If you want to keep your knees happy, make your quadriceps (quads) a top priority. The good news is this…the goal of having healthier and stronger quads may not be as difficult as you might think!
Leg strengthening and preventative knee care are of great concern for today’s athletes. Knee injuries represent approximately 51% of NFL injuries. Similar percentages are found in most sports at every level of athletics.
If your objective is to prevent injuries, safe quad strengthening is a great place to start.
To create a new level of quad appreciation, you should better understand the muscle group. This will require a quick anatomy lesson.
Anatomy 101 – Your Quads
The word quad means “four” and that is based on the fact that you have four muscles that make up this muscle group located on the front of your thigh.
- Rectus Femoris
- Vastus Lateralis
- Vastus Medialis
- Vastus Intermedius
The Mighty Four
All four muscles’ distal insertions attach to the upper half of the patella or kneecap. The bottom part of the kneecap is connected to the patella tendon, which attaches to the upper front of the shinbone or tibia. Therefore, when the quads contract, they pull the patella in an upward direction, which extends the knee. This is exactly what happens when you run, jump, or kick a ball.
Injury Prevention and Performance Enhancement
The benefits of strong and lean quads are two-fold. First, they prevent injuries. The quads play a major role in protecting the knees in most athletic events.
Preventative sports medicine will help you stay on the field instead of spending your time at the doctor’s office or on the sidelines watching your friends having all the fun.
Secondly, a well-toned quad enhances your ability to perform. Whether it is in the gym or on a tennis court, stronger quads help you move more effectively with less pain.
There are many myths related to exercise. Your quads and knees are no exception. The exercise options for quad strengthening activities range from squats to free weights to lunges and box jumps, just to name a few. Here are some simple and proven tips that will safely and effectively give you the results you need.
Tips for Safe Quad Strengthening
- Leg extensions, presses and squats. Perform leg extensions, presses and squats within the knee range of 20 degrees from full extension to 90 degrees of flexion or bending. This middle range is extremely effective if avoiding excessive compressive stress on the articular cartilage is your objective.
- Always stay in the pain free zone. If you experience pain during any exercise, decrease the motion to a pain-free range.
- Slow and controlled. Perform all movements in a slow and controlled manner. If knee pain is experienced at any time during the exercise, assess the technique and/or the amount of weight being used.
- Short and sweet. Keep the rest phases between all sets and all exercises short. You need to create the “burn” or fatigue of the quads in order to overload the muscles and accomplish muscle strengthening.
In summary, the strongest muscle group in your body is your quads and that is for good reason.
Newton’s Third Law
Did you know that Sir Isaac Newton’s mixed martial arts cage fighting career was cut short because of a quad strain? Me neither…but if Mr. Newton was as smart as they say he was, I feel certain that he would have been a disciplined athlete who realized how important it is to take care of his quads.
Newton’s Third Law states: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Therefore, when an athlete’s body comes in contact with the ground while running or a soccer ball when kicking, the body has to absorb that force and distribute that energy elsewhere.
When I watch our Jag players run, I am always amazed to see the amount of force and stress being applied to their knees by the reaction to both gravity and the ground. When a 330 lbs football player is running on grass, his foot is experiencing up to 2600 pounds per square inch of force. That’s seven to eight times his body weight!
You may be asking: “What does any of this have to do with injury prevention and my quads?” My answer? Everything.
The #1 shock-absorbing mechanism in your entire lower extremity is controlled lengthening of your quads. By implementing a safe and effective quad strengthening program, you will be well on your way to minimizing the likelihood of a knee injury and enhance your athletic performance.
I hope that you are as excited as I am about Mike Ryan Fitness and the amazing injury prevention and sports medicine tips that we can share to help YOU to stay healthy and happy!