Hamstring muscles: architecture and innervation

Cells Tissues Organs. 2005;179(3):125-41. doi: 10.1159/000085004.


Knowledge of the anatomical organization of the hamstring muscles is necessary to understand their functions, and to assist in the development of accurate clinical and biomechanical models. The hamstring muscles were examined by dissection in six embalmed human lower limbs with the purpose of clarifying their gross morphology. In addition to obtaining evidence for or against anatomical partitioning (as based on muscle architecture and pattern of innervation), data pertaining to architectural parameters such as fascicular length, volume, physiological cross-sectional area, and tendon length were collected. For each muscle, relatively consistent patterns of innervation were identified between specimens, and each was unique with respect to anatomical organization. On the basis of muscle architecture, three regions were identified within semimembranosus. However, this was not completely congruent with the pattern of innervation, as a primary nerve branch supplied only two regions, with the third region receiving a secondary branch. Semitendinosus comprised two distinct partitions arranged in series that were divided by a tendinous inscription. A singular muscle nerve or a primary nerve branch innervated each partition. In the biceps femoris long head the two regions were supplied via a primary nerve branch which divided into two primary branches or split into a series of branches. Being the only muscle to cross a single joint, biceps femoris short head consisted of two distinct regions demarcated by fiber direction, with each innervated by a separate muscle nerve. Architecturally, each muscle differed with respect to parameters such as physiological cross-sectional area, fascicular length and volume, but generally all partitions within an individual muscle were similar in fascicular length. The long proximal and distal tendons of these muscles extended into the muscle bellies thereby forming elongated musculotendinous junctions.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / anatomy & histology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / cytology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Neuromuscular Junction / anatomy & histology
  • Neuromuscular Junction / cytology
  • Tendons / anatomy & histology*
  • Tendons / cytology
  • Thigh / anatomy & histology*
  • Thigh / innervation