The front of the thigh consists of 4 muscles called the quadriceps (quads). These muscles are primarily responsible for extending the knee, and are put on stretch when the hip is extended and knee is bent. Tightness in the quadriceps has the potential to put the athlete at risk for increased injury. In one study, male soccer players with tight hamstrings or quadriceps were more prone to straining their muscles.1
Perhaps increasing the flexibility of the quadriceps will decrease the potential for a strain?
How can we improve quadriceps flexibility?
The following are two stretches that may improve the flexibility of the quadriceps:
Prone Quad Stretch (towel roll under thigh)
The stretch is performed lying facedown. The ankle can be grasped with the hand or if quad flexibility is not sufficient then a dog leash, stretch out strap or belt may be used to feel a stretch in the front of the thigh. The towel roll under the thigh is not required but may help facilitate a better stretch. A mild to moderate pull or stretch should be felt. I typically recommend 3 sets of 30s holds most days of the week to improve quadriceps flexibility.
Kneeling Quadriceps Stretch
This stretch addresses the Rectus Femoris which crosses both the hip and knee. The leg to be stretched is positioned as shown in the picture. Something soft can be placed under the knee to decrease stress on the knee cap. Keep the body upright and contract your buttock on the side to be stretched until a mild to moderate stretch is felt. Performing 3 sets of 30 seconds regularly should help improve tightness in the quadriceps.