In part one of this blog you learned some common causes of trigger points in rectus femoris, where the trigger points tend to live, and problems they can cause. Today I will teach you how to tame these trigger points and rejuvenate this muscle!
My favorite way to work on these trigger points in the rectus femoris is to lay prone on the floor and place an ALPHA ball at the front of my thigh. If this massage is too intense you can try using a pair of toted original Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls instead. I usually start at the top of my thigh (avoid the bikini line where there are blood vessels and ligaments that you don’t want to smash, go beneath it!) and do a stripping technique by rolling the ball up and down about an inch or so.
Once I find a tender trigger point I provide compression by resting on that spot. Then I do pin and stretch by slowly flexing and extending my knee. Finally, I use cross friction by flexing my knee, then moving my lower leg in and out like a windshield wiper. It is good to search several areas along your thigh, and notice if your most tender spots are at the common trigger point areas discussed in part one of this blog. If you massage toward the inner and outer thigh you may find trigger points in two of the other quadriceps muscles which can also contribute to knee pain, the vastus lateralis and vastus medialis.
If pain in your knee is an issue for you, you will also want to learn how to treat the hamstrings at the back of the thigh, adductors at the inner thigh, and the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles in the calf because they can contribute as well. You can search for a certified Yoga Tune Up® instructor for help learning how to treat these muscles.
After you massage RF it is an opportune time to stretch since the muscle will be more relaxed. To stretch RF you hold onto your outer ankle and extend the hip while flexing the knee. Don’t let the knee flare out to the side, but try to keep it in line with your hip. You will need a strap to assist if you can’t reach your ankle. You can do this stretch in prone, sidelying or standing. You will feel the stretch more intensely if you focus on contracting your gluteals and pressing your hips forward, if you do not extend your hip then you are stretching the other three quad muscles but not rectus femoris.
Since my rectus femoris is tight, I feel a stretch and sometimes get mild twinges in my knee when I do prone buttock lifts and bridge poses. If you experience restriction or some knee discomfort during these exercises, then you may have a tight RF too. These exercises are actually a great way to work on your RF flexibility with active contraction of the antagonist muscles.
A simple way to strengthen rectus femoris is to do slow straight leg raises.
Simply lay on your back, bend one knee and place that foot on the floor, keep the other leg straight and very slowly lift the leg until both knees meet, hold for a few seconds then slowly lower your leg. If you do this exercise very slowly (it should take 10-15 seconds to lift, and another 10-15 seconds to lower), you may only be able to do about 5 reps at a time. You also strengthen RF when you do squats, lunges and step ups.
If you massage, stretch and strengthen RF on a regular basis you will likely be rewarded with less pain and stiffness in your knees, and more strength and stability in your legs. So why put it off, get started with your rectus femoris remedy today!
I appreciate in this part 2 of the RF how the author gives the reader options on modifications with the types of YTU therapy balls we can use to roll our RT. Also, I like how she gives explanations on where to not roll. I find the instructions on the proper placement of oneself to be really clear and well explained. Lastly, the author explaining what she feels during the rolling of the RF helps the reader understand what sensations to look for when trying out the RF remedy.
Thank you. I have been having lots of problems with knees, hips, quad and butt spasms. My quads are very strong and tight…. My latest problem is pain in the internal aspect of my left knee after a lovely but long hike up and down hills. The pain started only hours after finishing the hike. I have been limping for a week.
Until I ran across this video, I’d been suffering from what I thought was a very odd combined pain connection between my hip and knee that just would not go away. About 1 and a half years ago I think I damaged/tore my ACL by doing vigorous skiing rotations in the gym as part of warmups before hitting the machines. Something snapped and put me on crutches for a couple weeks. The main pain/issue eventually went away, but what remained was this pain connection between my hip and knee (different part of the knee) I figured this would heal also, but just never did. Getting frustrated, I started researching hip/knee pain relationships and came across this video. Thought I would give it a try. Almost right away I could feel improvements/diminishments in the pain and tightness I’d been experiencing. Unbelievable. I’m 64 now, and have been physical all my life, earned my 2nd Black Belt in Kenpo in my 40’s. Been working out regularly at a near by Planet Fitness for more than 10 years now. But when this hip/knee issue came around, I’d thought maybe its just a sign of getting older. For the first time in a year I’m hopeful I can regain full normal use without the pain and tightness that has really been restrictive. Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for this video. It really is helping.
Nice ! Can’t wait to put into my regular practice. Thank you
My quads are chronically tight, and I’ve found rolling to be helpful in addressing that. I like the specific rolling suggestions as well as the suggestion to stretch after rolling – I’m definitely going to give this a try!
Nice article !
I like observation on needing hip extension to get rec fem involved in a classic “quad stretch”
Living in most quad dominant positions most of my day, I find this information very helpful. It’s a muscle, I often forget to roll because I like to roll the belly, the shoulders and glutes, but by ignoring this and my hamstrings I know it will serve me well especially for knee tweaks.
Fantastic description of how to tackle the RF for knee pain! Very informative and helpful; looking forward to working with these techniques.
Informative for myself and to pass on to students. I have yet to try the alpha ball for my RF — will give this a try. Thank you.
Thank you for the clarification, it is very well explained. Your techniques are to try without a doubt.
Lots of goodies in a clear, concise way! I’m definitely going to try all the variations of rolling to dig into this muscle group and provide an effective tune up! Thanks for also adding in a stretch and a strengthening activity. This progression makes for a great re-teaching to the muscle of how we want it to function.
Thanks for showing me in 2 minutes 2 ways to connect better with my RF. I’m looking for ways to incorporate my alpha ball in my YTU practice and this hit a home run. Especially grateful for the after YTU alpha ball roll check back in with RF for the stretch.
I struggle with tired knees, probably from spending hours on a bike for many years… I will give this a exercise a serious try and hope this can ease my pain.
Nice video to demonstrate how to roll and then stretch the RF, a muscle that isn’t as “famous” as the psoas for chronic sitting!
So many of us get tight in the RF. Thanks for sharing these tips for releasing those triggers!
Such great anatomy knowledge and information for knee pain. I have several students who cycle and complain of this type of pain. We will give this a try!
This was so useful after a long day of sitting (Im not used to that). The video was so helpful.
Thanks for this post, I tried your exercise and found that it relieved tension in my knees. I will be sure to stop neglecting my Rectus Femoris:)
Love using the alpha ball for the rectus femoris! Thanks for the reminder to avoid the inguinal ligament and blood vessels at the hip crease.
Amazing! I never even considered this muscle to be tight on me but clearly I was wrong. While I was working through the exercises I felt the pain in my knee being addressed, pain which normally came about after sitting in the library for long hours during college! No wonder, I often sit cross legged or knees bent! Next week I’ll be on a long road trip and I cant wait to use this to keep myself from getting sore along the ride! thanks!
So great. I constantly ignore my RF because I generally don’t have any knee pain. I have had the odd sharp pain that tends to go away on its own quickly. I’ll be adding this exercise to my personal practice for sure.
I ignore my rectus femoris so much, but love how effectively I am able to treat it with the YTU therapy balls. I often educate clients on some self care that they can do at home and I’ll be adding this into the list of suggestions as well.
I did not realize how tight my quads were and that they would cause me occasional knee pain. It was brought to my attention during the YTU level 1 training in bow pose and I mentioned that my knee was achy. Jill suggested that I work on my quads particular rectus femoris and sure enough I found relief after rolling. I guess it went unnoticed because the only time my knees really hurt was in that pose and maybe a handful of certain movements.
“…if you do not extend your hip then you are stretching the other three quad muscles but not rectus femoris”– I have been “cheating” at this exercise forever!! No wonder I am experiencing the knee pain you mentioned in your earlier blog post. I just got a set of Alpha balls and I am so excited to try this routine after my next bike commuting trip home. I think I might just integrate this into my daily routine. Thanks!
It can be usefull to any athlete not only the ones with knee pain. Great ideas.
Thanks for this great video and blog post! Although I’m not suffering from knee pain I use this roll sequence for my lower back pain. Sitting in a car a lot just messed up my legs, but the rolling is giving me my legs back! 🙂
Thank you so much Christina. I have not used the alpha ball on my thigh before and found this much easier to move around that the toted smaller balls and a little less painful. This was a good way for me to start to re get to know this part of my body that I have been avoiding. The description of using cross friction by flexing the knee, then moving the lower leg in and out like a windshield wiper I will also add to my routine as well as the stretching.
When I worked full-time and lead lots of meetings, my quads were frequently achey after long days of standing or days when I experience a high level of stress. I’ve always been so intrigued by what is causing this. Perhaps posture or standing in heeled shoes or a combination of that and emotional stress. I didn’t have a rolling practice then, and I sure wish I did! I really appreciate your combination prescription of rolling, stretching and strength work, especially your simple but effective supine leg lift. I do this move but always focus it more on using my psoas. I’m inspired to mix it up and explore my RF now!
As a runner I have historically felt tightness and some pain in my rectus femoris and was always challenged with stretching the muscle ad ,more importantly targeting the precise muscle. I appreciate the examples and all the detail provided and plan to give this shot!
Thank you for including all 3 practices to rejuvenate the RF : release through rolling, stretch and then strengthen the muscle. I usually get stuck in just rolling the muscle out since it what feels the best to me. This is a helpful routine that I am sure I will benefit from and my knees will love me for it too.
As a runner with a history of knee pain (and a knee surgery), this hits home for me. Thanks for including the details on the strengthening exercises (straight leg raises) and mentioning the other exercises that work the RF (squats, lunges, etc)- it’s too often that I massage and stretch an area but neglect to strengthen it.
Can’t wait to try some of this with clients 🙂
Such a great read on the important factors of stretching the RF plus the correlation with knee pain! I will definitely be trying some of these as I have always suffered from knee pain and have been really wondering what it could be stemming from.
Great video. I love that you included release and strengthening techniques. The suggestions to address the hamstrings, adductors, gastrocnemius and soleus as well for knee pain are very helpful.
Thank you, Christina! Ariel Kiley once taught me a variation using a toted pair of originals on top of two blocks. From all fours, you step one leg back and then with a little foot pedaling, chug-a-chug your thigh over the elevated therapy balls. The first time I ever tried this was a real A-AH moment for me.
This is great! It’s intense with the alpha ball but I feel so much better after. I’ve been dealing with some knee pain also, and this exercise seems to help. Thank you for sharing.
Thanks Christina! It is very helpful to understand that we are targeting RF when extending the hip during a quad stretch! That is a useful bit of knowledge and combines well with this ball sequence. Fearfully, now it is time to read about the dreaded “quad walking”!
Great info here can’t wait to give this a try tomorrow as I have some knee and hip pain.
Good! I’ve been avoiding rolling on the RF, because it was not pleasant. But now I understand clearly how it can help my knee issue, I’ll include it. Thanks!
Thank you! great video, straight to the point! I have a wide variety of clients(like so many teachers) and this technique will help so many of them, and me too!
Thank you for this video and all this great information. I do get a bit of discomfort in the knee area as well when holding bridge pose, so I will add this RF series to my personal practice.