Basic Anatomy of Stretching the Quads

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Basic Anatomy of Stretching the Quads | Ep. 104 | Movement Fix Monday

This week, we are going to take a look at the basic anatomy of the quads and figure out how the anatomy affects hip extension and knee flexion.

The muscles that make up the anterior thigh consist of the four quad muscles plus (the longest muscle in the human body) the sartorius.

For the sake of our discussion here and now, we will ignore the sartorius as it is not a quad muscle (but we have to acknowledge it here since it is in the anterior thigh).

The four quadriceps muscles are: the rectus femoris, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius (and articularis genu, but ignore that one), and the vastus lateralis.

Interestingly, only one of the four quad muscles crosses the knee and hip joints: the rectus femoris. The other 3 only cross the knee joint. So, if you can fully bend your knee in any way, the vastus group isn't a limitation for you (its just your calf hitting your hamstrings...not going to be able to stretch that out; but why would you even want that?)

The main, and probably only, quad muscle you have ever really felt stretch is your rectus femoris. In order to stretch it, you have to take your hip into extension and your knee into flexion. The trick is, you can't let your low back go into a lot of arching or extension. If that happens, you are taking the rectus femoris off tension. If you flatten (or round) your low back, it will add more stretching load to the rectus femoris.

There are a few movements where you can look for this and consider the rectus femoris as the issue: The split squat / lunge and split jerks.

Why?

Because in both of those movements, the knee is flexed and the hip is in extension (for the back leg). If the rectus femoris is tight, it will pull on its attachments on the pelvis and make your low back arch (aka you are getting lumbar extension instead of hip flexion).

Ok that is a ton of anatomical language. Watch the video, it will make way more sense!

Thanks for reading,

Ryan

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