Quadriceps: Definition and What it is
Medically and clinically reviewed by Jonathan Lee, MD and Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT
Quadriceps Definition and Meaning
The quadriceps, often abbreviated as "quads," are a group of four large muscles located at the front of the thigh. They include the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius.
These powerhouse muscles work together to flex the hips and stabilize the knees. They play a significant role in knee extension, a vital movement for activities like walking, running, jumping, and climbing. Each quadricep muscle originates from a distinct location on the femur (thigh bone) or pelvis. They merge into a common tendon that attaches to the patella (kneecap).
Since your quadriceps are involved in so much, weakness in these muscles can affect a lot of different daily activities and make you more prone to injury or knee pain. The good news: There’s plenty you can do to strengthen your quadriceps including targeted exercises like mini squats, seated knee flexion, and forward step-up. Stretching your quadriceps is equally important — the quad stretch, which can be done standing, kneeling, or on your side, is one of the best moves to start with.
Common Quadriceps Injuries
Quadriceps injuries are common and can range from a little tightness or cramping to minor strains to more serious tears. Quadriceps strains happen when one (or more) of the quadriceps muscles over extend (or over stretch) and tear. Another common condition is quadriceps tendinitis, which occurs when the tendon connecting the quadriceps muscle to the kneecap becomes inflamed. In most cases, quadriceps injuries aren’t serious and can be treated at home with conservative measures.
Quadriceps Injuries: A Hinge Health Perspective
Your muscles — especially the big muscle groups in your legs — are very resilient and designed to recover from the kinds of issues that naturally can happen in the course of everyday activities or during exercise.
If you’re reluctant to move because you think you’ll cause more damage or injury to your quadriceps, know this: Movement is often the fastest way to healing. As our Hinge Health care team says, movement is medicine. Movement, while at times painful, helps rehab the quadriceps muscles by increasing blood flow, and gradually improving the muscle’s strength and flexibility. You want your quads to remain flexible and stretched to prevent muscle tightness that can lead to a quad strain. A physical therapist can also work with you on a strengthening and stretching plan. You can see a physical therapist in person or use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT via telehealth/video visit.
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.
Kary, J. M. (2010). Diagnosis and management of quadriceps strains and contusions. Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine, 3(1-4), 26–31. doi:10.1007/s12178-010-9064-5
Von Fange, T. J. July 19, 2022. Quadriceps muscle and tendon injuries. UpToDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/quadriceps-muscle-and-tendon-injuries