Muscle of the Month: Quadriceps

Massage Therapist and Trainer Sara Stevens walks you through a new muscle each month, highlighting everything from what the muscle does to how to relieve tension in that muscle and how we use that muscle in Spears Strong workouts. We hope you enjoy learning about the muscle of the month, or MOM as we're calling it. Want to learn more? Come to Sara's Strength & Flexibility and Relax & Restore workouts where she'll teach you all about the muscles. 

By Sara Stevens

Oh the quadriceps. We know them well. Whether you run, bike or stair climb, it's likely you've felt the burn in those large muscles from time to time. Maybe you've even found yourself surprised at how sore or tight this monster muscle becomes when you get a massage or turn to the foam roller. 

Location and what it does Quadriceps, officially known as the Quadriceps Femoris Group, are a group of 4 large muscles located at the front of the thigh. One of them, the rectus femoris, starts on the pelvis at the Anterior Inferior Iliac Spine (just below the pointy part of the front of the hip). The other 3 quadriceps start at various parts of the femur (thigh bone). All 4 come together to form the patellar tendon, a large tendon that crosses the knee and attaches to the shin bone. Together, these 4 muscles act to extend, or lock out, the knee. The rectus femoris also flexes the hip (brings knee toward nose).

When do we use it Quads are used every time we climb stairs, stand up, kick a ball, do squats, lunges or ruep kicks, push off when we’re walking, or climb a hill. Quads are an important part of strong hips and stable knees.

When they’re tight from underuse, they often get stuck to each other, to our inner thigh muscles, or to our hamstrings. This can interrupt normal movement patterns, contributing to knee pain and hip pain and making the patellar tendon vulnerable to injury. When the quads are significantly stronger than their opposing muscles, such as hamstrings and glutes, it can throw off the tracking of the patellar tendon, creating pain in the knee, especially with running or long hikes. This is often known as runner’s knee. Tight quads also sometimes pull down the front of the hips, causing an excessive curve in the low back, which can lead to low back pain and vulnerability.

Spears Strong training and workouts are all about even, strong hips. Strong hips means strong knees and ankles, and happy feet. Strong hips also means a happy back, shoulders and neck. At Spears Strong we make sure we’re training all the muscles around our hips evenly, not only to be able to produce more force, but also to be able to move through the full range of motion.

How to relieve it A great way to stretch out our quads is to wear them out a little with some ruep kicks, then follow that up with a shoulder bridge. Or, for a standing stretch, alternate knee to chest with a standing quad stretch. While standing: bring one knee as close in to your chest as you can (without bending over to meet it), then lower that leg, lift your foot up toward your glutes and grab the ankle. Squeeze your glutes and briefly stretch the quads, then switch legs. Repeat 5-10 times each leg.