How to Do Quad Stretches: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do quad stretches to help improve knee pain, plus modifications to make it easier or harder.

Published Date: Apr 28, 2023
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The knee is one of the hardest-working joints in your body. It’s involved in everything from walking to going up and down stairs to squatting to pick an object up from the ground. It’s involved in a lot, which is part of the reason knee pain is so common. 

Whether your pain is due to an injury, overuse, or a chronic condition like arthritis, stretching can help prevent and manage all kinds of musculoskeletal pain, especially in the knee. One of the simplest stretches for strong, healthy knees is the quad stretch. Read on to learn how to perform a quad stretch and why you should consider adding this simple movement to your daily routine.

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What Is a Quad Stretch?

The quad stretch targets the quadriceps muscles located at the front of the thigh. It involves standing upright and lifting one heel back toward your buttocks, but there are many ways you can modify a quad stretch to make it more challenging or easier (for example, if you struggle with balance during the stretch). 

What Muscles Do Quad Stretches Work?

As the name suggests, quad stretches target the quadriceps muscles, which are located at the front of the thigh. Four muscles make up the quadriceps group: the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius muscles. 

These muscles are responsible for straightening and bending the knee, as well as stabilizing the knee during weight-bearing activities. They also provide support during standing and activities that involve balance, and help with deceleration during activities such as running and jumping

Quad Stretch Benefits

Stretching the quadriceps muscles helps increase mobility, flexibility, and range of motion in the knee and hip joints. This helps: 

  • Reduce musculoskeletal pain: Tight quadriceps can contribute pain in the knees as well as the hips and lower back. (When the hip flexors become overly tight, it can change the position of the pelvis and cause low back pain.) Stretching the quads helps alleviate some of the tension and pressure on these muscle groups. 

  • Reduce risk of injury: Stretching can help to prevent muscle strains and other injuries by increasing muscle flexibility and reducing muscle tension.

  • Improve your ability to be active: Increasing flexibility and reducing muscle tension can make activities such as walking, biking, or playing tennis less painful and uncomfortable. This makes it easier to be active throughout the day, which offers a whole host of health benefits, not the least of which is less joint pain and stiffness. 

Quad Stretch: Exercises and Modifications 

The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.

Quad Stretch

Quad Stretch

Quad Stretch

Quad Stretch

To do a quad stretch: 

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold on to a table, countertop, door frame, or another sturdy surface. 

  • Bend your knee, bringing it back toward your butt, and grab onto your ankle. 

  • Once you feel steady, gently pull your foot toward your butt until you feel a nice stretch in the front of your thigh. 

  • Focus on staying in a tall, upright position while you hold the stretch. 

  • Hold it for a few seconds and return to your starting position. 

As you complete each repetition, you might feel a light stretch in the front of your thigh and hip. It can be hard to know how far you should push into a stretch. Quad stretches shouldn’t be painful, but they might be a little uncomfortable at first. That’s okay. Remember: A little discomfort is where growth and recovery happen. 

Everyone is different and it’s important to listen to your body, which is why you may need to modify quad stretches to meet your needs.

Quad Stretch Modifications

Quad Stretch Modifications

Quad Stretch Modifications

Quad Stretch Modifications

To make the quad stretch easier:  

  • Loop a heavy resistance band around your foot or ankle. This can help if you find it difficult to reach your foot or have a hard time getting your foot close to your butt. If you don’t have a resistance band, you can loop a towel, belt, or another strap around your foot instead. 

  • Perform the stretch while lying down. Lie on your side and bring your heel toward your butt, then grab your ankle with your hand and hold for a few seconds before repeating on the other side. 

To make the quad stretch harder: 

  • Perform the stretch without holding onto a table or sturdy surface. This will also help improve your balance and engage your core muscles more. 

  • Add a hip extension. After you lift your foot toward your butt, push your foot back while keeping your thigh parallel (or close to parallel) to the ground. This engages your glutes as well as your quads and increases the stretch.

You can apply one of the above modifications to make the stretch easier or harder, or multiple modifications at once. 

How Hinge Health Can Help You

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you.

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

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  1. Quadriceps Muscle. (n.d.). Physiopedia.

  2. Stretches and Exercises for Knee Pain, from a PT. (2022, December 5). Hospital for Special Surgery.

  3. Stretching. (n.d.). Physiopedia.