Our 3 Favorite Quad Stretches

runner stretches

Inside knee pain is not always your meniscus! Sometimes tight quads are the cause of knee pain.

Has this ever happened to you?

The weather is warming up and you think, hey, I will go for a run! About halfway through the run, your inside of your knee starts to bother you, so you google “medial knee pain.” What pops up? Medial meniscus, MCL (medial collateral ligament). Your mind goes flying off the rail – oh god, now I need surgery?!?

Take a deep breath. First off, not all meniscus / MCL tears need surgery. Second, most likely, that is not what you injured. It could just be as simple as some quad tightness.

The Anatomy of the Quadricep

Your quadriceps muscle group is made up of 4 muscles that attach to your patella (kneecap) and your tibia bone in your lower leg through two tendons – quadriceps tendon and patellar tendon.

If one of the quad muscles on the inside of the thigh is too tight, it can pull the patella medially toward the inside of your knee and cause pain because the patella is not “tracking” properly – it’s not sitting in the groove right and rubs the bones and tendons the wrong way. The same can happen on the outside of the knee if the quad muscles on the outside of the thigh is too tight.

3 Simple Exercises to Stretch your Quads

What can you do to help keep the right length in the quad which in turn helps the patella track correctly?

Stretching your quads can be very effective.  There are several quad stretches out there. Here are my 3 favorite, depending on where I am:

If I’m on the go…

I prefer to do a standing quad stretch if I’m out, whether I’m at work or waiting in line at the grocery store.

  1. 1. Make sure you have a balance, tighten your belly and reach back to grab your leg and hold your foot.
  2. 2. Make sure your knee is not in front of your body. Either have your knee right under your body or a little behind. 
  3. 3. To stretch the inside of the knee, pull your foot a little bit toward the outside of your buttock. To get the outer quad, pull your foot a little toward the inside. 
  4. 4. Hold for about 30 seconds.

If I’m at home…

If I’m at home, I prefer to do a quad stretch lying down on my belly. To do the stretch:

  1. 1. Lay with your spine and head in neutral
  2. 2. Tighten your belly and pull your foot toward your buttock. You can either grab your foot with your hand or wrap a strap around your foot. 
  3. 3. To stretch the inside of the knee, bring your foot toward the outside of your buttock.
  4. 4. To stretch the outside of the knee, you can switch hands to bring your foot toward the inside. 
  5. 5. To get deeper into the quad stretch, put a yoga block under your knee. This will give you a deeper stretch into your quad and a stretch for your hip flexors as well.

If I’m at the gym…

If I’m at the gym , I prefer to stretch from a kneeling position. To do this stretch:

  1. 1. From a lunge position with your back knee on the ground, make sure your front knee is at a 90 degree angle.
  2. 2. Grab your back foot and pull it in toward your buttock. Bring your foot toward the inside to stretch the outer knee and the outside to stretch the inner knee.
  3. 3. You can do a slightly deeper lunge in your front knee to intensify the stretch. Make sure not to go too deep.

Always stretch both sides to make sure you’re keeping yourself even. 

Still feeling tightness in your quad?

Sometimes you need further help to loosen up the quad with ball releases, instrument assisted releases (Graston), deep tissue mobilization, etc, which is best done by a physical therapist with manual training. Click here to schedule a complimentary phone consultation to talk to one of our therapists.


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