The quadriceps, aka, “quads” are the four large muscles on the front of your thighs that are responsible for extending the knee. As a group, they are one of the main power generators for triple extension in movements such as running, jumping, squatting, lunging and biking. Because they are engaged in virtually every athletic movement, they can become tight following resistance training, metabolic conditioning, practice sessions, competitions and daily activities. As athletes and coaches, we understand the importance of stretching the quads to increase flexibility, enhance performance and reduce the risk of knee pain, back pain and injury.
The purpose of this article is not to discuss “why” we need to stretch the quads before and after activity, but to describe a stretch that can be used to isolate the quads more effectively than the conventional standing quad stretch that is commonly used by athletes and coaches in many sports. While we have all stood up and lifted our heel to our backside to stretch out our thighs. This stretch, while popular, is not the most effective way to stretch the quads because it often causes the pelvis to tilt forward instead of staying upright.
Using a stability ball (SB) will enable you to isolate and stretch the quads without the tilt associated with the standing quad stretch. To perform the SB stretch use the following steps:
- Place a SB against the wall.
- Place the thigh of your right leg behind you with your shin on SB.
- Place the left leg (support leg) forward with your weight on the on the sole of the foot.
- Raise your right arm up in the air (same side as the thigh being stretched) to add a multi dimensional stretch.
- Squeeze the right glute (on the side being stretched) to increase the stretch.
- Hold for 15-20 seconds then relax for 15-20 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times.
- Avoid leaning back.
- Keep breathing during each stretch.
- Repeat on the other leg.
Add this stretch to your daily stretching program to increase flexibility, reduce the risk of injury and enhance performance. Do it before and after training sessions, workouts and games and do it between sets and exercise during your lower-body workouts.
Eric McMahon, M.Ed., CSCS, RSCC, is the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Frisco Roughriders, Texas Rangers.