While there are many parts to our hips and quads, the rectus femoris muscle can easily be forgotten about. It connects our hips to our knees and is incredibly important as far as being able to walk and to simply lift our legs up.
Athletes such as runners, hockey players, soccer players, and baseball players need strong and reliable rectus femoris muscles to prevent common pains and injuries.
A sweet spot between overuse and a sedentary lifestyle needs to be found for this muscle.
On one hand, the rectus femoris can be overworked, but if you don’t use it enough you can count on a similar slippery slope of pain.
By incorporating these tips on movement and stretches for the rectus femoris muscle, you can gain back confidence both on and off the field.
Rectus Femoris Muscle Function
As you can probably already tell by the name, the rectus femoris is one of the four quadriceps muscles. Like the other quad muscles, it plays a vital role in being able to walk and run.
Specifically, this muscle allows you to raise your knee – one of the most basic movements for a mobile being.
Attached to the hip, the rectus femoris can flex our thighs. Plus, it is the only quadriceps muscle that can engage our hips. In other words, it is the only quadriceps muscle that crosses two joints!
This muscle is engaged the most during moments of speedy acceleration and heavy squatting or lifting That is one of the reasons why a rectus femoris injury may seemingly come out of nowhere. For example, starting a sprint or kicking with force in sports.
Common Rectus Femoris Pain and Injuries
If your rectus femoris is putting you through a painful ride, you’re not alone. As far as muscle-tendon related injuries go, this one is the most common in the entire body.
During daily activities, sharp, deep pain can be noticed while walking up and down stairs or merely sleeping.
It can be a difficult for the rectus femoris to keep up with the other super strong quadriceps’ muscles. After all, it is largely the weakest quadriceps muscle. When it is too overpowered, this muscle imbalance is quick to become a painful issue.
Often times, sports related rectus femoris injuries are extremely acute. They are noticed on the spot and you can immediately tell something has gone wrong in your leg.
You can bet the pain leads straight to the front of the hip, where the attachment is. Hurting your rectus femoris is commonly known as a hip flexor injury.
Rectus Femoris Movement and Stretches for Athletes
Since the rectus femoris muscle is the highly susceptible to strain, you need to know how to safely stretch it. Patiently stretching this muscle is a great way to keep potential sports’ injuries out of harm’s way.
Whenever you stretch a muscle, be sure to warm it up.
Of course, you should warm up any muscle prior to stretching, but it really does need it. The nature of injuring this muscle is because of sudden and extreme stretching.
Otherwise, you can easily be met with an acute pain and regret of not warming it up.
To warm up, you can energetically walk or jog in place. Pumping your arms can encourage circulation and warm up your whole body faster – including your thighs.
Once you feel warmed up enough, transition into either butt kicks or deep lunges for dynamic, front thigh stretches. Stretching through these movements are great to increase overall performance and safely elongate your rectus femoris muscle.
How to Counter Daily Tightness in Your Rectus Femoris
Sitting behind a computer desk, driving in your car, and being sedentary are all small habits that can build up to big problems. One of the many victims of a sedentary lifestyle are your rectus femoris muscles.
Overusing the muscle in sports can cause strain and acute pain, but not doing enough can also pose a threat.
When it comes down to sitting for hours on end, extended hip flexion can overwhelm your front thighs. By stretching this muscle, hip extension can counter the overbearing habit of hip flexion.
Setting a schedule to take a walk around your office, home, or place of work every one or two hours can greatly help extend your rectus femoris.
Take an extra bathroom break, water or coffee break with a friend, or find a creative way to extend your legs during the day.
Furthermore, if you’re willing to add something even more to your daily schedule, try out yoga. It is a great way to extend and hyperextend your front thigh muscles, so they don’t fall prey to our collective sedentary routines. Even if you do yoga regularly, a more flexible and healthier rectus femoris is perfect for confident backbends.
What About Tight Quads?
Just as mentioned above, tight quads in general are caused by a sedentary way of life. Since our society is seated so much, the tighter all four of our quadriceps are bound to be.
To alleviate your tight quads, here is some simple way to loosen up.
Stand straight up and gently push out your hips using your hands. Hold this position as long as feels comfortable without pain. If you can do this easily without instant pushback, you have relatively loose quads.
If not, it’s a clear sign of quads on the tighter side. But not to worry, you can work on increasing your flexibility over time with just some patience.
And of course, just like with the rectus femoris quad, yoga and lunges are activities to consider if all your quadriceps are tight.
Simple Rectus Femoris Strengthening Exercises
Find a box height or sturdy surface you can comfortably jump on to. Then kick it up a notch after you warm up and try to jump higher than before.
Jumping is a great way to activate fast-twitch muscle fibers needed for strong rectus femoris performance – especially for athletes.
Leg Press or Squats
If you have access to a leg press machine, use it to strengthen your rectus femoris muscles. Just remember to not completely extend your knees at the top of the position with each rep.
Otherwise, squats are a great option too. They offer more balance and stabilization training for a well-rounded approach to rectus femoris training.