The quadriceps muscles, located in the front of your thighs, make up the largest muscle group in your body. The quadriceps, often referred to as “quads,” are a group of four muscles that run from your hips to your knees. It’s important to keep these muscles strong, since they are essential for walking, sitting, and good balance.
Quads Have Many Functions
“The quadriceps extend the knee and also can act to flex the hip. Quads play an essential role in walking, since they are responsible for swinging the leg forward as you take a step. The quads also play a primary role in actions such as getting up from a chair, getting out of the tub, and climbing stairs,” explains Polly de Mille, RN, RCEP, an exercise physiologist at the Women’s Sports Medicine Center at the Weill Cornell-affiliated Hospital for Special Surgery.
Strong quads also help with balance and stability. If you stumble or trip, or you experience a sudden change in momentum, such as when riding on a bus or a plane, your quads can help you maintain equilibrium and prevent falls and injuries. The condition of your quads also may play a major role in your knee health. “The quads stabilize the knee joint, so they can help support and reduce stress to arthritic knees,” says de Mille.
Strong quads also protect your back when you bend down to pick up an object. If your quads are weak, you’ll tend to use the muscles in your back, rather than in your legs, to help you lift, and you’re more likely to bend at the spine instead of the knees, which increases the chance of straining your back.
There are a number of exercises that strengthen the quads, but it’s important to do them correctly and use proper form to achieve the desired results.
“For everyone, especially those with arthritic joints, it is essential to maintain good alignment of the joints; that means watching yourself in the mirror and making sure that your hip, knee, and ankle stay lined up when you’re exercising. Watch your kneecaps as you move—they should be like headlights pointing forward, not cross-eyed or pointing out,” advises de Mille.
If you have osteoporosis or poor balance, be sure you have something to hold on to when doing quadriceps exercises. “Handrails, banisters, countertops, or other sturdy, secure fixtures should be within easy reach. The goal is to be able to do these exercises without holding on, but you should always have support available if you need it,” says de Mille.
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