By MIKE CHIN, DPT, CSCS
I would like to address the topic of stretching, and in particular the quadriceps muscles. There is great content on ways to stretch every part of the body, especially on MobilityWOD.com, but I hope to give you the background and an understanding of why it is important to stretch, and a prescription for how to do it to get actual tissue changes.
The Benefits of Stretching
So what’s going on when we stretch? We have many different elastic fibers intertwined in the muscle that contribute to flexibility. These elastic fibers are wavelike, and when they are stretched, they straighten out. When we initially stretch, muscle fibers straighten out and looseness occurs, but there is little deformation of the muscle tissue.
Remember to keep breathing when you are stretching & mobilizing.
My Stretching Guidelines
- Stretch after workouts when the muscle is warm.
- Perform static (holding position) stretches for 30 seconds x 3-5sets. Alternate to the opposite extremity so there is a 30 second break.
- The “alternate to the opposite extremity” implicitly says it, but always stretch both sides.
- You should feel a mild stretch rather than pain.
- Emphasize relaxation. Breathe!
- Utilize hold-relax PNF technique to increase muscle relaxation and flexibility. This will be explained with the Sampson stretch for better understanding.
A Few Quad Stretch Ideas…
Sampson stretch against the wall:
- Initially make sure the knee is in the corner up against the wall so that the leg is parallel to the wall. Adjust your stretch by leaning back and flexing the knee. Key points are to keep an abdominal contraction so you do not arch your back into extension, and keep your trunk in line with your thigh to isolate the rectus femoris.
Hold-relax PNF technique:
- Contract quads isometrically in stretched position by pushing foot or kicking leg into wall for 5 seconds. Relax the quads and stretch further.
Prone quad stretch:
- If you have difficulty getting into the Sampson position, you can use a resistance band to pull your leg towards your butt while lying on your stomach. Key points are to keep your thighs close together and not let the hip rotate inwards or outwards. You can make this stretch more intense by adding a foam roll under the quads
Side-lying quad stretch:
- Use your top leg to stabilize your bottom thigh. Use your hand or resistance band pull your heel to your butt.