All About the Quads!
by Morgan Mowers, DPT, PT, FAFS
DID YOU KNOW? You have four quadriceps muscles!
Yep, that’s why they’re called the quads (meaning “four” in latin).
The vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis, and rectus femoris work to straighten the knee, slow down knee flexion, stabilize the knee joint, and guide the patella while we walk, run, squat, or perform any other movement. They work in conjunction with other hip, knee, and calf musculature to control rotation at the knee joint. The largest of the quadriceps, the rectus femoris, also actively flexes the hip, helps other muscles to rotate the hip in/out, and slows down hip extension as our leg moves behind us in gait.
Because each of these muscles attaches and inserts at a different angle of our thigh, it’s important to train them in multiple directions – not just in straight plane movements like a standard squat.
Try this squat matrix as an intro to strengthening the muscle fibers of all four quads.
*Note—your toes should follow the direction of your feet (i.e. if your toes are turned in, knees should also go in and if toes face out, your knees should go out) –
- Feet straight forward, hip width
- Feet straight, narrow width
- Feet straight, wide width
- Feet turned in, hip width
- Feet turned in, narrow width
- Feet turned in, wide width
- Feet turned out, hip width
- Feet turned out, narrow width
- Feet turned out, wide width
- Left foot in front of right, hip width
- Left foot in front of right, toed out, wide width
- Right foot in front of left, hip width
- Right foot in front of left, toed in, narrow width
There are tons of ways to play with these variables and get creative with your feet in different directions. The more we practice controlling motion at our hips, knees, ankles, and trunk, the better our body will adapt when exposed to these movements in daily life, whether that’s while running, playing soccer, lifting kids, or grocery shopping.