How to Do the Standing Quad Stretch for Flexibility

Learn how to safely perform a simple standing quadriceps stretch

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 22: Aaron Vandenberg of the Demons stretches during a Melbourne Demons AFL training session at AAMI Park on July 22, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia.
Melbourne Demons Training Session. Michael Dodge / Stringer / Getty Images

The quadriceps (quads) are a group of muscles along the front of the thigh. They consist of the quadriceps femoris, the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis and the vastus intermedius.

This muscle group is recruited to extend the leg while straightening the knee and is a primary mover in stair climbing and cycling.

Injuries to the quadriceps muscle are often caused by a strength or flexibility imbalance between the quadriceps and the hamstrings.

The standing quad stretch is excellent for improving flexibility, but if you suffer from knee or back pain, you should go easy in this stretch. 

There are many different ways to stretch your quadriceps, but here is a simple version you can do while standing.

  1. Stand on one leg. If you need support, hold onto something solid, such as a wall or chair, for support.
  2. Bend your right knee and bring your heel toward your buttock.
  3. Reach for your ankle with your opposite (left) hand.
  4. Stand up straight and pull in your abdominal muscles.  Try to keep your knees next to each other. Relax your shoulders. As you hold your leg in the bent position you will feel a slight pull along the front of your thigh and hip.
  5. Breathe deeply and hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds, release and repeat on the left leg, this time holding your ankle with your right hand.

Tips for Standing Quad Stretch

  • If you aren't yet able to reach your ankle to hold it during the stretch, try this: Loop a towel around your ankle and grab both ends. This way you can hold the leg in a bend without needing to reach all the way to the ankle.
  • Be careful not to strain your knee. The goal is not to touch your heel to the buttock, but rather to feel the gradual stretch in the thigh.
  • Stretch until feeling mild discomfort—don't go beyond this to the point of pain.
  • Don't allow your bent knee to move or drift outward. Keep the knees in next to each other.
  • If you can't keep your knees aligned, it is ok to let the bent knee come back as far as it will without causing pain. As you use the stretch in your workouts your knee will naturally come further back as the muscle relaxes.
  • If holding an ankle with your opposite hand causes discomfort, you can hold the ankle with the hand on the same side as the leg being stretched.
  • Do not bounce while performing the stretch. If you find yourself doing so, you should stabilize yourself by holding onto a chair or wall.
  • Don't lock your standing knee during the stretch.
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