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Strengthen your quadriceps to maintain good mobility: thigh muscles play a key role in many of your daily activities.

The quadriceps muscles, located in the front of your thighs, make up the largest muscle group in your body. The quadriceps, often referred to as "quads," are a group of four muscles that run from your hips to your knees. It's important to keep these muscles strong, since they are essential for walking, sitting, and good balance.

Quads Have Many Functions

"The quadriceps extend the knee and also can act to flex the hip. Quads play an essential role in walking, since they are responsible for swinging the leg forward as you take a step. The quads also play a primary role in actions such as getting up from a chair, getting out of the tub, and climbing stairs," explains Polly de Mille, RN, RCEP, an exercise physiologist at the Women's Sports Medicine Center at the Weill Cornell-affiliated Hospital for Special Surgery.

Strong quads also help with balance and stability. If you stumble or trip, or you experience a sudden change in momentum, such as when riding on a bus or a plane, your quads can help you maintain equilibrium and prevent falls and injuries. The condition of your quads also may play a major role in your knee health. "The quads stabilize the knee joint, so they can help support and reduce stress to arthritic knees," says de Mille.

Strong quads also protect your back when you bend down to pick up an object. If your quads are weak, you'll tend to use the muscles in your back, rather than in your legs, to help you lift, and you're more likely to bend at the spine instead of the knees, which increases the chance of straining your back.

Exercise Tips

There are a number of exercises that strengthen the quads, but it's important to do them correctly and use proper form to achieve the desired results.

"For everyone, especially those with arthritic joints, it is essential to maintain good alignment of the joints; that means watching yourself in the mirror and making sure that your hip, knee, and ankle stay lined up when you're exercising. Watch your kneecaps as you move--they should be like headlights pointing forward, not cross-eyed or pointing out," advises de Mille.

If you have osteoporosis or poor balance, be sure you have something to hold on to when doing quadriceps exercises. "Handrails, banisters, countertops, or other sturdy, secure fixtures should be within easy reach. The goal is to be able to do these exercises without holding on, but you should always have support available if you need it," says de Mille.

Moves of the month

Here are two exercises that strengthen the quadriceps.


* Sit in a sturdy chair and cross your arms over your chest.

* Stand up, pause, and then I return to a seated position.

* Repeat 10 times (build up to 10 if you're not able to do that many when you begin), and do two or three sets each day.

* For a more challenging version, begin in a standing position, lower your hips halfway to the chair, and then stand back up.


* Stand in front of the first step at the bottom of a staircase.

* Place your left foot on the step, and press through your whole foot to lift yourself up onto the step. Keep your ankle, knee, and hip all in line as you lift.

* Lower yourself back onto your right foot as you step down. Repeat 10 times with your left foot, and then switch to your right foot and repeat 10 times.

* If you need support at first, hold the banister, but as you get stronger, try to do this without holding on.

Caption: Strong quadriceps make gardening and many everyday activities easier.
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Title Annotation:BODY WORKS
Publication:Women's Nutrition Connection
Date:Apr 1, 2017
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