Don’t Be Tight Quad!
Way back in Issue 3 we touched on how having tight hamstrings can affect your flexibility, mobility and cause back pain. Typically, the natural response by most athletes is to stretch the hamstrings on a consistent basis to become more limber. While this is obviously beneficial, all too often the quadriceps muscles are neglected in the process. Your quadriceps may not feel tight compared to your hamstrings whatsoever. It’s very easy to feel the pull and strain within a tight hamstring, but with your quadriceps, not so much. If overworked, these muscles tighten, lose elasticity and then cause muscle imbalances that may lead to any of the following:
• PFPS (Patello Femoral Pain Syndrome)
• Back pain (It may not have been your hamstrings after all)
• Hip pain and injuries
• Poor posture
• Negative effects of your body’s mechanics
• ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) tears
What They Do
Our quadriceps muscles are responsible for the majority of movement at the knee. They are located at the front of our thighs and are comprised of four muscles, including the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis and sartorius. Though you may not think it, the rectus femoris also plays a role in the flexion of the hips.
TQT (Tight Quads Test)
You can perform a quick and easy test to check for any tension within your quadriceps with or without the help of a partner. If you’re wearing shoes, take them off, as they’ll add a few inches and give you an inaccurate measurement. Lie down on your stomach, with your legs straight and knees together. Either bend one of your legs, or ask your partner to bend one, bringing the heel of your foot toward your butt as far as possible in attempt to have the two touch. Even if you manage to touch your heel to your butt, if there is a pull going on through your quadriceps, then they are not as loose as they can be. If you are unable to do this, only go to the point where resistance from the muscle’s tension is met. A ruler or protractor can be used to measure the distance between the two so you can monitor future progress. Now, perform the same steps with your other leg.
PFPS stands for Patello Femoral Pain Syndrome, which is a pain in the area and around the knee that is due to the patella (your knee cap) being misaligned. This is caused by an imbalance of tension within the muscles at the joint that pulls at your patella. More than likely this will cause a domino effect to take place, as your one unaligned joint effects others by causing them to overcompensate, which in turn, affects your body’s mechanics. Fun, right?
How Tight Quads Affect Jiu-Jitsu
When attempting a power double leg or when you change levels to snatch up a single leg, the majority of your power is focused directly on your quads and knees. Now that you understand what PFPS is, imagine trying to perform these. But it only affects takedowns, right? Wrong! For any sweeps or pushing movements that involve your feet, you are directly placing stress to these parts of your body.
Dynamic stretching gets your body warmed up and ready for the events you are intending to partake in. Performing stretches in this manner will increase blood and oxygen flow to the muscles, as well as other soft tissues within your body and increase range of motion. This will assist with reducing injury and can lead to improved performance.
1. Start running by flexing your knee, bringing your heel back toward your buttocks in an attempt to touch them.
2. Slightly lean forward, while staying on the balls of your feet.
1. Step forward and bend your lead leg, while simultaneously lowering your back knee toward the ground. Make sure that your front knee doesn’t extend past your toes and your back knee doesn’t touch the ground.
2. Push downward with your front heel, pressing upward, while stepping your back foot past your other to the front. You should now be in the same type of position, but with your legs in an opposite stance.
Isometric stretching (also referred to as static stretching) is best to use after you’ve completed your entire workout, sparring, or competition. When performed, your muscles are elongated and held so that some strain is felt. While holding the stretch, or even after you’re done, there may be some discomfort in the area due to your muscles not wanting to deal with the tensions. Eventually, receptors within your muscles begin to allow the muscle to be relaxed, so they may be stretched further.
Standing Quad Stretch
1. Stand on one foot, with your suspended leg bend at the knee, so your heel begins to go upward toward your butt.
2. Keep your upper body straight. With your free hand hold the ankle of the stretching leg behind you and pull it to your butt if possible.
3. For a deeper stretch you can push your pelvis forward and slightly bring your knee further back. Your upper body should still be straight.
By being passive, I mean to utilize passive stretching, which is using either the assistance of a partner, bands (or jiu-jitsu belt), or other device so you can stretch further.
Lying Quads Stretch w/ Belt
1. Lie on your stomach and loop your belt around your ankle.
2. Reach behind you and grab both ends of your belt with one hand.
3. Gently pull on it so your knee bends, your heel goes toward your butt and you feel a stretch in the front of your thigh. If possible, attempt to bring your heel to your butt.
Stability Ball Quads Stretch
1. Kneel on floor in front of the stability ball.
2. Step one foot forward with your knee bent 90 degrees and place your foot in front of you.
3. Bend your opposite knee until the top of your foot is able to be on top of the stability ball with your shin against it.
4. Push your hips forward slightly until you feel the stretch.
Roll With It
Though it’s not a stretch, if you still feel that your quadriceps muscles are tight, and you’re looking for added relief, I highly recommend a foam roller. It’s an excellent addition to these stretches, will relieve tension and help improve your flexibility.
1. Place the foam roller under your quadriceps just above your knees.
2. Your arms will be carrying your body weight. Use them by slowly moving your body forward and backwards along the front of your thighs.
If you’re already stretching routinely, great! If not, we recommend that you choose at least two of these stretches and incorporate them into a routine. As with all things, consistency is key, so keep working at it, don’t be a tight quad and loosen up!