It has only been in the last three years or so that I started to pay any attention to the tonicity of my quadriceps. To be honest, for a long time, I never thought that they could get tight. Hamstrings, sure. Calves, absolutely. But quads? Really?
Today, I fortunately know better. Just as I keep a close eye on my calves and hamstrings, I now pay attention to my quads. And since I’ve done so, my lifting has improved. My squats feel great and even that little bit of scar tissue near my right knee, from way back in my lifting career, doesn’t bother me anymore. My theory is that it isn’t rubbing over my knee with the same tension that it once did. With my quads nice and supple, everything is just moving better.
So, how do you know if your quads are overactive? Admittedly, I should be doing videos for this sort of description, but bear with me. In the interim, please follow these directions: Assuming you have healthy knees and you’re free of injury, begin from a standing position on your knees – lower legs flat against the ground. Now, have something behind you like a block or sofa (if you’re in your living room) and keeping your body straight – imagine maintaining a straight line from your knee, through your hip, up to your shoulder – begin to tilt backwards with your arms reaching for the sofa or block behind you.
Do you feel any tightness in your quads? If not, go a little farther. And if you still don’t feel anything, you’re approaching a bit of a modified reclining hero yoga pose. If you’re able to get close to the ground, I’d say your quads are doing pretty well.
But what can you do if your quads are pulling on you and keeping you from comfortably leaning backwards? If you can barely tilt back on your knees and you feel your quads trying to hold you in place, then I think that the single best thing you can do is to foam roll and foam roll often. Once a week won’t do a damn thing. Twice a week probably won’t even help either. I like strength coach Mike Boyle’s advice: He says that for every decade of life you’ve lived, that’s how many days a week you need to foam rolling. That’s three days a week if you’re in your 20s and four days a week if you’re in your 30s. Yes, we’re rounding up!
But make sure you’re only rolling over your quads and not your IT band. That’s a different topic for a different day, but don’t foam roll your IT band, it will just aggravate it more (you should be going after the piriformis instead). And if you’re new to the wide world of self-myofascial release (i.e. foam rolling), here’s a great introduction.
After a couple of weeks with proper foam rolling technique, and with the proper frequency, I think you’re really going to see an improvement in the tonicity of your quads. When you sit down on the ground with your legs out in front of you and shake your upper legs a little, you’ll literally see them move nice and freely.
The real benefit will come in how your body moves. You may even notice that you walk a little more quietly. And as I did with my squat, you may find that certain leg flexion exercises are easier to perform.
So, try giving yourself the assessment described above sometime, or have a professional help you, and see where you’re at. Take the necessary steps to correct the tightness and see how your body feels afterwards.
Let me know how it works out!
By Ryan WagnerHow to know if you have tight quads by Ryan Wagner