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Got Knee Pain? It Could Just Be Tight Quads.

Updated: Mar 14, 2023

How To Prevent And Reverse Knee Pain Due To Tight Quadricep Muscles

By Lane Grosser, STOTT PILATES® Certified Instructor

#stretching #kneepain #painrelief

Why You Might Be Having Knee Pain:

When we sit, our hip flexors (quadriceps) are in a sustained shortened position which can lead to tight quads which can then lead to knee pain. 😫

We can also get knee pain from exercise like running and squats from the work that the quads have to do during exercise.

The 4 Quadriceps Muscles:

  • Rectus Femoris: is the most superficial (lays on top) of the quadriceps muscles

  • Vastus Lateralis: is on the outer side of the thigh

  • Vastus Intermedius: runs down the middle of the thigh

  • Vastus Medialis: is found on the inner side of the thigh

Why Tight Quads Can Irritate The Knee:

When we sit and do exercises like squats, the vastus lateralis muscle (outermost quadricep) is in a shortened position due to the natural lateral rotation of the thighs in those positions.

The pull of the vastus lateralis muscle can shift the patella (knee cap) laterally and affect the natural movement of the patella, thereby creating discomfort at the knee.

This is why stretching the quads, and doing this stretch series in particular, is so important.

"Sometimes the most important thing in the whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths." – Elly Hillesum

The Stretch Series:

To lengthen the muscles of your thigh, hold each of the following positions for 20 seconds (or less, if needed). You can hold the position for up to 2 minutes at a time. Breathe with relaxed inhales and exhales as you hold the stretch focusing on the rest between the two deep breaths.


I've named this stretch after the "stag" leg position in modern dance. Notice that the angle of the knees is less than 90 degrees. Press your hip forward to open up the front of the hip and to feel the stretch down the thigh. You may feel the stretch in your inner thigh, front of your pelvis and all the way down to your knee. This is my favorite stretch for the quads because it feels good all around.


In a 90 degree parallel kneeling position, tuck your bum under. You can use your hands to help facilitate the tuck. If your Rectus Femoris muscle is really tight, you may not need to tuck to feel the stretch. Always listen to your body. The stretch should feel good, not painful.


Sitting tall with one leg extended, reach your heel forward as you gently pull on the leg to cross it over the midline of your body. Increase the stretch by pulling back with your hip to create more pull in the outer thigh (vastus lateralis) muscle. This stretch stretches vastus lateralis and tensor fasciae latae muscles. Tip: You can also perform this stretch while sitting on a chair with your leg stretched in front of you, heel on the floor. Cross your leg over the midline of your body and lean forward to feel the stretch.

Final Takeaway:

Add this quadricep stretch series to your nightly bedtime routine to not only give your muscles relief and prevent knee pain, but to relax your body for a good night's sleep.

Want more ideas? Watch this video on my Instagram page to see additional ways to stretch your quads.

If you found this helpful, I would so appreciate it if you would click on one of the sharing options below. Thank you in advance!


ps Feeling stuck in a tight and tense body? Join my next fitness challenge and get all the tips for a happy body.



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