Getting to know you : The Quads and Knee edition

Awhile back we introduced you to the posterior chain, an important group of muscles on the backside of your body and legs.  This week we will talk about their counterpart, the Quadriceps Femoris.

More commonly known as the quads, this group of 4 muscles makes up the front of your upper leg, or thigh. Together they make up the biggest muscle in the body. They play an important role in stabilizing the knee and straightening the leg, which is necessary in many movements from walking, to climbing stairs, and even standing up out of a chair.

Where are they?

The quadriceps group is made up of 4 muscles, the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis and the vastus intermedius. (There has actually been some new research suggesting that some people may have a fifth quadricep muscle, would make them the Quints? I don’t know, I’m getting off topic) They attach proximally in different locations on the upper femur, with rectus femoris attaching even higher on the pelvis, and run over the knee, attaching at the patella and tibia (shin). By crossing 2 joints, as a group, they provide actions at both the knee and the hip joint. They flex the hip,* and extend the leg at the knee, bringing the leg forward out of the bent position.

They also help to stabilize the knee while walking, running, and standing to help slow flexion of the knee and limit any side to side movement. Additionally, the vastus lateralis and vastus medialis play counterbalancing roles to help the patella (knee cap) stay in the correct place.

Why are they so big if all they are doing is extending the lower leg?

They need to be so strong, not just for kicking and walking and all that but mainly to move the thigh and everything above it when the knee is fixed, ie your foot is on the ground. They need to lift not just the thigh but your entire body to standing from a chair or when in a squat position.  

This is why strengthening the quads is important for a healthy, active life; so don’t skip leg day! (ugh leg day, I’m still hating stairs from my last workout) And make sure to keep your legs healthy and loose with massage while training as well!  We can help forge a better, stronger you! 

Any questions about this post or any other massage topic, give us a call at 703 858-2323, or email As always thanks for reading.

* only rectus femoris crosses the hip


Muscolino, The Muscular System Manual, 3rd edition 2010.