The 5 best quad stretches on planet earth

quad stretches Jan 15, 2024

The quads are one of the biggest muscle groups in the body.  So, when they feel tight, it sucks. 

The whole body can’t operate the way it should. Movement feels strenuous and rigid rather than light and effortless. 

If you’re an athlete or enjoy working out, then having flexible and strong quads makes all of your active pursuits more worthwhile.   

Unfortunately, many people don’t see the results they want from stretching. Sure, the quads might feel a little bit looser after a stretch but then within an hour, they’re tight again. 

The problem I see most people make is focusing too much on one type of stretching - long and relaxed holds.  

As you’ll learn in this article, it’s not that this type of stretching is bad; you just need to also include dynamic and isometric stretching if you want to see actual changes in your quad flexibility.  

In this article, I’ll share 5 of my absolute favorite quads stretches and explain how you should program them in to your movement practice. 

How to Stretch the Quads

There are three main methods to stretch any muscle in the body, including the quads. 

These three methods are dynamic, relaxed, and isometric. All three serve their own purpose and contribute to increasing flexibility. 

Strength also plays a vital role in getting muscles to increase their length. If a muscle lacks a certain amount of strength, it will never get flexible. 

When most people think of stretching or getting flexible, they think of the typical relaxed static stretch, like the standing quad stretch. 

This type of stretching is important and certainly a big piece of the puzzle. 

But if you don’t also incorporate dynamic stretches, isometrics, and strength then your quads will always feel stiff and stretching will only produce temporary relief. 

If you want to start making long-lasting and permanent improvements in your quad flexibility, read on. 

Dynamic Quad Stretches

Dynamic stretching is best done every morning. This gets your muscles nice and loose for the day ahead.

They also work great as a warm-up before strength training, sports or cardio exercise.

As demonstrated in the videos below, these are done with a relatively fast but controlled pace.

These are not static holds but dynamic exercises that get the heart rate up.

For programming, I recommend 2-3 sets for 8-15 reps per leg, 1-2x a day. 

Relaxed Quad Stretches

This is the category of stretching that you’ve probably done before for your quads. 

As the name implies, the goal of these stretches is to relax the target muscle group. 

If you feel a stretch sensation in the quads, then you’re most likely doing it right.  

The biggest mistake I see people make when doing relaxed stretches is not sticking to one exercise for long enough. 

The true value comes with repeated exposure to the stretch. The more you do the exercise, the faster the target muscle relaxes. 

Your nervous system gets familiar with the sensation and is more likely to relax sooner and for longer periods between stretching. 

Again, as long you’re feeling a stretch in the quads, you’ve chosen a good stretch. If you don’t feel a stretch in your quads, then try another one. 

This is true even if your favorite fitness influencer tells you that a certain quad stretch is the best one on planet earth (yes that includes me 😊). 

The lying quad stretch and the wall quad stretches demonstrated below are two of my favorite. 

I recommend performing relaxed stretches once a day for 30-60 seconds per side. The best time to do them is during a cool-down after a workout or sport.

If you’re doing them by themselves then they are best done later in the day when you’re winding down.

Isometric Quad Stretches and Strength Exercises

Isometrics are hard but they are also the most effective way to increase flexibility for the long-term. 

If your quads are VERY tight then you might not be ready for isometrics yet. I recommend first developing some more strength in the quads before trying isometrics. 

What kind of strength training? Lunges, deadlifts, and squats work great.

The best type of strength training for flexibility is high reps with very low weight. 

To give you an example, when I first started strength training for flexibility, I squatted 55 lb for 30 reps. I was also 195 lb at the time so you have to adjust for your body. 

How do you know when it’s time to try isometrics?

I’ve been taught that squatting or deadlifting your bodyweight for 10 reps is a good indicator. 

I also think you can listen to your body. If squatting or lunging with very low weights makes you very sore then you’re probably not ready for isometrics. 

On the other hand, if you’re recovering well from this type of training then it might be a good time to start experimenting with isometrics. 

A good place to start is with standing quad extensions as demonstrated below: 

Isometrics should be done in a similar way as strength training: 2-3x a week with plenty of rest in between training sessions. 

The best volume for each session would be 2-3 sets for 4-6 reps with 5-10 second holds on each rep. 

Closing thoughts

When the quads feel tight, I completely understand the urge to just do a couple of stretches for a few minutes to loosen them up. 

The only problem is that this does not really work. 

Your quads are tight for a reason. Usually, it’s because they are weak and unable to relax. 

To change this, we need to strengthen them and teach the nervous system how to relax this area of the body. 

It might take some effort. But if you dedicate a few months to the process, you won’t have quads that feel like bricks anymore. 

Plus, if you enjoy movement, the lessons in this article will help you learn a ton about your body. 

The first step to better movement is better education.