The quadriceps are four muscles grouped together that act to extend the knee and flex the hip. All of the muscles converge into a tendon above the knee that ultimately connects to the shin below the knee. At the top three muscle anchor to the leg and the fourth, the hip flexor, connects to the pelvis.
Our quadriceps muscles are messed up in interesting ways—they are both stretched too long and carry an excess of tension. This is an interesting conundrum as most problem muscles tend to be short and tight or excessively long and lax.
To understand this we have to start with my premise that everyone has a misaligned pelvis with leg bones that are forward of the hips rather than directly in line with the pelvis. This is the posture pattern that I see in 99% of my clients. If you agree with me, and it shouldn’t take much investigation to see it in action around you (if not from you), we can look at what this alignment does to the quadriceps.
Properly aligned quadriceps muscles have a harmonious relationship with the hamstring muscles at the back of the thighs. These two muscle groups work together to lift, flex, extend and move the leg. I have written before about how I think the hamstrings are thrown out of whack by this forward thigh posture. My take isn’t that the hamstrings are tight because they are short, they are tight because they have been pulled away from the forward leaning bone.
As the forward leaning bone pulls away from the hamstrings it pushes into the quadriceps. While this overstretches all four of these muscles it puts particular strain on the rectus femoris, the only one that attaches to the pelvis. Another unfortunate thing happens when the quadriceps muscles are in this position—they are forced to assist in holding the body upright because the misaligned bones can’t do their job. The strain that this creates is why we have a muscle that is both overstretched and full of tension.
There are a number of important joints that suffer from our poor posture but the two hips joints are more aggrieved than most. Getting the legs under to hips to release the quadriceps muscles is a key goal of my walking program. Walking correctly aligns the bones and frees the muscles to work as designed.