Whether you’re an athlete with long training days or just a person who moves around throughout the day, your quadriceps are some of the hardest working muscle groups in your legs. This quadricep is made up of four separate muscles: the rectus femoris, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius and the vastus lateralis (hence the “quad” part of the name). These four muscles at the front of your thigh work in unison to stabilize your knee joint and bend and straighten your legs.
Your quads work alongside your hamstring and glute muscles to propel you forward when you walk, run and jump, as well as providing a lot of the power you need when squatting heavy weights. In a nutshell, they work overtime to keep you moving and standing upright.
However, both sedentary and athletic lifestyles can put undue strain on the quads and cause tightness. When the quads get tight, they can pull down on the pelvis which can lead to an anterior pelvic tilt. When the pelvis goes into a tilted position, it’s common for the back to become overarched and lead to uncomfortable lower back pain and tightness. Anyone who has ever struggled with lower back pain knows how annoying and frustrating this can be.
Tight quadricep muscles can also lead to weaker hamstring muscles. While the quadricep muscles are found on the front of the leg, the hamstring muscles are located on the back of the leg. When the quad muscles are tight and the pelvis is pulled into a tilt, this can put the hamstrings into a “stretched” position. This constant stretch in the hamstrings can lead to a loss of tone and strength. This is why it’s important to not only stretch, loosen, and strengthen the quad muscles, but also strengthen the hamstrings. Check out Impossible Fitness for targeted hamstring exercises. You can also visit our section for specific hamstring stretches that will help keep your hamstrings in the best possible shape.
A great movement to keep these quad muscles healthy is the Resistance Band Quad Stretch. As I am sure is of no surprise to you, you will need a resistance band to complete this stretch -- hence the name. We recommend using a resistance band that has medium tension.
Starting in a Tabletop position, step your right foot into a lunge position just outside of your right hand. Slowly wrap a band around the back left foot and put the band over the shoulder. Start to pull and lift the back foot off the ground until you hit your end range. Keep the hip pressing forward, the belly sucking in, and the glute active.
Once you have gotten your body into this position, hold here at this point for at least 30 seconds. It is important to try your best to keep your hips level and stabilized. Remember to breathe deeply and use your breath as a gauge. You want to be able to hold this position and still breathe deeply. Don’t force your body into the shape if you don’t yet have the mobility. It’s important to work at your body’s current ability level as to not cause any unnecessary strain or pain.
Once you have stretched on one side, return to the starting position and complete for the same amount of time on the other side.
This tightness in the quad muscles can lead to poor posture, knee pain and other unpleasant side effects, so it’s important to stretch this powerful muscle group out either before or after your workouts. Keeping your quads properly stretched will ensure their overall health, increase blood flow to the region, and help prevent any future injury.
It’s good practice to regularly stretch no matter what level of activity you put your body through daily. But, along with a proper meal plan, a well-structured stretching routine is definitely important for athletes of any level. This can stave off injuries from overuse or training, increase performance level, and lead to a better quality of life. All of these things will help keep you in your sport for as long as you want to be there.
There is no other equipment needed for this stretch other than some free space on the floor and your medium tension resistance band. If you have sensitive knees, you may want to perform this on a carpeted surface or a padded mat or blanket, but this is not completely necessary to perform this exercise. If the stretch is too intense, try the lying quad stretch instead.
You will most likely feel a very big stretch in your hip flexor area and through the quad muscle. This is what you want to feel. If you ever feel pain, stop the stretch immediately. Seek care from a healthcare professional if necessary.
Starting in a tabletop position, step (left/right) foot into a lunge position just outside a hand. Slowly wrap a band around the back forefoot and put the band over the shoulder. Start to pull and lift the back leg off the ground until you hit your end range. Keep the hip pressing forward, the belly sucking in and the glute active.