Quadricep Stretches

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Quadriceps Stretches You Can Do at Home

Photo of a young woman stretch her thigh.
You can stretch your quads just about anywhere. Cultura RM Exlcusive/Jordan Lutes/Getty

The quadriceps are four muscles located in the anterior part, or front, or your thigh. This muscle group acts to extend the leg while straightening the knee. Running and biking, as well as daily activities, can result in tight quadricep muscles. Sometimes tightness in your quads may be a culprit in different injuries such a patellofemoral stress syndrome (PFSS) or iliotibial band friction syndrome (ITBS). Your quads may also be tight if you have spinal stenosis or other related problems with your lumbar spine.

A stretching program for your quads is a great way to improve flexibility in this muscle group. Your physical therapist can assess your specific condition and offer you strategies to stretch your quads.

Here is a step-by-step quad stretching progression much like one that your PT may prescribe. Before trying this - or any other exercise program - check in with your doctor to ensure that exercise is safe for you to do.

Your stretches may be a little more comfortable if you warm up a bit before stretching. A few minutes walking or biking can get your quad muscles warm so they can strethc a bit easier.

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Standing Quadricep Stretch

Standing Quadricep Stretch. Picture by Dr. Laura Inverarity

What's so great about the standing quad stretch? You can do it anywhere! The standing quad stretch can be done in the office, at the gym, or outside just before a long run. If you can find a place to stand, you can do the standing quad stretch. Here is how you do it:

  1. While standing, hold onto a counter top or chair back to assist in balance.
  2. Bend your knee back by grasping your ankle with one hand.
  3. Assist in bending your knee back as far as possible.
  4. Maintain position for 30 seconds.
  5. Return to standing position.
  6. Repeat exercise 3 to 5 times with each leg.

Be sure to stop the stretch if you feel any sharp pains. If you do, see your physical therapist to be sure you are performing the stretch properly.

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Sidelying Quadricep Stretch

Sidelying Quadricep Stretch. Picture by Dr. Laura Inverarity

The sidelying quad stretch is a great way to get a good stretch to your quads. Being on the floor in a supported position can help you focus in on the stretch in your quads. Here is how you do the sidelying quad stretch:

  1. Lie on your side.
  2. Bend the knee of your top leg as far as you are able.
  3. Maintain position for 30 seconds.
  4. Return to starting position.
  5. Repeat exercise 3 to 5 more times with each leg.

You can add a little iliotibial band stretch to this exercise simply by pulling your knee down towards the floor with your ankle. Just place your bottom ankle on top of your knee and gently pull it down towards the floor as you are stretching your quad.

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Prone Quadricep Stretch

Prone Quadricep Stretch. Picture by Dr. Laura Inverarity

You can stretch your quads while lying on your stomach as well. In this position, the floor helps to stabilize your pelvis, minimizing rocking and maximizing stretch. Here is how you do the prone quadriceps stretch:

  1. Lie on your stomach.
  2. Bend your knee back as far as you are able.
  3. Maintain position for 30 seconds.
  4. Return to starting position.
  5. Repeat exercise 3 to 5 more times with each leg.

If you are having a difficult time reaching your ankle to pull your leg up, simply wrap a towel or strap around your ankle and use that to pull. This can help get an effective stretch in your quads, even if you cannot reach your ankle easily.

Stretching your quads may be a necessary part of your PT home exercise program, or you may simply want to do it to maintain appropriate quad flexibility. Either way, spending time stretching your quads with an exercise program similar to this one can be a great way to maximize mobility and prevent injury.

Check in with your physical therapist and learn the best quad stretches (or other quad strengthening exercises) for you. Keeping your quads healthy may be necessary to keeping your knees moving and to maximizing your functional mobility.

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