The muscles on the front and sides of your thighs allow you to stand, walk, push off, run, lift and bend your knees. It’s important to stretch the quads to counter tightness in the muscles and to protect your knee joints from injury. The quadriceps are four muscles — quad – four; ceps – head — that are usually treated as one. You can’t straighten, bend or lift your knee without the quads, and you can’t sit without the rectus femoris, which is a hip flexor. Lift weights, ride a bike, play soccer, practice yoga and you strengthen all four quads. But fail to stretch them and you will lose knee flexibility and risk disabling injury.
Why the Need to Stretch?
There are many reasons why you should stretch your quadriceps, the large muscles on the front of you legs. Stretching quads ensures that you will balance the strength and flexibility of both the quads and the hamstrings, the back thigh muscles that may be weak and loose, even as the quadriceps are short and tight. A thigh muscle imbalance is an invitation to injury. A sedentary lifestyle contributes to shortening the quad muscles. Sitting all day tightens hip flexors, including the rectus femoris, and those tense, taut muscles tip your pelvis out of alignment and over arch your lower back, leading to back pain and knee pains. Stretching the quads isn’t complicated and lowers your injury risk, improves performance in sports and daily activities, and supports healthy posture. It’s very common to have tight quadriceps and it takes a bit of time to get them loosened up.
Standing Quad Stretch
Stand tall, holding onto a chair or wall for balance if necessary. Keep your feet hip-width apart, your back straight and your feet parallel. Reach back and grab your left foot in your left hand, keeping your thighs lined up next to each other and left leg in line with the hip (not pulled back behind you). Breathe deeply and hold for 10-30 seconds. Repeat on opposite side.
Lying Quad Stretch
Lay on your left side and place your right hand on your right ankle while flexing your left leg slightly. Tense your butt and pull your right ankle up towards your butt and at the same time gently extend your leg. Don’t pull your heel all the way up to your butt because this puts too much force on you knee instead of stretching your muscles. Hold the position for the desired amount of time and then switch to the other side. Stop if you experience pain in your knee.
Lunge Quad Stretch
Step forward with your left foot and lunge down, so your left thigh is parallel to the floor. Hold for 20 seconds. Rest your back (right) knee on the floor and grasp your right foot with your right hand. If you need to, rest your left hand on a wall for balance. Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat on the other side. It’s important to stay upright with an open chest. You don’t want to be hunched over. You want your shoulders back and down.