Not-So-Gross Anatomy: Quadriceps

Rectus femoris. Vastus lateralis. Vastus medialis. Vastus intermedius.

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The quadriceps. The quads. Quadzilla. Quad City. The Quad City DJs. Thighs. Thunder thighs.

The front of the upper leg has many nicknames, but we will roll with quadriceps today. In the illustration, you will see each of the four muscles that make up the quadriceps shown independently. The quadriceps’ primary responsibilities are to extend the knee, flex the hip, and adduct the femur.

 Breaking down what each of the quadriceps by origin, insertion, and action.

Breaking down what each of the quadriceps by origin, insertion, and action.

Each of the quadriceps muscles have different origins, but come together and share a common insertion (end point) in the patella tendon.

 Look at how all of the quadriceps tendons congregate at the patella and then come together at the tibial tuberosity.

Look at how all of the quadriceps tendons congregate at the patella and then come together at the tibial tuberosity.

An important thing to pay attention to is how the distal tendons come to the patella (knee cap). The Vastus Lateralis comes in from the outside and even has a small connection to femur to cross the patella. Conversely, the vastus medialis comes from the inside. The rectus femoris and vastus intermedius comes in a more direct fashion over the top of the patella. This multi-angled approach allows more coverage over the patella (which is a good thing). But if there is significant imbalance with these muscle, or tightness with the IT band, we could be setup for some problems (patellofemoral, subluxing patella, tendinitis, chondromalacia, meniscus, etc).

When it comes to training the quads, being mindful of the mobility and stability through the hip and knee is vital. This means looking at the surrounding structures as well. A tight IT band can wreak havoc on the alignment of the quads and send you tail-spinning with pain and loss of function.

While programming is specific to what the demands of the individual - here are some of my favorite movements to help mobility and train the quads.

Mobility:

 

Strength:  

 
 

I love me some squats. Back squats and Front squats are staples for good leg development. While I prefer Front squats for quad development, many people feel uncomfortable with the barbell in the rack position. This could be from posture issues, lat tightness, weak core, wrist mobility issues, etc. Starting with a kettlebell goblet squat may be the better course.

Single-leg development is very important. We have a dominant side, and working to find symmetry is needed. Enter the Pitcher's Step Ups. This can be loaded or unloaded. The range of motion from the hip and knee is substantial.

Explosiveness is required from time to time (with individuals ready for it) and the loaded jump squat is an option that I tend to introduce to clients when they show that they are capable of doing so.

To take exceptional mobility, stability, strength, and power and wrap it into one movement would be something that like to call a "unicorn" around b3. The loaded pistol squat is a unicorn. Balance, control, mobility, stability, strength, and power all are called into play in this humbler of an exercise. 

While there are many modifications to the five strength movements, I wanted to display an offering of some great quad-heavy movements. If you are looking to isolate the quads then hop on the leg extension machine or do some straight leg raises while wedged against a wall at 90 degrees. The truth of the matter is that most movement requires integrated patterns from multiple muscle groups.

Next week - Hip Abductors & Adductors - Glutes & Groin

Until then, check out our site for high end programming and see ya next week!

Be Fit. Be Fueled. Be Full of Life.

Don Bahneman - Founder - b3 Wellness