The quadriceps muscles on the front of the thigh are large muscles and an important powerhouse to the strength of your leg and the generation of pedal turn and thus forward motion.
Called ‘Quadriceps’ because this muscle belly has four (Quad) heads (Ceph-). Three of them are down at the knee and make up the attachments of Vastus Medialis Obliquus (VMO), Rectus femoris, and Vastus Lateralis from inside to outside, and the fourth head is up at the hip, the so-called Reflected head.
The quadriceps are stronger and work harder even than the gluteal muscles and are therefore an important part of your cycling armoury. You can strengthen them both on and off the bike.
On the bike – sprints over 15 seconds with a one-minute 30 second recovery or repeat hills can make a big difference. If you want to strengthen the quadriceps on level ground look to sit a little bit off the seat, not in a standing position, and you’ll feel the burn in the muscles.
Off the bike – the workhorse exercise for strengthening the quadriceps is the squat. You shouldn’t lunge or squat if you have problems with your patella or the tracking of the patella as you may do yourself more harm than good.
With a squat the majority of your weight (70%) is on your heels and you adopt a rather comical position with your bottom stuck out, your chest puffed out and your spine straight.It’s a slow exercise taking two seconds from standing to 90° knee bend, then holding in knee flexion and coming up slowly. For endurance cycling try to do 3 sets of 12 to 18 repetitions to train your slow twitch muscle fibres.
It’s important to stretch afterwards to stop the quadriceps from shortening and there are a number of ways to do this. Classically standing and pulling one heal up towards your bottom, putting your foot on a bench and kneeling, or a more advanced Pilates manoeuvre which you should be taught.I’m using these techniques to help with my left knee pain and although it’s too early to say it’s working I do feel confident that these eccentric and concentric exercises will bring relief.