Quadricep Stretches

Author: Chloe Wilson - BSc(Hons) Physiotherapy

Quadricep stretches are a great way to reduce knee pain and help 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 (quads) are made up of four muscles that run down the front of the thigh. They 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 quadricep 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.

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

Top 4 Quadricep Stretches

1) Standing Quadriceps Stretch

Standing quadricep stretch

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

Note: 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

Quadricep stretch in side lying

Starting Position: Lie down on your side with your shoulders, hips and knees in a straight lineYou 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

Starting Position: Lie flat down on your tummy

Quadricep stretch performed lying down.  Provides better control and more targetted stretching.  Approved use by www.hep2go.co

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 further

4) Kneeling Quadriceps Stretch

Kneeling quadriceps stretch

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 Next?

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 hamstring stretches, glutes stretches, ITB stretches and calf stretches pages.

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

Go to Knee Exercise Guide or Knee Pain Guide


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