Your quadriceps muscles, often referred to simply as your "quads," are the group of muscles located at the front of your upper leg. Runners or other athletes who use their legs under strenuous conditions are susceptible to quadriceps injuries, such as strains, causing tenderness and pain when using the quadriceps muscles. Exercises that strengthen your upper leg muscles and the joints surrounding them, such as your knees and hips, can help reduce the chance of a quadriceps injury.
Be aware of symptoms that may alert you to a strain. A quadriceps strain by definition is a tear in one of the muscles of your upper thigh. Signs that you may have suffered a quadriceps strain can range from a slight twinge to a sharp, sudden pain in your thigh at the time of the injury. Following a strain you may experience tightness in the quadriceps and pain while walking or using your upper leg muscles. In the event of a severe strain, symptoms can include swelling and even bruising around the area of the tear.
Warm up your leg muscles before a strenuous competition. Include a brisk walk or jog to warm your muscles and loosen connective tissue. Muscles that have been adequately warmed are less likely to tear suddenly during exercise
Stretch your quad muscles after your warm-up to loosen tissue and help prevent injury. While standing on your right leg, bend the knee of your left leg with your left hand until your heel reaches your butt, or as close as you can come. Hold the position for 20 seconds, balancing lightly against a wall or chair for support. Repeat on the other side.
Stretch your hip flexor muscles before exercise to keep your joints surrounding the quad muscles limber. Performing lunges can also help strengthen your thigh muscles, decreasing the chance of spraining your hip joint. While kneeling on your right leg, step forward with your left leg and bend your knee with your foot flat on the floor. Push forward with your hips to feel the stretch. Hold for 20 seconds, then reverse your legs.
Perform range-of-motion exercises for your knees as a preventive measure against strains in your quads. Sit in a chair and flex and extend your knee. Repeat for 10 reps. This exercise will help keep the joints in your knee loose to guard against injury.
Joelle Dedalus began writing professionally for websites such as PugetSoundMagazine.com in 2009. She received her B.A. in English education at Iowa State University and is currently a M.F.A. candidate in creative nonfiction writing at Emerson College in Boston, where she is developing a manuscript on literary travel. Her areas of expertise include travel and literature, the outdoors and the arts.