Quadriceps stretch is easy yet crucial for many reasons. Arthritis, knee pain, reduces the range of motion, or just simple workout session, all require a functional stretch of this muscle.
Stretching is an important part of any workouts. You can perform this during the cool down period to prevent or minimize the DOMS, or you can incorporate the stretching exercise in your work out itself. For Example, While performing yoga, you are performing stretching, strengthening and balancing exercise at the same time.
Stretching keeps the muscles in lengthen state and thereby it prevents shortening of the muscle. Thus, it maintains the full range of motion of the joint. In addition, it improves the function and regains lost function.
Anatomy of the Quadriceps muscle:
As the name suggests, quadriceps is a group of four muscles. Those are Vastus Medialis (VM), Vastus Lateralis (VL), Vastus Intermedius (VI), and Rectus Femoris (RF). These four muscles together make the major part of the front and sides of your thigh. VI (Vastus Intermedius) is a deep muscle while the other three are superficial muscles. Together, they are also called Extensor of the limb.
The function of the Quadriceps muscle:
The quadriceps muscles are the extensor of the knee joint. The muscle also helps with patellar stability which is crucial to perform many daily activities. Rectus femoris also helps with hip flexion, thus referred to as “Kicking muscle”.
Daily Activities That Involve Quadriceps Muscle:
Quadriceps is an important lower limb muscle. This large muscle helps with knee extension and acts as a main antagonist of the hamstrings. The muscle contracts eccentrically or concentrically during many routine activities in order to perform a complex task safely and successfully. Few examples of those activities include: sit to stand, standing, walking, ascending and descending the stairs, squatting, jogging, running, etc…
Thus, it is crucial that we keep this muscle in good shape. In arthritis of the knee, or pre and post knee surgery, therapists strengthen this key muscle as their first choice of treatment. As discussed earlier, stretching is also important to keep the muscle in normal length. So here is how to stretch this muscle in a few different ways.
Quadriceps Stretch In a prone position:
Lying on your stomach, bring the heel to the buttocks by bending the knee. (keep the other leg straight and relax) You should feel a stretch in the front of your thigh. To get a deeper stretch, you can lift the knee off the floor or ask your partner to lift the knee off the floor, while the heel remains touching the buttocks.
You can hold the position for 30 to 45 seconds and relax. It is ideal to repeat the stretching for 3 times and to do it both sides.
If you can not touch the heel to the buttocks, hold for 30 seconds at the maximum point you can bring your knee to (as shown in the picture). Gradually, you will lengthen the muscle and be able to bring the heel to the buttocks.
To get a deeper stretch, once you touch the heel to the buttocks, you can gently lift the knee off the floor. Research suggests that lifting the knee off the floor, while touching the heel to the buttocks, stretches the rectus femoris muscle fibers.
If you are not very flexible, and unable to touch your heel, you can use a band or towel. You want to wrap a towel or a T- band around your heel and pull your leg with this band.
- Don’t lift your hips off the floor
- Make sure your back is parallel to the floor
Many a time, people can not lay on their backs. I avoid my patient go on to their back mainly when they have severe back pain, severe osteoporosis or severe breathing issues. At that time, I chose one of the following positions based on the patient’s flexibility and activity level.
Quadriceps Stretch in Side Lying:
Here, you lie down on the side opposite to the one you are stretching. For example, you want to stretch right quadriceps, you lie down on the left side. The side you want to stretch should be the upper side. Now, in this position, bend your (upper, the side you want to stretch) knee and bring the heel to the buttock. You should feel the stretch in the front of your thigh.
Get to the comfortable position, and don’t over stretch it.
- Make sure you are not arching your back.
- Don’t lift your knee up
- Make sure your lower leg is straight.
As mentioned above, if you can not touch the heel to the buttocks, hold for 30 seconds at the maximum point you can bring your knee to. Gradually, you will lengthen the muscle and be able to bring the heel to the buttocks.
You want to hold the stretch to 30 to 45 seconds and repeat it for 3 times.
Quadriceps Stretch in Standing (supported or unsupported)
The other method of the quadriceps stretching is performing this in standing. If your balance is not too good, you can perform this while standing with some support.
In standing, you can hold on to the dorsum of your foot, and bring the heel to the buttock area. You can stop when you start feeling a bearable stretch in the front of your thigh.
You want to hold the stretch for 30 to 45 seconds and repeat this at least 3 times.
- Make sure you don’t lean forward.
- Your leg should be perpendicular to the ground. The leg/ knee should not be rotated in or out while stretching.
Quadriceps Stretch Half Kneeling:
If you are very flexible and able to get on the floor, this method is for you. Also, after a workout session, I will perform this type of stretching for a cool down. This is my personal favorite. Here is how to do it.
Start a quadruple position (on all fours). Bring one knee (non-stretching one) in between your two hands. Kick the back leg (the one you want to stretch) out, making sure that the knee does not touch the floor. Now, gradually, shift your weight to this front knee and both hands. You should feel a nice stretch on the front of the thigh. For a deeper stretch, gently go down on the hands and knees.
You can also perform the stretch as shown in the picture below with the hands-on side or the knees. The only difference between the two methods is you are putting your weight through the hands and remain in half kneeling position for the stretch.
Make sure, your back leg is straight, ankle flexed (only toes touching the floor) and knee off the floor.
So this is it for quadriceps stretching. I want to stress the idea that all of the mentioned methods above stretch the same muscle. No one method is better than the other. Also, stretching is subjective. If a person is more flexible, they can easily go deeper and enjoy the stretching or vice versa. In other words, you will get benefits of stretching, as long as you are stretching the correct muscle in the right way. The key point is you should feel the bearable stretch. I have met many people who are very strong but not flexible, and so they feel stretch at the minimal range. Versus, I also know people who are flexible like noodles, and I need to work hard to stretch their muscles. So it is all up to the level of flexibility a person has.
You need to stop stretching at the point you feel the bearable stretch. Overstretching the muscle can tear the muscle fibers and cause injury. If and when in doubt, don’t forget to consult a physical therapist in your area or drop down a comment in a section below.
Below is a print out for the quadriceps stretch.