August Muscle of the Month – Quadriceps

The quadriceps muscles are a group of muscles on the front of your thighs. As their name suggests, there are four distinct muscles that make up the quadriceps muscles.

What and where is it?

The quadriceps are the 4 powerful muscles that make up the top front part of the leg.

They comprise: the rectus femoris, the vastus lateralis, the vastus intermedius and the vastus medialis.

Why is the muscle important?

The quadriceps all work to extend (straighten) the knee. The rectus femoris flexes the hip, the vastus medialis adducts the thigh and also extends and externally rotates the thigh and stabilises the kneecap.

If your quads are weak you are more likely to suffer from knee problems as there is less stability. If they are tight you are more likely to suffer with hip and back problems due to them pulling you forwards.

How to activate the muscle?

A simple way of getting the quads activated before training is to do some cardio first to get your heart rate up. The upright cycle and stepper are the main ones which will get the quads engaged. You can also try sitting on the floor in an upright position with your legs out in front of you, start lifting one leg up at a time.

How to train?

Barbell Back Squat

  • Set the squat rack hook height at roughly shoulder level.
  • Place the barbell onto the hooks and add the desired amount of weight.
  • Stand close to the barbell with your feet roughly shoulder width apart.
  • Place your hands an equal distance apart from the centre of the bar. Set your grip width as close as is comfortably possible when in position under the barbell.
  • Pull yourself under the barbell and squeeze your shoulder blades together which will create a shelf-like surface across your upper back for the barbell to sit on.
  • Before un-racking the barbell, take a deep breath into your stomach and lock your abdominals tight like you’re bracing for a punch. At the same time, pull the barbell down into your upper back.
  • Un-rack the barbell from the hooks and give yourself three steps to get into position.
  • Before starting the movement, take another deep breath and re-set your brace.
  • Keeping your back straight, push your hips backwards and bend your knees to squat down.
  • You have reached the end of your range of motion when you cannot move any lower without your lower back rounding.
  • Pause for a moment keeping your upper body braced and tension in your legs.
  • Push through both legs to reverse the motion and return to the start position.

Barbell Front Squat

  • First set the bar on a rack that best matches your height. Once the correct height is chosen and the bar is loaded, bring your arms up under the bar while keeping the elbows high and the upper arm slightly above parallel to the floor. Rest the bar on top of the deltoids and hold underneath the bar with hands as close or as wide apart as comfortable.
  • Lift the bar off the rack by first pushing with your legs and at the same time straightening your torso.
  • Step away from the rack and position your legs using a shoulder width medium stance with the toes slightly pointed out. Keep your head up at all times as looking down will get you off balance and also maintain a straight back. This will be your starting position.
  • Begin to slowly lower by bending the knees as you maintain a straight posture with the head up. Continue down until the angle between the upper leg and the calves becomes slightly less than 90-degrees (which is the point in which the upper legs are below parallel to the floor). Inhale as you perform this portion of the movement. Tip: If you performed the exercise correctly, the front of the knees should make an imaginary straight line with the toes that is perpendicular to the front. If your knees are past your toes then you are placing undue stress on the knee and the exercise has been performed incorrectly.
  • Begin to rise up as you exhale by pushing the floor mainly with the middle of your foot as you straighten the legs again and go back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

Leg Extension

  •  First choose your weight and sit on the machine with your legs under the pad (feet pointed forward) and the hands holding the side bars. This will be your starting position. Tip: You will need to adjust the pad so that it falls on top of your lower leg (just above your feet.
  • Using your quadriceps, extend your legs until they are straight, but not locked out as you exhale. Ensure that the rest of the body remains stationary on the seat. Pause a second on the contracted position.
  • Slowly lower the weight back to the 90 degrees as you inhale.
  • Repeat for the recommended amount of times.

Weighted Step-ups

  •  Stand up straight while holding a dumbbell on each hand (palms facing the side of your legs).
  • Place the right foot on the elevated platform. Step on the platform by extending the hip and the knee of your right leg. Use the heel mainly to lift the rest of your body up and place the foot of the left leg on the platform as well. Breathe out as you execute the force required to come up.
  • Step down with the left leg by flexing the hip and knee of the right leg as you inhale. Return to the original standing position by placing the right foot of to next to the left foot on the initial position.
  • Repeat with the right leg for the recommended amount of repetitions and then perform with the left leg.

How to stretch?

Lying Quad Stretch

  •  Lie in a face-down position, propping your head on your left hand. Alternatively, you can lie on your side to perform this stretch.
  • After a couple of seconds, pull your right foot toward your butt and bend your left knee to stabilize yourself.
  • Hold onto your ankle and maintain the position for 30 seconds.
  • Switch sides, pulling your left foot toward your back and bending your right knee.

The Simple Quad Stretch

  • Stand on your left leg, one knee touching the other. You can hold a chair or the wall to keep you steady if needed.
  • Grab your right foot, using your right hand, and pull it towards your butt. Be sure to push your chest up and hips forward. Try not to worry about pushing your foot too close to your backside; your focus should be on feeling the stretch in your quad muscle and pushing your hips forward to get a good hip flexor stretch
  • Hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds, then repeat, switching from your left leg to your right.

The Kneeling Quad Stretch

  •  Start the stretch in a high lunge position, with your left foot forward.
  • Carefully drop your right knee to the floor and take a moment to find your balance.
  • Once you’re ready, reach back with your right arm, and grab your ankle, or toes, depending on what’s easiest.
  • Hold the position for 30 seconds, keeping your body steady.
  • Gradually come back into the lunge position and switch from your left foot to your right.

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