The rehabilitation process for most quadriceps muscle injuries should include a conservative progression from stretching to resistance and power-building exercises. Following this approach will gradually restore your range of motion and strength and help prevent future problems. Consult a physical therapist to develop a personalized rehabilitation program and visit your physician if you suffer any setbacks.
Gently stretching the quadriceps muscles, or quads, can help restore your ability to fully flex your knee joint after suffering an injury. Start on your hands and knees, then slowly lift your affected leg until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Flex your knee, moving your heel toward your buttocks, then pull on the front of your ankle with your hand on the same side to deepen the stretch. Hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds, or repeatedly flex and extend your knee over the same time period to perform the stretch dynamically.
Static Contraction Exercises
Performing a static quadriceps contraction involves tightening the muscles and maintaining tension for a specific period of time instead of shortening and lengthening the muscles repeatedly, as you do when performing dynamic-strengthening exercises. Sit on the floor with your injured leg extended and your toes pointed upward. Contract your quadriceps by fully straightening your leg, allowing your heel to move slightly off the floor, and hold for five to 10 seconds. Relax for an equal amount of time, then repeat. Complete three sets of 10 repetitions.
Resistance Band Exercises
Using a resistance band is an effective way to add light resistance to dynamic quadriceps-strengthening exercises, such as leg extensions and squats, before performing them with heavier weights. Perform the latter exercise by standing on a resistance band with your feet at least shoulder-width apart and equidistant from the center. Hold the ends of the band in front of your chest, making sure they're taut, then squat and stand up repeatedly. Keep your spine straight throughout the movement. Make the ends tighter by wrapping them around your hands or use a thicker band to increase the resistance.
Perform plyometric exercises toward the end of your rehabilitation program if you play power-based sports such as baseball, basketball, football, soccer and tennis. Otherwise, continue the dynamic strengthening exercises. Examples of plyometric exercises that target the quads include many variations of jumping exercises. To perform squat jumps, for example, stand with your feet at least shoulder-width apart, squat and draw your arms behind your back, and then powerfully throw your arms forward and upward and extend your ankles, hips and knees to jump as high as possible. Land softly on both feet and repeat multiple times.
- "Essentials of Athletic Injury Management"; William Prentice and Daniel Arnheim; 2008
- "Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise"; ACSM Position Stand: The Recommended Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory and Muscular Fitness, and Flexibility in Healthy Adults; Michael L. Pollock, et. al., June 1998
- Summit Medical Group; Quadriceps Contusion and Strain Rehabilitation Exercises; Tammy White and Phyllis Clapis; 2009
- Sport Fitness Advisor: Resistance Band Exercises
- "Training for Speed, Agility, and Quickness"; Lee E. Brown and Vance A. Ferrigno; 2005