Stretching is an essential component of maintaining healthy, functional muscles. Last time, we covered how to stretch biceps for maximum development and function. But this time around, we’re going to show you how to stretch quads the correct way.
Well… at least with the help of Jeff Cavaliere, MSPT, CSCS (Athlean X) who has quickly become a preferred source for stuff like this and anything related to fitness really.
Cavaliere bases his information and advice on science and his own experiences with training elite athletes. But you’d know this if you’re a regular on his channel, which most are. So, you can rest assured his advice on stretching the quads is no different.
We’ve also provided a few other ways to stretch the quads for some variety in your stretching routine.
But first, let’s talk briefly about the quads anatomy and function…
Quadriceps anatomy and function
The quadriceps or quads have four heads (vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius and the rectus femoris) that are highly involved in walking, running, jumping due to its role as a knee and hip extensor. All four heads cross the knee joint but the rectus femoris also crosses the hip joint.
Because the quads are highly involved in physical movement, injuries are a common issue. But regularly stretching can definitely help to keep you pain and injury-free. Stretching can also be a great way to rehab an injury but you should do this under the care of a professional.
Now here’s a simple guide to proper quad stretching…
For the Athlean X video on quad stretching, Jeff Cavaliere shows two examples of how most people stretch their quads. You can probably imagine that it either involves standing and pulling your ankle to your butt or lying down and essentially doing the same thing.
The problem with these two methods (although, they aren’t the worst) is that they don’t allow you to get the most optimal stretch.
But why not?
“There’s a big problem when we stretch our quads out is that we’re always incorporating a substitution pattern right here through the lumbar spine that winds up compromising the stretch on the quads,” says Cavaliere.
He explained that it’s important to take lumbar extension out of the stretch for the best results.
So, how do you do that?
Here’s a step-by-step…
Step 1: Get on the ground and lie on your left side.
Step 2: Grab your right ankle and hold it up near your bottom.
Step 3: Bend your left leg (should be the leg touching the floor) at a 90-degree angle by lifting your knee up toward your chest.
Step 4: Pull on your right ankle and feel the stretch on your quads.
Repeat this on the other side
So what you’ll notice with this simple, yet effective modification is that using your bottom leg to form a 90-degree angle actually flattens out your lower back. It removes the curve and lumbar extension which is exactly what you want. As a result, you get an optimal quad stretch.
So, try it out for yourself!
Check out the full video below…
4 Other Ways To Stretch Your Quads
As you probably know by now, the most important aspect of stretching your quads should be preventing lumbar extension. So, here are a few other effective stretches you can do that will minimize this.
1. Lying quad stretch using a belt/strap or prone quad stretch
For this stretch, you’ll want to lie face down on your stomach. But before you do that take a long fabric belt or something similar and wrap it around the top of your shoe or ankle. Now, hold on to the other end then Lie your head down on the floor facing the direction of the leg you’re stretching (you can use a pillow too) and pull to stretch your quads.
You should be pulling the belt over your shoulder so your arm is in front of your body.
2. Half-kneeling quad stretch
For this stretch, get into a half-kneeling position and place the knee of the leg you’ll be stretching on something with cushion (e.g. pillow, pad, etc). Grab the ankle or foot of the leg being stretched and hold it at your bottom. Lean your torso forward slightly and then move the other leg out to increase the stretch in your quads.
3. Table assisted quad stretch
This variation is very similar to the half-kneeling stretch with the difference being the assistance of a table to get a more pronounced stretch.
To do it, place the top of your foot on a table behind you, keep your torso straight, and then bend the opposite leg to stretch your quadricep. You can also move your butt toward the foot of the leg being stretched or move your non-working leg out further to get a better stretch.
You can lean your torso forward slightly but just make sure you’re not arching your lower back. You want to keep it as flat as you can.
4. Heel sitting quad stretch
The last alternative quad stretch is one where you simply sit on your heels with your torso upright and lean back. This might not be possible for everyone though so you can progress this stretch by starting with your butt a few inches above your heels.
But for the basic variation, sit on your heels so that the top of your foot is flat on the floor. This may be all the stretch you need if your quads are really tight and you don’t necessarily need to lean back for a more pronounced stretch.
If you want to take it a step further, keep your torso rigid, and lean back to increase the stretch in your quads. It’s very important to not arch your back when you lean backward. Maintain a nice rigid and neutral torso so your lower back is as flat as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why should we stretch quad muscles?
Stretching is important for optimal muscle function, preventing injury and even rehabbing injuries. Sometimes, muscles become too tight and as a result, physical activities cause overstretching of these tight muscles, leading to injuries or decreased performance.
How to stretch the quads effectively?
The most optimal way to stretch the quadriceps muscles is to have your ankle or foot behind your body while avoiding lumbar extension or arching of the lower back.
This maximizes quad stretch while removing lower back involvement.
Check out these effective quad stretches that we’ve provided in our article.
When is the best time to stretch the quads?
It’s usually not a good idea to stretch a cold muscle. So, you should engage in light activity to warm up your quad muscles before stretching them.
How often should I stretch my quads?
You can stretch your quads every day but it’s not totally necessary. However, frequent stretching is highly recommended to prevent injury and to keep your muscles loose and fully functional.
Effectively stretching your quads is super simple and there’s nothing complex about it. Get yourself into a position to where you minimize lumbar extension and maximize quad stretch for optimal results. Doing it properly will help you to prevent injuries and improve the function of your quadriceps.