A heavy set of squats can leave your quads sore and legs screaming for several days after your lifting session. Addressing your mobility and stretching your quads before training and during your recovery period is crucial, help improve power, strength, and performance. Tight muscles can inhibit your performance, making stretching a integral component of your training regimen. We’re going to talk about the best quad stretches to keep you loose and pushing the volume on leg day.
Your quadriceps, quads for short, are comprised of four different muscles, located in the upper anterior side of your leg. Together, your quads make up more mass, than any other group of muscles in the body. They are the largest and most powerful, providing you with the ability to jump, sprint, run, walk, and perform various strength movements.
- Rectus femoris – comes straight down the leg and attaches to the patella.
- Vastus lateralis - on the outer side of the thigh. It is the largest and most powerful quad muscle.
- Vastus medialis - on the inner part of the thigh. It is the smallest quad muscle.
- Vastus intermedius - between the vastus lateralis and vastus medialis. It is the deepest quad muscle, covered entirely by the rectus femoris.
These four muscles, unite proximal to the knee and attach to the patella via the quadriceps tendon. The quads help keep your knee stable and provide power for movement. The rectus femoris also flexes the hip, while the vastus medialis adducts the thighs and extends and externally rotates the thigh and stabilizes the kneecap.
Causes Of Tight Quads
Your quads can become extremely tight, due to several reasons. Heavy training sessions, with resistance, can create muscle soreness, tightness and tension, which can inhibit athletic performance, days following your training. When this tension is not addressed with proper mobility and stretching, those muscles can become overtrained, leading to further risk of injury.
A sedentary lifestyle can also increase tension and tightness in your quadriceps. Prolonged sitting, especially for those who work in an office, and sit at a desk all day, are more prone to injury and muscle tightness.
Best Quad Stretches
For this article, we are going to cover some more advanced quad stretches, as opposed to common stretches like the standing or sitting quad stretch. We’ve included several quad stretches below, to help add more variety to your mobility and training program.
1. Butterfly Stretch
The butterfly stretch targets your inner thighs and quads. It’s one of the best and most effective quad stretches, to help you loosen the areas, that are often neglected and overlooked when training.
How To Butterfly Stretch
- Start in a seated position.
- Cross your legs, and push your feet together, as close to your groin area as possible.
- Stretch forward and push your knees down as close to the ground you can get.
- Hold for a deep stretch 5-10 seconds and repeat.
2. Couch Stretch
Couch stretch is a very beneficial quad stretch, that can help isolate your quads better than most other stretches. This movement is unilateral, focusing on one leg at a time and can really help loosen tight and overworked muscles. This stretch is also an effective hip opener, and can improve mobility in your back, hips, and core.
How To Couch Stretch
- Bend your left knee and place your shin along the back cushion of bench, or wall with your toes pointed upward ( think of the Bulgarian split quat, but with a deeper stretch and hold)
- Keep your left thigh in line with your body.
- Place your right foot in front, aligning your knee above your ankle.
- Elongate your spine and engage your core and glutes.
- Keep your hips square.
- Hold for at least 30 seconds.
- Repeat and switch sides.
3. Half Saddle Stretch
Half saddle stretch is another quad stretch that can greatly improve hip mobility. The half saddle stretch is also a great glute stretch, helping improve range of motion and flexibility in the entire posterior chain.
How To Half Saddle Stretch
- Start in staff position, with both legs out in front of you.
- Bend one of your knees and drop the top of the foot down to the floor or mat.
- The top of the foot should be down, and have your knees as close together as possible.
- Lean back slowly and you’ll feel a stretch in the quads and hip flexors.
4. Pike Stretch
Pike stretch can be performed either standing or sitting and is simply a toe touch. This stretch can really help tight quads by focusing and isolating each side. This stretch also reaches your low back, glutes, and hip flexors, helping with better mobility.
How To Pike Stretch
- Sitting or standing, with your feet together, reach your arms in front of you and touch your toes.
- Hold this position for 20-30 seconds.
- Repeat 3-5 times.
Quad Stretches: Takeaway
When you feel extra tightness and you're sore from your workout, taking the time to stretch your quads and work on your mobility will help improve your performance and reduce your risk of injury. Add a few of these quad stretches into your accessory work and you'll be ready to get back to lifting.