Written By: Chloe Wilson, BSc(Hons) Physiotherapy
Reviewed by: KPE Medical Review Board
Quadricep stretches are a great way to reduce knee pain, improve flexibility and help to prevent injuries.
The quadriceps, aka quads, are a group of four muscles that run down the front of the thigh and join together forming the patella tendon. They work together to straighten the knee.
Tight quads are a common cause of knee pain as they change the way the forces go through the knee joint and the patella making them more prone to injury.
We will start by looking at how the quads muscles function and common knee problems from tight quads, and then look at the best ways to do quad stretches in a variety of positions so you can find the best ones for you.
Quadricep stretches often play an important part of knee pain rehab. The four quadricep muscles work together and their primary function is to straighten the knee and control how the kneecap moves.
The quads muscles play a particularly important role in activities such as:
If the quadriceps get tight, not only can they limit knee flexion, but they can also pull the kneecap out of position slightly, causing friction at the knee.
So it is really important to have good length in your quads. Alongside this, it often helps to strengthen the muscles as well as stretching them to ensure they are functioning properly, so make sure you check out the quads strengthening exercises too.
Here you will find four great quadricep stretches to choose from, each in a different position. You only need to do one or two of them - pick whichever you find works best for you. In order to be most effective you need to:
Hold quad stretches for 30 seconds and repeat them 3 times
Now let's look at some of our favorite quadricep stretches for knee pain.
This standing quadricep stretch is great because you can do it anywhere - at home, in the office or out and about. And you don't need to be able to get on and off the floor. To do standing quad stretches:
Top Tip: Keep your upper body up straight – don’t lean forwards or it reduces the stretch through the quads
Progression: To stretch further, carry out this quads stretch as described but also clench the glutes to roll the pelvis back and/or take the knee backwards
Side lying quadricep stretches give you a little more support so you can really focus on your stretching. And because you are lying down, there is no weight going through the knee making them perfect quad stretches for knee pain. To do this side lying quadriceps stretch:
Top Tips: 1. If you can't reach your ankle or have tight quads knee pain, 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
Doing quad stretches lying on your stomach are really effective for tight quads as your hips and pelvis are anchored which targets the stretch directly at the quads. To do lying quad stretches:
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 the quads further
Some people prefer to do kneeling quad stretches, particularly if they find it difficult to get up and down from the lying on the floor or to balance standing on one leg. To do kneeling quadricep stretches:
Progression: Increase the stretch by clenching your glutes to roll your pelvis back, and/or lunge forwards more onto the front leg
Tight quads are a common cause of knee pain. People with tight quads are more prone to:
Tight quads knee pain may be felt in the front of the thigh or result in front knee pain.
Quadriceps stretches should ideally be done twice a day if you are looking to increase muscle length, and always before and after sport.
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 - maximum benefit for minimum effort!
Quad stretches for knee pain are often most effective when combined with:
And don't forget, it's really important to make sure you have good strength as well as length in your quadriceps. If you are wanting to build up the strength of your quadriceps muscles, go to the quadriceps strengthening exercises section.
Page Last Updated: 12/08/21
Next Review Due: 12/08/23
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