Do you suffer from anterior pelvic tilt? This is when your hips drop forward and your back arches. Chances are you have tight quads and you need a deep rectus femoris stretch.
Anatomy Of The Upper Leg
The upper leg is the portion pertaining to the hip to knee. The anterior muscles are known as femoral muscles or the quadriceps.
When one muscle goes out of alignment it will affect other areas of the body. It is a good idea to treat the entire area of the quads, not just the biceps femoris.
This stretching guide will be focusing on the:
- Tensor fasciae latae
- Gluteal aponeurosis
- Iliotibial band
- Rectus femoris
- Adductor longus
Functions and Contraindications Of The Rectus Femoris & Upper Leg
I have been suffering from anterior pelvic tilt for several years. No matter how much yoga I did I still could not get that release. It was when I started to incorporate myofascial release with PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitator) stretching, I started to see big changes and real results.
While you don’t need to have an anterior pelvic tilt you can still benefit from stretching the recuts femoris and surrounding muscles.
Most office workers and aerialists have tight quads and hip flexors. When you are sitting on a computer all day your hamstrings lengthen and the antagonist the quads begin to shorten. We also use the functionality of the quads when we are walking every day. The quad allows us to bring the leg up so that we can walk, run and jump.
Aerialists generally suffer from tight quads and hip flexors due to all the straddling we do. The contraction on the front of the body shortens the muscles while the hamstrings lengthen creating an imbalance in the body.
I am the type of girl who likes to break up the myofascial before beginning my stretching routine. You may be wondering what the hell that is, so I will briefly go into it.
Fascia meaning band or bandage in Latin is exactly that. Fascia can be thick or thin. It is a connective tissue that provides a framework for muscles to bind too.
If you have noticed that parts of your body are tight and it is restricting your range of movement as well as creating other problems the chances are that your myofascial is tight as well as the surrounding muscle groups.
There are several ways that we can gain a myofascial release. One of them is stretching. I use the method of applying force to the area in order for the fascia to release.
As we continue to break up the fascia, we can gain a deeper and more effective stretching session on the body.
PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitator)
PNF stretching is a dual form of active-assisted stretching and passive loaded stretching. It is currently the most accelerated way to increase static-passive flexibility.
An example of PNF stretching would be a standing quadricep stretch where the back foot resists against pressure applied through the quadriceps into the hand against the foot for ten seconds. Then the quadriceps passively release and pressure is applied through the hand into the foot to push the quadriceps into a deeper stretch for ten seconds. This sequence is repeated several times. This style of stretching needs to be approached with a gentle hand as it is easy to injure yourself from applying an excessive load of pressure.
PNF stretching has a lot of science behind it. This is why it is a very popular method in physical therapy.
Stretching Tools Needed:
- Peanut, foam roller or two hard cricket balls in a sock
- Stretching strap or belt
- Massage ball (spikey is better because it grips)
1. Myofascial Release on Rectus Femoris.
Laying on your stomach place your peanut or roller in the middle of your quadricep just below the hip.
Slowly begin to roll down and find added spots of tension. When you do keep the foam roller in place. Apply adequate pressure if it’s painful back off a little. Let the muscle stay in this position for at least two minutes. Continue to roll until you find another spot to release.
This needs to be repeated until you meet the knee.
2. Myofascial Release on the ITB, Vasti & Muscles & Connective Tissue.
Repeat this process on the outer side of your quadriceps. You may find that you will have to change your lower body into a side plank position.
3. Myofascial Release on the Adductors.
Repeat the process on the inner thighs. You may find that you will have to change your body position so that your laying face down flat on your mat. Extend one leg into a frog position. Place the roller at the top of your inner thigh. Roll from the hip to the knee.
4. PNF Vasti Muscles Stretch
In a standing position bend the knee and bring the heel to buttocks with your hands. You may need a chair to help you keep your balance. I like to perform this stretch with my leg against the wall in a lunge position.
Once you have entered your stretch resist the top of the foot into the hand or wall for three seconds. Then release and passively stretch for 10 seconds. Repeat this process for at least five times on each leg.
5. PNF Rectus Femoris Stretch
Start in a runner’s lunge. When you lean into runners lunge you want to keep your pelvis tucked under. Lean as deeply as your body allows without compromising your posture. Reach around and grab your back leg. This will allow you to draw the heel closer to the glutes.
6. PNF Rectus Femoris Stretch II
Laying on a table or bed bring your leg and arm to hang off the side of the platform. Bring the heel to buttocks with a hip extension. Push into your hand and then draw the foot in closer for a passive stretch. Repeat five times on each leg.
7. Active Adductors Stretch
Sitting on the floor with your legs in a straddle position slowly bring your body forward while ensuring that the femur rotates externally towards the back of your body.
8. Passive Adductors and Hips Stretch
Coming onto all fours slowly allow your knees and lower leg to extend in a horizontal motion away from the body while keeping the ankles in line with the knees and the foot flexed.
This is known as frog pose. From this position, you are going to gently rock up and down. After completing 3 rounds of 5 move your hips in a cat-cow position. That is rounding the hips away from the body and then depressing the hips forward.
9. Assisted Adductors PNF Stretch
Laying on your back with your body flat bring one leg up in line with the hips. Place your strap on the ball of the foot. Hold the strap with both hands. Staying in line with the hip bring your leg out and away from the body. If you make it all the way to the floor then work on bringing the strap up higher towards your head. Resist into the strap for three seconds and passively stretch for ten. Each time trying to gain a little more range of motion. Repeat on both legs.
10. Assisted PNF ITB stretch
From the adductor stretch position bring your leg across the body keeping it in line with the hip. To make it deeper you can bring the leg up a little higher. Resist into the strap for three seconds and passively stretch for ten. Each time trying to gain a little more range of motion. Repeat on both legs.
11. Tibialis anterior Myofascial Release
Laying on your belly place the massage ball below the knee on your tibialis anterior aka where you get shin splints. Slowly begin to roll down to find spots of tension. When you do keep the massage ball in place.
Apply adequate pressure if it’s painful back off a little. Let the muscle stay in this position for at least two minutes. Continue to roll until you find another spot to release.
12. Tibialis anterior PNF stretch
Sitting on your shins place your hands either side of the body. Use your abdominals and upper body to lift your knees off the floor. Push the tops of your feet into the floor for three seconds and then passively stretch. Repeat five times on both legs.
I hope you enjoyed this routine on the upper leg. It should be feeling pretty good after this session.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
Some people can experience delayed onset muscle soreness. There are many reasons why this can happen. I will address the applicable reasons for this routine.
Lactic Acid Accumulation
When we apply pressure to areas of the body that the blood supply is insufficient to the muscle we release lactic acid. This brings fresh oxygenated blood into your muscles that you have been performing myofascial release on. Some people may experience slight bruising similar to a cupping session.
Using a hot and cold compress with help you with the muscle soreness. The heat relaxes the muscle while the cool helps with inflammation.
Rest your muscles. Remember Rome was not built in a day and neither is your flexibility.
You can take ibuprofen for inflammation.
Increase your protein intake this helps repair and rebuild your muscles.
Do you have any other stretches or tips? I would love to hear them in the comments below. If your looking to take the stretch to the lower leg check out my 9 stretches for calves and shins.
In happiness and health,
Get strong and flexible with my online flexibility classes and coaching.