The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Instantly Better Hip and Quadriceps Stretch

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The purpose of the quadriceps stretch is to lengthen the front hip muscles. It is often done in ways that do not stretch the front muscles. The standing quadriceps is done by bending one knee to clasp the foot in your hand behind you (or rest it on a chair if you can't reach). If you increase the lower back arch and keep the leg bent forward at the front of the hip (top drawing at left), not much stretch occurs, and the purpose of the stretch is lost.

Instead of "doing" a stretch, get the purpose of the stretch. Try this:

  • Look at the top drawing, then the second drawing at left.
  • Stand and begin the stretch.
  • Tuck your hip under to reduce the lower back arch, as if you are starting an "abdominal crunch."
  • Don't curl your upper body forward; just tuck the lower body at the hip.
  • When you tuck the hip correctly, you will immediately feel the stretch move to your thigh.
  • Straighten your arm away from your body and push your knee downward and backward.
  • Allow your lower back to arch again, and you will immediately notice the stretch will lesson or stop.
  • Tuck your hip under again and you will feel the stretch return to the front of your thigh.

I have seen a poster hanging in various gyms of "dos and don'ts for exercise and stretch." The poster shows this quadriceps stretch and says you should not pull your foot away from your body in back because that makes you arch your back. However, it is not pulling your foot away that makes you arch. You allow the arching if you do not tuck your hip - using your muscles to straighten your spine. The post Throw a Stronger Punch (or Push a Car or Stroller) Using This Back Pain Reduction Technique shows how to reposition your spine using the tucking technique. Then you can pull your foot away to increase the stretch all you want. You can control whether you arch or not.

Many people start this stretch by lifting their leg forward at the hip, bending over forward to reach their foot, then pulling the foot behind them. The point of the stretch is to lengthen the front of your hip, not bend it. Instead of bending forward to reach your foot, stand straight, lift your foot behind you, and reach back. If you are too tight to reach your foot, place it on a chair or bench behind you. Work up from there. If your balance is too poor to do this stretch, stand near something for safety, but do not hold on. You will quickly improve balance by simply practicing it. You will not improve balance by holding on.

Remember - don't "do a stretch" - do the purpose of the stretch. Use this stretch with your upper body upright and straight. Keep your hip tucked under, your shoulders down, and get a nice stretch and balance exercise in one.

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Drawings of Backman!™ © copyright Dr. Jolie Bookspan
More on this stretch and others in the book Stretching Smarter Stretching Healthier
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About the Author


M.Ed, PhD, FAWM

Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.

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