The quads are a group of four muscles that form the front of the thigh. The meet at the knee cap and help to straighten the knee, but also help to slow down the bending of the knee when we go to sit down or going down stairs. The muscles are:
- Rectus Femoris. This is also considered a hip flexor, but is one of the Quad muscles, and attaches the pelvis to the kneecap and lower leg. Because this muscles crosses two joints it has a slightly more complex funtion and can often be the one that causes us most issues.
- Vastas Medialis/Intermedialis/Lateralis. These three muscles attache the thigh bone to the knee cap and then the lower leg. They are towards the mid-line of the body (medial), in the middle and towards the sides of the body (lateral). The Vastas Medialis helps to keep the kneecap (patella) towards the middle of the body and tracking well, whereas the other muscles have a tendency to pull it outwards.
None are required, but if your balance is at all challenged, then you might want to have something to hand to help balance.
If you aren’t able to get hold of the front of the ankle, then a belt might be helpful.
- You can do this either standing or lying down.
- Bend at the hip and knee so that you can take hold of the front of your ankle.
- You want to flatten the low back (minimise the lumbar curve) before anything else. I do this by placing the back of the opposite hand as the foot I’m holding on my low back and gently pushing into it.
- Pull the ankle/foot towards your sitting bone/bottom.
- Let the knee drop down towards the ground. Notice if it has a tendency to fly out to the side.
- If this is easy, then you can gently pull the knee further behind your hip, which focusses the stretch more to the rectus femoris.
- Hold each part of the stretch for 30 seconds.
- Repeat on the other side.
Front view: knee dropping toward the floor, not out to the side.
Can also be done lying face down.
Things to be aware of:
- The rectus femoris attaches onto the pelvis, so if the pelvis tilts forwards you are likely to be avoiding really stretching into that muscle, but you’ll still be getting into the Vastas muscles.
- Take care of your knees, this shouldn’t be too troubling for them.
Why do I say to hold the static stretch for 30 seconds? I put it like this: the first 10 seconds it feels like the muscles are shocked into wondering what this position is. Then the next 10 seconds they start to relax into the position, and the final 10 seconds they might also be able to move a bit deeper into the movement, and accept that this is possible.
Here’s a short video of me running through the stretch. Click on the four arrows if you want the video to be full screen.