As an athlete, you use your quads a lot. They're active every time you sprint, change directions, jump up for a ball, lunge or squat. Combined with our habit of sitting throughout the day, our quads also have a tendency to tighten up.
The quadriceps consist of four individual muscles—the vastus medialis, rectus femoris, vastus intermedius and vastus lateralis. Together, these muscles extend (straighten) the knee and flex (bend) your hips.
However, if the quads become tight or overactive from overuse or a lack of strength, it can cause a number of problems.
"One thing we see is if we have tight quads, we can often develop patellar tendon issues," explains Dr. Matt Stevens, physical therapist and owner of Pure Physio (Strongsville, Ohio). "We often see this a lot in our younger athletes who develop Osgood-Schlatters. As they're growing, their muscles don't quite catch up with how fast their bones are growing."
Also, tight quads can contribute to anterior pelvic tilt by pulling your pelvis forward, which may result in tight hamstrings, low-back pain, limited hip mobility and poor posture throughout the rest of your body,
So how do you loosen up your quads? A few standing quad stretches that you've probably done countless times won't cut it. Instead, Stevens recommends the Couch Stretch.
Couch Stretch How-To
Step 1: Assume a half-kneeling position with your right knee on the ground. Place your right foot on a bench, wall or couch (hence the name) behind you. Flex your right glute and ensure that your torso is upright. Place your hands on your left knee.
Step 2: Push your hips backward to feel a stretch through your right quads and the frontside of your hip.
Step 3: Pull your foot toward your butt to activate your hamstrings. Hold this position for 2-3 seconds and return your foot to the bench, wall or couch.
Step 4: Repeat Step 2.
Sets/Reps: 2-3x10 each leg
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