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  • Katie Hodge

6 Week Programme: Week 2 - Quads & Hamstrings

Updated: Aug 2

The Quadriceps (Quads)

The quads are four muscles which make up the front of the thigh. All four muscles insert via the quadriceps tendon, to the kneecap, allowing extension in the knee. Three out of the four muscles originate on the femur (thigh bone). The fourth - rectus femoris, originates on the front of the pelvis just below the frontal hip bone point, acting as a hip flexor.

The quads can become tight and sore from both being active e.g. running and weight lifting and being static e.g. sitting. So whether its countering hours sat behind a desk, or lengthening the muscles after a long run, there is often a reason to stretch. Tight quads can cause two common issues, firstly lower back pain due to pulling the pelvis down and secondly can contribute to weak hamstrings which in turn may affect posture.

The quads work very hard in yoga, so it’s important to combine poses that both strengthen and stretch them. Strong quads are required for stable knees joints, which are naturally unstable as injury prevention is very dependent on ligaments and muscles. Studies have shown that weak quads can lead to arthritis in the knee joint. We also need to consider flexibility, if your quads aren’t stretched they will become short and tight, effecting the ability to fully bend the knee. If the rectus femoris is short, it can limit full extension at the hip which in turn can cause the pelvis tip and lower back to curve excessively.

We can look out for signs of weak quads in certain yoga poses, the most obvious is Hero’s Pose and the inability to sit back onto the heels, weak quads can restrict the sole of the foot coming to the top of the inner thigh in tree pose. In class we will go through yoga poses which help both strengthen and stretch the quads, one example is Dancers Pose (Natarajasana):

Natarajasana - Dancers Pose
Natarajasana - Dancers Pose

- Begin by standing in Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

- Transfer body weight onto the right leg, gentle bend in the knee

- Lift left foot up to the buttock with left hand, taking hold of the top of the foot (option to stay here if this is enough)

- Bend right knee and begin to arch through your body, pushing left heel up and away from the buttock, the back gently begins to arch into a bow shape

- Gently lift the right arm, palm facing towards the body, neck remains long

- Standing leg can begin to straighten maintaining a soft bend in the knee

- Lengthen through the spine

The Hamstrings

The Hamstrings are composed of three muscles making up the back of the thigh. These muscles originate from your sit bones, run down the thighs and attach by long tendons across the knee to the lower leg. They are bi-articular, which means they can affect two joints – the hip and knee. Hamstrings work to straighten your hips, and posteriorly tilt your pelvis, as well as bending the knee.

If hamstrings are very tight this can cause the pelvis to rotate backwards flattening the lower back. Hypermobility can be as problematic as tight hamstrings; we need to careful not to over stretch or neglect. If we place too much focus on lengthening the hamstrings, this could lead to shortened hip flexors causing a forward pelvic tilt resulting in back pain. Both scenarios leading to an impact on our posture. Hamstrings are most healthy when all fibres are able to fully lengthen and contract, therefore preventing muscles tearing and promoting optimal muscle health.

How many times have you heard someone say, “I can’t do Yoga – I can’t even touch my toes”. The goal of touching our toes is very much over rated, because hamstring flexibility without strength is not the goal. In yoga we aim to both strengthen and stretch, working on the inner, mid and outer hamstrings, of which we will cover in class . For now, here is a pose which will stretch the inner hamstrings: Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend (Upavista Konasana):

Upavista Konasana - Wide Angle Seated Forward Fold
Upavista Konasana - Wide Angle Seated Forward Fold

- Sit down on the mat with legs out in front of you in Staff Pose (Dandasana)

- Open legs to a comfortable straddle position

- Pivot from the hips forward

- Walk the arms forward to support the lower back as you bend

- Aim to bring chest to the floor with head relaxed

Sources used to help create this blog:

YMCA Fit, Diploma in Teaching Yoga Manual, 2017.

Note: Please ensure you warm up before completing activities listed above; by engaging in these activities you do so at your own risk.

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