Muscle of the Month: The Sartorius
The sartorius, the subject of this blog, is the longest muscle in the body and is found in the thigh. It’s used in many of the leg exercises and compound exercises that a personal trainer might set for a client.
Its name has its roots in the Latin word for tailor: sartor, which means it’s sometimes called the “tailor’s muscle”. Some attribute this to the fact that tailors often used to sit cross-legged for long periods, which could cause pain and discomfort to the thighs along the sartorius muscle.
The origination and insertion of the sartorious
The sartorius originates at the anterior superior iliac spine, which is found on the upper part of the pelvis, and inserts at the upper medial shaft of the tibia (shinbone) via the Pes Anserine Tendon. It receives blood supply from the femoral artery.
The action and basic functional movement of the sartorius
The sartorius does not have a primary action; however, it helps with a variety of secondary actions, for example:
- Knee flexion and medial rotation
- Hip flexion, abduction and lateral rotation
- Thigh flexion, abduction and rotation
These help us to bend at the knee and to flex the thigh to the chest and / or abduct / laterally rotate it; the movement you would do when looking at chewing gum on the bottom of your shoe. The sartorius also acts as a stabiliser in certain movements and exercises.
Becasue of these many functions the sartorius can also be placed in the 'Hip Flexor Complex'.
Common exercises for the sartorious
A personal trainer or other fitness professional might recommend any of the following exercises to strengthen the sartorius:
- Step ups
- Resisted knee lifts
- Standing quad stretches
The sartorius is an important muscle in sports such as basketball, netball, rugby and football, where the thigh muscles facilitate running, bending, jumping, kicking and/or making sharp turns.
Problems arising from damage to the sartorious
As well as overtraining or damaging the sartorius during sporting activities, it’s possible to cause muscle pain from sitting for long periods with crossed legs or raised legs, and even from taking particularly long strides when walking.
These activities can cause a burning pain along any point of the thigh, and pain to the inside of the knees. This can be alleviated by placing a pillow between the knees when lying down.
There are also more serious potential issues that can be signalled by pain in the sartiorus muscle region: these range from tears in the anterior or posterior cruciate ligaments to knee problems such as a floating patella or knee sprain, or even osteoporosis.
For the best – and safest – results when training the sartorius, we would recommend that you follow a programme set by a professional fitness instructor or personal trainer. If you are experiencing pain or are worried that you have injured your sartorius muscle(s), it’s best to seek medical advice.