The quadriceps or “quads,” a group of the four largest muscles in your body, are located in the front of your thighs running from the hips to the knees. It is of utmost importance to keep these muscles strong since they are essential for ambulation and maintaining independence.
This muscle group works to extend the knee and is also active in flexing the hip. The quads play a huge role in walking, since they are responsible for swinging the leg forward as you take a step. They also play a primary role in actions such as getting up from a chair, out of a car, out of a tub and climbing stairs. Strong quads contribute to the balance and stability of your upright body. For instance, you are less likely to stumble if your quadriceps are strong; and if you do stumble or experience any sudden change in momentum, your quads help you to maintain and prevent falls and injuries.
The condition of your quads also plays a major role in your knee health as they are the stabilizers of the knee joint and can help support and reduce stress to arthritic knees. Strong quads protect your back when you bend down to pick something up; while if they are weak, you are more likely to use the muscles of your back rather than your legs to help you lift. This significantly increases the likelihood that you will bend at the spine instead of the knees, which increases your chance of a back strain.
There are number of exercises that strengthen the quads, but it’s extremely important to do them correctly using proper form in order to achieve the desired results. It is essential to maintain good alignment of the joints, meaning you need to make sure your hips, knees and ankles all stay lined up as you move. This is especially significant to those with arthritic joints. Be aware of the position of your kneecaps as you move. They should be pointing forward, not pointing out.
If you have osteoporosis or poor balance, be sure you have something stable to hold onto whenever you attempt these exercises. The ultimate goal is to be able to do these exercises without holding on, but always have support available if you need it.
- Chair sit-to-stands: Sit in a sturdy chair and cross your arms over your chest. Stand up, pause then return to a seated position. Repeat 10 times (or build up to this number if you’re unable at first). Do 2-3 sets each day.
- Step-ups: Standing in front of a step, bring one foot on the step and press through your whole foot to lift yourself up onto the step. Keep ankle, knee and hip in line as you lift. Then lower yourself back onto your other foot as you step down. Repeat 10 times on each foot.
Here’s to a Falless Fall!
Susan S. Covey is the director of Health and Fitness at Bayleigh Chase in Easton.