How to stretch your quads quadriceps

Pain in the quad muscles or the muscles of the front part of the thighs is a common phenomenon. There are 4 different types of muscles that together construct the quad muscles and these are – rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius and vastus medialis. 1 These muscles together help you to extend or stretch your legs from the knees. When there is some problem or injury with these quad muscles, you will feel a pain and discomfort in stretching your legs from a flexed position. Though mostly athletes and sportsmen experience quad muscle pain, it can actually occur to anyone of any age.

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

What Can Cause Pain in the Quad Muscles?

There are many possible causes for quad muscle pain. The most common ones are –

Strained Quad Muscles

Straining of the quad muscles is the most common and prominent reasons behind the occurrence of pain in these muscles. As already mentioned, this mostly happens with the athletes, especially those, who are associated with sports that require running, kicking or jumping.

When you stretch or flex your lower legs from the knee joints for kicking, jumping or running, you actually impart a huge amount of force there. If the force is too much for the quad muscles, there will be a strain or tear or pull in these muscles. This also occurs because there is an imbalance between the hamstring muscles and the quad muscles, where the hamstring muscles are quite strong and can bear a lot of force and the quad muscles are quite weaker in comparison and cannot bear equal amount of force, resulting in the strain.

The strain or tear or the pull occurs in the musculotendinous junction, which is a connection between the tendons and the muscle fibers. The strain can be mild to severe. Mild strains can be treated with home remedies and are completely healed within a few weeks of rest. However, severe strains may require surgical intervention and sometimes may impart discomfort that can last forever, despite surgery.

Muscle Contusion as a Cause of Quad Muscle Pain:

Another common cause of quad muscle pain is muscle contusion. When your quad muscles experience a sudden forceful blow, in the front part of your thighs, the quad muscles may experience a bruise and blood clot known as hematoma. Usually in these cases, there is no damage to the external skin, but the muscles may be bruised and swelled, limiting your mobility and causing pain.

Fibromyalgia to Cause Quad Muscle Pain:

This is a condition that is not exclusive for the quad muscles, but if you have this condition, you will experience pain and other discomforts in different body muscles and tissues. The cause of fibromyalgia is not clear, but certain infections, physical and emotional trauma and genetic factors can be the reasons. Pain in the quad muscles can be caused by this. However, if fibromyalgia is the cause, then you may experience pain in other parts of the body and in different other muscles ad tissues as well.

Symptoms of Quad Muscle Pain

The pain itself is a symptom of different types of damage, injury and other problems in the quad muscles. 1 However, when you feel pain in the quad muscles, there are some other symptoms as well, that you may experience.

  • Swelling
  • Blood lump in the muscle, under the skin
  • Bruise
  • Limited mobility
  • Feeling crackling sensation and pain when you run your fingers through your thighs
  • Inability to walk or do any activities as such.

However of course, depending on the extent of the quad muscle pain, you will feel these symptoms. Sometimes, when the pain is not too intense, the other symptoms may not be encountered.

Treatments for Quad Muscle Pain

If you feel that the pain in your quad muscles is too much to bear or there have been other serious injuries like a tear or straining of your tendons and muscle fibres, you should see a doctor at once. Also, even if you self-diagnose the pain to be mild and still find there is swelling and bruising, you should see a doctor without delay. The doctor will give you NSAIDs like ibuprofen or acetaminophen etc.

Sometimes, surgical intervention is needed to take care of the condition. For that the doctor will prepare you for the surgery and give you a series of guidance that will help you to recover faster.

Sometimes, after you are healed completely, the doctor may ask you to do certain exercises that will strengthen your quad muscles. This way, you may avoid or ignore further damage in your quad muscles.

Home Remedies for Quad Muscle Pain

If you experience pain in your quad muscles, the very preliminary treatment would be some easy home remedies. These are like basic first aid. The home remedies, known as R.I.C.E. techniques are very useful in most cases, when the pain is not so severe. R.I.C.E. stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation.

The first thing that you need to keep in mind is that your legs need to rest, when you have pain in your quad muscles. Ignoring any sort of quad muscle pain thinking it is mild and will go away on its own, will only worsen the condition or injury if there is any. So, resting is a must. The more you rest, the faster you will recover from this condition.

Any sort of swelling and bruising can be controlled and lessened with a simple home remedy like ice pack application. Apply ice pack for about 3 to 4 times every day, for about 20 minutes. Here, it must be mentioned that you must always apply the ice either through a piece of cloth or using an ice bag, but never directly on the skin.

Compression

For reducing the swelling, compression is also very helpful home remedy and must be done in the initial stage of quad muscle pain. Wrap the area that is injured or you are experience the pain and discomfort in, with an elastic bandage. This will apply pressure locally and thereby, control the swelling.

Elevation :

If you keep your legs elevated, with the help of a cushion or a pillow, it will help the toxins and fluids to drain away from the area of quad muscle pain.

If you feel these techniques are not doing you any good or the pain is too much to bear and needs immediate medical supervision, you should go to a doctor at once.

If you’ve been spending a lot of time on your butt, these moves can help you with those stiff legs.

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

Your Personal PT, Rachel Tavel, is a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) at Shift Wellness in NYC, so she knows how to get your body back on track when it’s out of line. In this series, she gives you tips on how to feel better, get stronger, and train smarter.

If you’ve been spending more time sitting on your couch and working from home than hitting the gym the last several months, you’re not alone.

However, all that sitting can lead to tight quads. Thankfully, a few simple stretches can help reduce stiffness and improve mobility—so it’s not difficult to add stretching from home to your to-do list.

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

Why You Need to Stretch Your Quads

Why stretch? Tight muscles can impede proper body mechanics but take down your standing and sitting posture, contributing to poor alignment that makes you more prone to injury. (And who wants to add an injury to their list of problems?) Stretching has been proven to improve mobility, posture, and optimal body alignment while reducing muscle tension. A good stretch session can also provide a much needed moment of zen on any day.

Your quads could use a stretch because they are probably tighter than you realize. The quads (or quadriceps) consist of four muscles—the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis and vastus intermedius. Together, these muscles make up most of the muscle bulk at the front of your thigh.

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

While you may feel your quads working most during physical activity (going up or down stairs, squatting or lifting your leg straight out in front of you), simply sitting for a long time with your hips flexed can lead to tightness of these muscles. Tightness at the front of the hips can alter the alignment of the pelvis, which connects to the lumbar spine, which connects to the rest of your spine and your neck, and on and on—yes, it’s all connected—so don’t think quad stretching will only benefit your legs. By regularly incorporating some specific quad-targeting stretches into your day, you can help maintain good mobility in the hips and potentially offset other aches and pains up and down the body that are caused by poor alignment.

The quads are considered a two-joint muscle, meaning they cross two different joints: the hip and the knee. This means that in order to stretch or elongate the muscles properly, you’re going to have to make sure both ends of the muscle are being lengthened.

How do you make a stretch count? As a general rule, there are three ways:

  1. Stretch regularly
  2. Hold each stretch at least 30 seconds
  3. Do it right

Even if the first round of stretches doesn’t feel great, keep doing it. When you make a habit out of stretching, you will feel better—not just when you stretch, but when you move.

The Best Quad Stretches

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

Below are several versions of a quad stretch that can be performed in different positions depending on your goals and which position is most comfortable. For each stretch:

  • Hold each stretch for 2 to 3 sets of at least 30 seconds.
  • Breathe. Inhale deeply, then as you exhale, see if you can achieve a slightly deeper stretch.
  • Stretches should be slightly uncomfortable at first, but they shouldn’t be painful. Ease into them slowly and do not force yourself to go farther if your body won’t allow it.

Kneeling quad stretch: Begin kneeling on the floor, with right leg in front, left knee on the ground. Hold onto something stable with your right hand to stabilize. Take the arch out of your low back by tucking your pelvis or performing a neutral pelvis or small posterior pelvic tilt (move pubic bone underneath belly button instead of behind it). Grab your left foot with your left hand and gently lift it off the floor, bending the knee until you feel a good stretch in the front of the thigh. Hold. Repeat on the other side.

Prone quad stretch: Begin lying on your stomach. Slowly bend your right knee so that foot moves towards your butt. Using your right hand, grab the ankle of your right leg and slowly draw it closer to your butt without letting your lower back arch. You should feel the stretch at the front of the right hip/thigh/knee. Hold. Repeat on the other side.

Supine quad stretch: Begin lying on your back on an elevated surface (examination table, bench, or even bed/couch). Scoot so your right hip is slightly off the edge of the surface. Allow your right leg to hang off the edge, with knee bent. Perform small posterior pelvic tilt to prevent pelvis from tilting anteriorly and lower back from arching. Hold. Repeat on the other side.

Standing quad stretch: Begin standing, with left hand holding onto a stable object for support. Grab your right ankle with your right hand and draw the foot towards your butt without arching the low back. Perform small posterior pelvic tilt to intensify the stretch. Hold. Repeat on the other side.

Laura Campedelli, PT, DPT, is a physical therapist with experience in hospital-based acute care and outpatient therapy with both children and adults.

Our sedentary culture breeds tight quadriceps muscles. Chronically tight quads can pull the pelvis forward which may accentuate the lordotic curve in your low back. A little lordosis is a good thing, but when it becomes excessive, back troubles may set in.

Tight Quads and Back Pain

The quadriceps muscles are a group of four muscles located at the front of the thigh.

It’s the effect the quadriceps have on the hip and pelvis that matters most when it comes to back pain.

  • One of the four muscles, the rectus femoris, originates on the anterior inferior iliac spine and crosses the hip. The rectus femoris flexes the hip joint and straightens the knee joint. It is not possible to fully do both actions at the same time.
  • The other three muscles originate on the thigh (not crossing the hip). They all insert on the patellar tendon and extend the knee.

Sitting puts you in a position with the rectus femoris in a shortened position. The more the quadriceps shorten and tighten, the greater the chance of chronic muscle tension in your lower back muscles.

When your quads are tight, they pull down, which in effect, pulls your entire pelvic bone forward, into an anterior tilt. The spine normally wedges in between the two hip bones (in the back), so it is carried along with this forward movement. The spine adapts to the change in position by accentuating the normal lordotic curve.

Assessing Tight Quads

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

Quadriceps muscle tension can be insidious. As a constant sitter, you may not notice the day in and day out decrease in your quad flexibility or the resulting tension in your low back muscles.

Or you might resign yourself to the regular low back aches and pains you’ve accumulated to the point that they’ve become your new “normal.” In other words, you’ve learned to live with limitations and at least some back pain—all because your quads are tight.

While getting a physical evaluation by a licensed doctor and/or physical therapist is the most accurate and reliable way to determine how tight your quadriceps muscles are, there’s a simpler way to determine your need for regular quad stretching.

You just put your hip joint on a stretch and notice how it feels. See a few ways to accomplish this very thing.

WHAT THE QUADRICEPS ARE AND WHY YOU SHOULD STRETCH THEM!

The quadriceps (commonly referred to as the quads), are a group of 4 muscles which run down the front of the thighs.

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

The quadriceps assist in extending the knees, and are used in every day activities such as getting up from a chair, walking and climbing stairs.

As we rely on the quadriceps to complete many every day activities, and if we spend a lot of time sitting, they can become an area of tightness.

In turn, although stretching out the quadriceps seems like a fairly straightforward way to ensure muscle tightness does not develop in this area, the quadriceps can be difficult to stretch. This is due to having to bring the knee up and balance with one leg, which can be an issue if mobility issues are present in the knee or shoulder, or balance issues are present.

Regardless of your current physical capabilities, the quadriceps are an important area of the body to stretch out and shouldn’t be neglected.

To make stretching out the quadriceps a little easier, here are 4 simple and effective stretches that you can do to get a good stretch in your quadricep muscles.

QUADRICEPS STRETCHES FOR SENIORS

1) COMMON STANDING QUADRICEPS STRETCH

HOW TO:

Standing up tall holding on to a sturdy surface to ensure you’re steady.

Bring your foot up to your buttocks while reaching back and holding on to your foot.

Ensure your knees are in line with each other and you remain standing up tall.

Hold for the set time and repeat on the other leg.

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

2) DYNAMIC STRETCH

For those not familiar with dynamic stretches, dynamic stretches consist of a movement-based type of stretching, where the muscles themselves are used to bring about a stretch.

HOW TO:

Standing up tall with your shoulders back and down and your feet hip-width apart.

Bring your foot up behind you as far as you feel comfortable, and then bring it back down.

Repeat on the other leg.

Continue alternating legs while completing this movement for the set time.

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

3) SIDE LYING STRETCH

HOW TO:

Lying on your side on your bed or floor in the position that is most comfortable for you.

Bring your ankle to your buttocks while bringing your arm back and holding on to your foot.

Gently bring your foot into your buttocks, feeling the stretch in the front of your thighs.

Hold for the set time and repeat on the other leg by safely rolling over and doing the same on the other side.

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

4) PRONE STRETCH (ON STOMACH) – WITH BELT

While effective when completed on the stomach, this stretch can also be completed in a side lying position.

HOW TO:

Place the end loop of the resistance band or belt around your ankle, facing behind you.

Lying on your stomach on your bed or floor in the position that is most comfortable for you.

Lift your leg up and place the resistance band or belt over your shoulder.

Gently pull on the resistance band or belt until you feel the stretch in your quadriceps.

Ensure your leg is coming directly up, and not pointing in ways or out ways.

Hold for the set time and repeat on the other leg.

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

You can also see the stretches performed in video below!

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To order the resistance band used in this video, click here.

WHAT THE QUADRICEPS ARE AND WHY YOU SHOULD STRETCH THEM!

The quadriceps (commonly referred to as the quads), are a group of 4 muscles which run down the front of the thighs.

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

The quadriceps assist in extending the knees, and are used in every day activities such as getting up from a chair, walking and climbing stairs.

As we rely on the quadriceps to complete many every day activities, and if we spend a lot of time sitting, they can become an area of tightness.

In turn, although stretching out the quadriceps seems like a fairly straightforward way to ensure muscle tightness does not develop in this area, the quadriceps can be difficult to stretch. This is due to having to bring the knee up and balance with one leg, which can be an issue if mobility issues are present in the knee or shoulder, or balance issues are present.

Regardless of your current physical capabilities, the quadriceps are an important area of the body to stretch out and shouldn’t be neglected.

To make stretching out the quadriceps a little easier, here are 4 simple and effective stretches that you can do to get a good stretch in your quadricep muscles.

QUADRICEPS STRETCHES FOR SENIORS

1) COMMON STANDING QUADRICEPS STRETCH

HOW TO:

Standing up tall holding on to a sturdy surface to ensure you’re steady.

Bring your foot up to your buttocks while reaching back and holding on to your foot.

Ensure your knees are in line with each other and you remain standing up tall.

Hold for the set time and repeat on the other leg.

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

2) DYNAMIC STRETCH

For those not familiar with dynamic stretches, dynamic stretches consist of a movement-based type of stretching, where the muscles themselves are used to bring about a stretch.

HOW TO:

Standing up tall with your shoulders back and down and your feet hip-width apart.

Bring your foot up behind you as far as you feel comfortable, and then bring it back down.

Repeat on the other leg.

Continue alternating legs while completing this movement for the set time.

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

3) SIDE LYING STRETCH

HOW TO:

Lying on your side on your bed or floor in the position that is most comfortable for you.

Bring your ankle to your buttocks while bringing your arm back and holding on to your foot.

Gently bring your foot into your buttocks, feeling the stretch in the front of your thighs.

Hold for the set time and repeat on the other leg by safely rolling over and doing the same on the other side.

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

4) PRONE STRETCH (ON STOMACH) – WITH BELT

While effective when completed on the stomach, this stretch can also be completed in a side lying position.

HOW TO:

Place the end loop of the resistance band or belt around your ankle, facing behind you.

Lying on your stomach on your bed or floor in the position that is most comfortable for you.

Lift your leg up and place the resistance band or belt over your shoulder.

Gently pull on the resistance band or belt until you feel the stretch in your quadriceps.

Ensure your leg is coming directly up, and not pointing in ways or out ways.

Hold for the set time and repeat on the other leg.

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

You can also see the stretches performed in video below!

“,”raw”:false>,”hSize”:null,”floatDir”:null,”html”:” \n “,”url”:”https://youtu.be/oZ7Hb6GF8vs”,”width”:854,”height”:480,”providerName”:”YouTube”,”thumbnailUrl”:”https://i.ytimg.com/vi/oZ7Hb6GF8vs/hqdefault.jpg”,”resolvedBy”:”youtube”>” data-block-type=”32″ >

To order the resistance band used in this video, click here.

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How to stretch your quads quadriceps

Running, strength training, and even walking call cause tightness in the quads. If you don’t implement an effective stretching regimen, it can lead to hip, knee, and even foot pain.

These simple stretches will loosen up your tight quads so that you can prevent injury and gently loosen up achy muscles. All of these stretches can be done up to three times a day and are best done daily and at the end of a workout. You’ll just need a yoga mat and a yoga block or pillow.

7 Easy Quad Stretches to Release Tightness

Supported Hero’s Pose | 30 sec

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

This stretch gently relieves tension from the quads.

  1. Start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees.
  2. Bring your knees together and separate your feet, placing a yoga block or pillow between your feet.
  3. Slowly sit your hips back onto the block or pillow. If your quads are really tight or you have knee pain, you may need to put the block on a higher height or double up the pillow.
  4. Once you feel comfortable, lift your chest and place your palms in your lap. Hold for 30 seconds.

Standing Quad Stretch | 30 sec per side

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

This simple stretch releases the tightness from your quads and hip flexors.

  1. Begin standing next to a wall. Place your left hand on the wall for stability.
  2. Pick up your right foot and bend the knee, bringing your heel towards your glutes.
  3. Catch hold of your foot with your right hand and hug the heel in towards your body. Keep the knee in line with your other knee and gently press your hip bones forward to feel the stretch all the way up through the front of your right hip. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.

Butterfly | 30 sec

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

This stretch gently releases tension through the hips, quads, and lower back.

  1. Sit down on your mat with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
  2. Bring the soles of your feet together to touch and allow your knees to butterfly out wide.
  3. Interlace your hands underneath your feet and press your thighs open with your elbows.
  4. Take an inhale to lengthen your spine, then exhale to fold forward and relax your shoulders and neck. Hold for 30 seconds.

Sphinx Quad Stretch | 30 sec per side

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

Open up your tight quads, hips, and belly with this stretch.

  1. Lie down on your belly and prop yourself up on your forearms. Engage your lower abs, drawing your navel up and in towards your spine.
  2. Cross your left forearm across your mat. Bend your right knee, bringing your heel towards your body, and reach back with your right hand to catch hold of the top of the foot.
  3. Continue pressing your left forearm into the ground to keep your shoulder from shrugging up towards your ear. Hug the heel in towards your body to feel a stretch through the front of your thigh. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.

Runner’s Lunge | 30 sec per side

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

This stretch releases tightness in the hips and quads. For an added quad stretch, you can add on a foothold.

  1. Start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees.
  2. Step your right foot outside of your right hand and turn the toes out at a 45-degree angle. Heel-toe your foot forward a little bit so that your ankle is slightly in front of your knee. Draw your belly up and in to feel a stretch through the front of the left hip and thigh.
  3. Stay here, or reach your right arm back, bend your left knee, and catch your left foot with your right hand.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.

Wall Quad Stretch | 30 sec per side

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

In this stretch, the wall assists with opening up your quads.

  1. Start facing away from the wall in a tabletop position on your hands and knees.
  2. Step your right foot between your hands. Bend your left knee and place the top of your left foot on the wall. Then scoot the left knee towards the wall to feel a stretch through the quad. The closer the knee is to the wall, the deeper the stretch.
  3. You can stay here with the hands framing the right foot, or walk the hands up onto your right thigh and lift your chest up. Wherever you choose to go, hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs.

Child’s Pose | 60 sec

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

This relaxing yoga pose is a great way to finish off a tough workout or to relax when your muscles are sore, all while releasing tightness in the quads, hips, and the lower back.

  1. Kneel down on your hands and knees. Separate your knees out wide to the edges of your mat and bring your toes together to touch.
  2. Sit your hips back onto your heels. Walk your hands towards the top of your mat and lower your forehead down.
  3. Continue walking the hands forward until your arms are straight and you feel a stretch through the sides of your body. Relax your arms and shoulders completely. Hold for 60 seconds.

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

Kelly Collins

Kelly is a certified Personal Trainer with NASM, a Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga Teacher, and has her Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology from San Diego State University. In addition to wellness coaching, she runs yoga and wellness retreats around the world with her company Elevated Retreats.

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How to stretch your quads quadriceps

Quadricep stretches are a great way to reduce knee pain and help to prevent injuries.

Muscle tightness is a common cause of knee pain as it changes the way the forces go through the knee making it more prone to injury.

The quadriceps aka quads are made up of four muscles that run down the front of the thigh and join together forming the patella tendon.

The quads control how the knee straightens and are particularly important for activities such as kicking and running.

If the quadriceps get tight, they can pull the kneecap out of position slightly, causing friction at the knee.

Here are four great stretches for the muscles on the front of your thigh, each in a different position. If you haven’t already read the introduction to knee stretches page, have a look for information on how to tell if your quads are tight, and how to get the best results from these quadricep stretches.

It often helps to do strengthen muscles as well as stretching them to ensure they are functioning properly so make sure you check our the quads strengthening exercises too.

Top 4 Quadricep Stretches

You only need to do one of these quadricep stretches – pick whichever you prefer, and to be most effective you need to:

Hold quads stretches for 30 seconds and repeat them 3 times

Always do quadricep stretches before and after any sports to reduce your risk of injury.

1. Standing Quadriceps Stretch

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

Starting Position: Stand on one foot, holding the back of a chair to balance. With your free hand, hold the ankle of the stretching leg behind you.

Action: Pull your heel towards your bottom until you feel a strong stretch in the front of your thigh. Hold for 30 secs.

Repetition: Repeat 3 times, 2x daily, or before and after exercise

Tip: Keep your upper body up straight – don’t lean forwards or it reduces the stretch

Progression: To stretch further, carry out the quads stretch as described but also clench the glutes to roll the pelvis back and/or take the knee backwards

2. Quadriceps Stretch Side Lying

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

Starting Position: Lie down on your side with your shoulders, hips and knees in a straight line . You can choose where you place your bottom arm – wherever feels most comfortable

Action: Bring your heel towards your bottom pulling at the ankle until you feel a stretch in the front of your thigh. Hold for 30 secs.

Repetition: Repeat 3 times, 2x daily, or before and after exercise

Notes: 1) If you can’t reach your ankle, place a band or belt around your foot and pull through that until you can feel a strong stretch in your quads
2) Make sure your knee doesn’t come forwards – it should stay in line with your hip throughout

3. Lying Quadriceps Stretch

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

Starting Position: Lie flat down on your tummy

Action: Bring your heel towards your bottom pulling at the ankle until you feel a stretch in the quads on the front of your thigh.
If you can’t reach your ankle, place a band or belt around your ankle and use that as shown in the picture. Hold for 30 secs.

Repetition: Repeat 3 times, 2x daily, or before and after exercise

Progression: 1) Prop yourself up on your elbows and carry out the quads stretch as described above
2) Place a pillow/rolled up towel under your knee and carryout the exercise as described above. Can combine with progression 1 to stretch the quads further

4. Kneeling Quadriceps Stretch

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

Starting Position: Half kneeling lunge position, knee to be stretched on the floor (resting on a towel or pillow for comfort)

Action: Draw your foot towards your bottom, either with one hand or using a towel/strap until you feel a stretch down the front of your thigh. Hold for 30 seconds

Repetition: Repeat 3 times, 2x daily or before and after exercising

Progression: Increase the stretch by clenching your glutes to roll your pelvis back, and/or lunge forwards more onto the front leg

What Else Can Help?

To get the best results from quadricep stretches, see the knee stretches guide for top tips on getting the maximum benefit from the minimum effort.

If you want to find out how to stretch your other knee muscles check out the following articles:

If you are wanting to build up the strength of your quadriceps muscles, go to the quadriceps strengthening exercises section.

Miho J. Tanaka, MD, is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who specializes in the treatment of sports medicine injuries.

The quadriceps (or quads) describe the four muscles located on the front of the thigh. They contract together to help flex (or lift up) the hip and extend (or straighten) the knee.

The quads often become weak after an injury is sustained or surgery is performed on the lower leg or thigh.   For this reason, it is important to learn how to strengthen this muscle group for a complete recovery. People with certain conditions often exhibit quadriceps weakness.   These conditions may include:

Typically, a specific area of your quad called the vastus medialis obliqus (VMO) may be weak or inhibited from contracting properly in these conditions. Your physical therapist (PT) can show you how to perform these quad exercises with a special focus on the VMO for maximal effect.  

Some quad-strengthening exercises place significant stress on your knee joint. Your physical therapist can show you ways to minimize joint stress while still strengthening your quadriceps. Be sure to check in with your doctor before starting these—or any other—exercises.

Straight Leg Raises

The straight leg raising exercise is a simple way to get your quad muscles working properly.   Here is how it’s done.

  1. Lie on your back on a flat surface.
  2. Bend the knee of your uninvolved leg (the one that wasn’t operated on, or the one you want to exercise) to a 90-degree angle and keep your foot flat on the surface. Keep your other leg straight without the knee bent and point your toes toward the ceiling.
  3. Slowly lift the involved leg 12 inches off the floor by contracting the front thigh muscles. Hold for five seconds.
  4. Slowly lower your leg to the floor. Relax, then repeat 10 to 15 times.

Things to Keep in Mind

The knee of the raised leg should remain straight throughout this exercise—totally straight. Focus on lifting by using the muscles on the front of your hip joint. This exercise can be made more challenging by placing a 2- or 3-pound cuff weight on your ankle before you lift or by placing a resistance band around both ankles.

Short Arc Quads

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

The short arc quad exercise is a great way to really focus in on properly contracting your quadriceps muscles. Here is how you do it:

  1. Lie on your back and use a yoga block or basketball to prop your knee up.
  2. Slowly straighten your bent knee until it is all the way straight.
  3. Tighten your quad muscle with your toes pointed toward the ceiling and hold it tight for five seconds.
  4. Slowly lower your leg down.
  5. Repeat for 15 repetitions.

Things to Keep in Mind

Be sure to lift and lower your leg in a slow, steady fashion and make sure the back of your knee stays against the bolster. When your knee is fully straight, try to contract your quad and straighten your knee all the way. You can also make this exercise more challenging by adding a small two- or ​three-pound cuff weight to your ankle.

Wall Slides

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

The wall slide exercise works multiple muscle groups, including your quads, glutes, and hamstrings. Here is how you do it:

  1. Stand upright with your back against a wall and feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Slowly bend your knees, sliding your back down the wall for a count of five until your knees are bent at a 45-degree angle. (Do not bend too much further than this, as it will cause increased strain on your knees.) Hold this position for five seconds.
  3. Straighten your knees by slowly sliding up the wall until you are fully upright with knees straight.
  4. Repeat the above steps 10 more times.

Remember, stop if you feel any increased pain or difficulty with this exercise.

Things to Keep in Mind

Be sure you lower and lift yourself in a slow, steady way. Make sure you do not squat too low; doing so may place excessive stress and strain on your knees. Squatting too low can also make it difficult to rise back up. Holding onto two dumbbells while you do the wall slide can make the exercise more challenging.

Terminal Knee Extension

How to stretch your quads quadriceps

Terminal knee extension (TKE) is a simple yet effective way to strengthen your quads in a standing position.   The TKE is considered a functional exercise, as your quads will be working while supporting your body weight.

To perform this exercise, you must first obtain a resistance band, like a Theraband, from your physical therapist. Once you have a band, you should be ready to start the exercise. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Tie your resistance band around a stable object so it is anchored around the height of your knee. (The leg of a heavy table is a good place, but make sure it will not move.)
  2. Step into the loop with the leg you wish to exercise.
  3. Face the anchor point with the resistance band looped around your knee and your knee slightly bent.
  4. Slowly straighten your knee, placing tension on the band. The resistance band should provide some resistance as you try to fully straighten your knee.
  5. Once your knee is straight and the band has tension on it, hold the position for three seconds.
  6. Slowly allow your knee to bend slightly once again.
  7. Repeat the exercise for 15 repetitions.

How to Do the TKE Like a Pro

When performing the TKE exercise, be sure to move in a slow and steady fashion. Be sure your knee moves directly over your toes; it should not deviate from the plane of motion over your toes. Doing so can place excessive strain on your knee.

You can make the TKE more challenging by placing a small foam pad underneath your stance foot. You can also make this a balance exercise by doing it while standing only on one foot.

A Word From Verywell

Working to keep your quadriceps strong can help you maximize mobility and may decrease your risk of overuse injury in sports. Check in with your PT to learn which quad exercises you should be doing.