Quadriceps stretching is an extremely effective way of releasing the tension and stiffness which accumulates in the quadriceps, impeding millions of people worldwide from performing relatively simple activities (walking, climbing steps etc.) or more complicated and strenuous ones (running, cycling, doing aerobics etc.); in more severe cases, the stiffness on these muscles can be a reason for an injury or pain to the knees (like Chondromalacia Patellae – for more focused knee stretches click this) or the lower back area (find more on how to fight back pain with stretches right here). In this post, you can get a few tips on how to tackle that eventuality by increasing the suppleness of your quadriceps.
The quadriceps is not a single muscle; it consists of four (latin “quad”) muscles located in the front part of the thigh, which are the vastus lateralis, the vastus intermedius, the vastus medialis and the rectus femoris); these muscles act jointly in order to extend your legs and straighten the knee while, in addition to this fundamental motion, the last one, the rectus femoris, contributes to the hip joint flexion. Click the pic on the left to better understand the structure of Quadricep.
Quadriceps Stretching Exercises
A large percentage of individuals have already tight quadriceps muscles, whereas in others, those muscles have stiffened gradually due to lack of exercising or aging. Therefore, those people might find the following quad stretches a bit tricky and demanding at the start, but there is really no need to do things in hurry. That being said, here is a bunch of the most representative quadriceps stretches – remember, don’t try any of them before reading our stretching guide! All of these stretches work following the general principles of how stretching works
- Standing quadriceps stretch (photo 1) : Actually, it is highly unlikely not to have heard about this static/passive exercise, as it is on the list of the most common stretches for quadriceps; so, standing on one leg – preferably next to a wall, so as to support your body –, lift the other foot behind your core, bending your knee using also your hand to pull your heel up until you sense the stretch in the front of your thigh; hold it there, and repeat with the other leg; if possible, deepen the stretch in the next pair; throughout the move, remember to stand upright (not curving), to hold your foot close to your buttocks and to tighten your abdominal muscles. If you curve your body the stretching will also tighten the lower abs and psoas while it will be less effective for the knee!
- Lying quadriceps stretching (photo 2): Another static/passive stretch! Sit down on the floor with your legs in front of you; now, slowly and slightly, bend one knee and then carefully move your back to the floor; you will feel a stretch in the quadriceps muscles of the stretched leg, which you should hold; be sure no pressure is applied on your knee, and repeat with the other leg.
- Hip flexor stretch (photo 3): This static/passive stretch involves assuming a standing position and kneel on one knee; now, place the other foot in front of you, flexing your knee and placing the hand of that side on the leg in order to provide balance; put the other hand on the hip of the knelled foot, always maintaining an upright position; lean forward applying more pressure on the front positioned leg, and that is the point that you should feel a stretch in the thigh of the knelled foot; hold it there, and then repeat with the other leg.
- Kneeling quadriceps stretch (photo 4): Another popular static stretching, yet not so convenient; from an upright position, place one leg in front of you, bending its knee and leaving the other behind, putting its knee on the ground so as the two legs form an angle of 100-110 degrees; use a hand to grab the left behind foot from the toes, pulling it toward your glutes until you feel a stretch, and hold it; repeat with the other leg. This stretch also tightens the lower parts of the groin area (more info here).
Generally, perform the above stretches for 4-6 repetitions, holding them for 20-30 seconds; 3 times a week would be just fine to experience a betterment for your quadriceps. As always dynamic/isometric/active isolated or PNF versions of the aforementioned are also applicable (bringing their unique benefits)! Besides the photos on the Photos & Videos section will help you better understand the previously described stretches
Quadricep stretching brings similar benefits like every other stretch. More specifically, the quadriceps stretches can benefit a person in the following aspects:
- More flexibility, less stiffness
- Upgraded blood circulation
- Increased energy
- Reduced possibilities of encountering knee or back pain
- Legs less susceptible to injuries (chondropathia etc)
What To Consider
Before stretching your quadriceps, it is absolutely vital to take on a brief cardiovascular warm-up (unless you choose to perform dynamic stretching, for example, which can serve as a warm-up session itself); other than that:
- Opt for controlled and well-governed movements, carefully reaching the stretch and returning to the initial/neutral position the same way
- Avoid stretches that place a big load on your back
- Do not bounce and do not overstretch!
- Breathe normally throughout each stretch
- Avoid performing the trickiest of the above described exercises without first having a chat with a trainer or a physiotherapist, predominantly if you have a trauma history in your quadriceps; in fact, to be on the safe side anyway, pay your doctor a visit in any case.
Photos & Videos
In order to better elaborate how quadriceps stretching works, we provide the following photos and video:
Stretching your quadriceps can be considered as a truly profitable way of keeping those muscles and joints in shape, thus being able to walk or engage yourself in work-out programs without pain and with remarkably reduced chances of suffering an injury; particularly for those getting involved with more intense sports, the increased range of motion in their quadriceps is almost a necessity. And don’t forget, you should have in mind the general principles of our Stretching guide!
Category: Stretching specific Body Areas