3 Essential Quad Stretches

Stretch your quads with these moves

The quadriceps are four muscles located in the anterior, or front, part of your thigh. This muscle group acts to extend the leg and strengthen the knee. Running and biking, as well as other daily activities, can result in tight quadricep muscles. These quad stretches can help if you have tight quads.

Sometimes, tightness in your quads may be a result of injuries such as 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.

One way to test whether your quads are tight is with Ely's test. Lay on your stomach and try to touch your foot to your buttocks. If you can't, your rectus femoris, one of the main muscles that make up the quadriceps, may be tight and could benefit from stretching.

Safety and Precautions

Before trying this—or any other exercise program—check in with a healthcare provider to ensure that exercise is safe for you to do. A professional can help diagnose any overuse injury that might be causing your tight quds.

Quad stretches will be a little more comfortable if you warm up before stretching. A few minutes walking or biking will get your quad muscles warm so they can stretch more easily.

Quad Stretches

To stretch your quads, try the standing quad stretch, side lying quad stretch, and prone quad stretch after a workout or once you are fully warmed up. If you frequently experience quad tightness, aim to stretch your quads daily. You can incorporate all or some of these stretches into your cool down or off-day flexibility routine. Below you will find instructions for each stretch.

Standing Quad Stretch

Standing quad stretch
Verywell / Ben Goldstein

What's so great about the standing quad stretch? You can do it anywhere—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 countertop or chair back to assist in balance.
  2. Bend your knee by grasping your ankle with one hand, moving your foot toward your buttocks.
  3. Gently pull on your ankle to bend your knee 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.

Side-Lying Quadricep Stretch

Sidelying Quadricep Stretch
Verywell / Ben Goldstein

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. To perform this quad stretch:

  1. Lie on your side.
  2. Bend the knee of your top leg as far as you are able, gently pulling with your hand.
  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. Place your bottom ankle on top of your knee and gently pull it down towards the floor as you are stretching your quad.

Prone Quadricep Stretch

Prone Quadricep Stretch
Verywell / Ben Goldstein

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. To do the prone quadriceps stretch:

  1. Lie on your stomach.
  2. Bend your knee back as far as you are able. Grab your ankle in order to pull your foot towards your butt.
  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, 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.

A Word From Verywell

Stretching your quads may be a necessary part of your home or gym exercise program, or you may simply want to do it to maintain 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 a healthcare provider or physical therapist and learn the best quad stretches (or other quad strengthening exercises) for you. Keeping your quads healthy may be necessary to keep your knees moving and to maximize your functional mobility.

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Thigh Flexibility Exercise (Standing). Go4Life. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

  2. Olivencia O, Godinez GM, Dages J, et al. The reliability and minimal detectable change of the Ely and active knee extension tests. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2020;15(5):776-782. doi:10.26603/ijspt20200776

By Laura Inverarity, PT, DO
Laura Inverarity, PT, DO, is a current board-certified anesthesiologist and former physical therapist.