locomotion". PLOS One. 8 (1): e52943. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052943. PMC 3547017. PMID 23341916.
  3. Minnor M (2018-05-03). "7 Pre- and Post-Workout Stretches for Runners – Aaptiv". Aaptiv. Retrieved 2018-06-11.

Further reading

  • McCarthy JP, Hunter GR, Larson-Meyer DE, Bamman MM, Landers KA, Newcomer BR (August 2006). "Ethnic differences in triceps surae muscle-tendon complex and walking economy". Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 20 (3): 511–8. doi:10.1519/17395.1. PMID 16937962.
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