It’s always impressive to see a developed quadricep that is deeply separated showing the four muscles that make up the “Quads”. First, I’m going to go over all four muscles, then we will discuss some variations that can be done to help better target that area.
Let’s start medial with the vastus medialis, or better known as the “tear drop of the thigh.” This one is always a stand out, and it can be impressive if developed and shown in a conditioned state. The main action of this muscle is extending the leg at the knee which also helps to stabilize the patella.
The next muscle that falls lateral next to the vastus medialis is the rectus femoris. This also helps extend the leg at the knee as well as flexing the thigh at the hip. Since it is a major flexor of the thigh, this muscle can be easily injured by athletes who do heavy sprinting. This injury is common because of the impactive force with a sprint that involves extreme flexion of the thigh.
Moving outward, we run into the vastus intermedius muscle. This muscle is still a big flexor in the thigh, but it lies higher up on the femur and runs deep under the rectus femoris. The only issue seen with this muscle is that because of its location, it is a bit more challenging to increase flexibility and break down when performing soft tissue maneuvering. Techniques of Graston as well as some ART do help with mobilizing to get more resolve of any type of injury to the vastus intermedius.
Lastly, we have come to the most lateral and largest muscle of the quadriceps which is the vastus lateralis. This muscle is the major extensor of the thigh, and also a major factor in controlling the concentric portion of a squat. This is also a muscle that is more susceptible to injury from a squat. Often, the vastus lateralis can have a strain (more close to a tear) or contusion (bruising with pressure with muscle to bone contact) when this muscle is overloaded.
All the above muscles are a major part of the squat which we can see different variations of. I prefer to stick to more forms of a squat that a beginner or someone who is trying to perfect correct form can have an easier time to adjust technique and even stance. The squat performed under band tension is an ideal approach so that one can build and work on controlling both concentric and eccentric phases. This is also a great technique for those who have patella tendon issues or even lower back pain.
Many people have a hard time performing a barbell squat due to flexibility of hips and control. Another variation of the squat we performed is supporting a dumbbell braced with both hands and stabilized on the upper portion of your chest. This builds a nice supported platform of stability and with the placement of the weight, and it will also allow more emphasis on the quadriceps. Feet positioning is also relevant since the closer the stance, the more engaged the flexion of the thigh will be. If we go wider than shoulder width, the emphasis can shift more to our hamstrings and glutes.
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