Foam Rolling Your Quadriceps

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How to Foam Roll your Quads?

Tight quads got you down? Don’t despair: foam rolling your quads is quick, it’s easy, and it is truly effective. Foam rolling of quadriceps is an effective technique for both pre- and post-workout mobility and recovery of this important lower-body muscle group.

Importance of Quadriceps Release

The quadriceps muscle group is large and powerful, and knots that form here can lead to pain around the knee and hips. It’s great to do this exercise frequently because releasing the quadriceps can significantly alleviate pain in your lower body.

Foam rolling your quads is therefore a quick way to improve knee and lower back health. Flexible knee joints allow the hamstrings to fully contract, which in turn balances tension in surrounding areas. This release is great after a long day of driving or sitting.

About quadriceps anatomy

Your quads are a team, and all four quad muscles play a part in stabilizing your knees. The vastus medialis muscle in particular takes a constant beating. The vastus medialis attaches to the femur (thigh bone) on the inside of the groin then at its other end attaches again to the femur just above the inside of the knee. While it can generate a huge amount of explosive force it also keeps the knee joint from being overwhelmed by the even more powerful rectus femoris. Give this one some extra time if you feel it is as “hot” as the areas covered in the trigger points section.

Exercise Instructions: Quadriceps Release

This foam rolling exercise helps reduce muscle tightness and imbalance at the front of the thigh. These muscles become tight as a result of repetitive muscle contraction, especially during long runs and heavy squatting. Tightness in these muscles can also affect knee mechanics.

PREPARATION (SETUP): Turn face down and position the roller underneath the tops of your thighs. Point your toes and press your feet together, and lift your feet up and off the ground. Position yourself in a plank position: place your forearms on the floor with your elbows directly under your shoulders, and shift your weight slightly forward. Lie on your front with the roller beneath the top of your thighs. Keep your head, neck, body, and legs aligned. Support your upper body with your forearms and make sure your toes are on the ground to support your legs.

foam rolling quads: two leg version

MOVEMENT (ACTION): With your body weight on your forearms and using your forearms to guide and support you, move your body up over the roller until it ts just above your knee. Then work back to the top of your thighs again. Repeat for 30 seconds, rolling from pelvis to just above knee. Always avoid rolling over your kneecaps – it can lead to injury. Keep your core engaged.

Additional tips for quadriceps release (make it harder):

  • To increase pressure, don’t lean on your forearms; just lie flat while allowing your hip to press into the roller. Also, you can angle yourself slightly left and slightly right to hit all the areas of the quads.
  • You can also perform this exercise so that you curl your feet towards your body to put more of your body weight on the foam roller and apply more pressure on the quadriceps region.

Also, if you experienced considerable discomfort while performing the two leg variation described above, then there is no need to perform exercise variations listed below.

Exercise Variations

There are four main variations on foam rolling your quads:

  • the two leg variation – rolling both legs at the same time (already presented above), or
  • the single leg variation – rolling each leg individually;
  • crossing your legs at the ankles – adds extra pressure;
  • tilting to one side (while performing either the two leg or one leg variation) can target certain areas of the muscle and ensure complete coverage
  • curling your feet towards your body to put more of your body weight on the foam roller while performing either two leg or single leg variant.

The single leg variant (rolling each leg individually)

Assume a plank position with your forearms on the floor and the foam roller underneath your thighs just above your knees. Now bend your right leg at 90 degrees and put it to the side away from the roller (on the floor for support).

quadriceps roll-rolling each leg individually

quadriceps roll-rolling each leg individually

Using your arms and your right leg for support, slowly move your body weight forward as the roller runs down the left thigh. This should be a prolonged, controlled movement – the entire roll should last 30 sec from top of the leg to just above the knee. Be sure to work both the vastus medialis and vastus lateralis by adjusting the angle of your thigh. Roll back and forth across the foam roller to massage your left quad. Reverse legs in order to massage your right quad.

Like the calf stretch, this is better done one leg at a time so you can put more pressure on the massage and roll your body side to side to massage the side of your thigh. It is impossible to massage the sides of your thighs when performing the two leg variant.

What you should feel?: Moderate pain followed by release in the quadriceps.

Crossing your legs at the ankles – adds extra pressure

Start in a plank position with the foam roller under your quadriceps. In a plank position, engage your abdominal muscles and keep your glutes tight to prevent your body from sagging. Now place your right leg up and over the left so that you can add some more pressure to your left quadriceps, maximizing the effect of your bodyweight. Push with your forearms and roll across your left thigh to your pelvic bone, then back again. Don’t forget that your right thigh is not touching the foam roller at any point. Do not roller your knees. Reverse legs.

quad release: crossing your legs at the ankles

quad release: crossing your legs at the ankles

Tilting to one side

tilting to one side foam rolling

tilting to one side

Roll and play with how much you can tilt to the right and left. That way you can target certain areas of the muscle and ensure complete coverage.

Curling your feet

curling legs while foam rolling quads
Curling just one foot or both feet simultaneously towards your body adds more of your body weight on the foam roller while performing either two leg or single leg variant. That way you’re adding extra pressure.

Targeted Muscles

This exercise targets the four muscles that compose the quadriceps, which originate at the hip and end at the knee. They extend the knee and flex the hip.

Closing thoughts: foam rolling your quads

Many runners have tight quadriceps (a.k.a. quad) muscles, which can set them up for injuries and subpar performance. Rolling your quads could also be useful after engaging in activities such as cycling, hiking, or training your lower body by lifting weights (e.g. squats).

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