The quadriceps are the large muscle group that run down the front of your thigh. They are responsible for straightening (extending) your knee joint, bending (flexing) your hip joint and are the primary power source for movements like walking, running, squatting and cycling. Targeting all four of the quadriceps muscles in a balanced way is essential to facilitate optimal knee health.
The four quadriceps muscles are:
- Rectus Femoris
- Vastus Medialis
- Vastus Lateralis
- Vastus Intermedius
At The Dailey Method, quadriceps exercises (aka thigh work!) are primarily done using eccentric contraction – lengthening and contracting the muscles at the same time by maintaining a deep knee bend and working in a small range of motion. The one exception to this is Dailey Method “single leg lifts”. This exercise is incorporated to give specific attention to vastus medialis by working with a straight leg. Vastus medialis is the smallest of the quadriceps muscles and is often weak (especially in women and runners). Training students to access and strengthen this muscle has long reaching health benefits –improving knee alignment and helping to heal and prevent knee problems. Additionally, our thigh work always includes parallel and turned out variations to effectively strengthen all of the quadriceps muscles and create balance in your physique.
The turned out variations primarily target the lateral quadriceps muscle (vastus lateralis). This muscle is crucial for both power and tone of the quadriceps and it is the strongest of your four quadriceps muscles. During turned out work, you will often hear your Dailey Method teacher remind you to maintain inner thigh engagement as you move. An example of this is pressing your heels together in athletic V - which travels up to maintain inner thigh support. This helps to provide resistance for the strong vastus lateralis to work against and ensures proper tracking for your knees.
Parallel variations primarily target the center of the thigh (rectus femoris & vastus intermedius) and the more medial portion of the quadriceps (vastus medialis). In addition to the quadriceps muscles, thigh work that includes squeezing a ball between your thighs adds work for the inner thigh muscles (adductors).
Finally, including the back body support for the knees is a huge part of creating balanced strength for the joints as well. Your hamstrings are the back body support for your knees and exercises like squats or lunges are great examples of work that uses the quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteals together to support the knees and hips. In each thigh work segment of a Dailey Method class you will find at least one exercise that incorporates this back body focus.
We take your joint health very seriously! By focusing on your alignment and helping you to create the balanced musculature to support your proper alignment we will help you create a longer, leaner, stronger physique. The next time you are lunging, thigh dancing or waterskiing away at your local TDM studio – enjoy the fabulous music and put a big smile on your face knowing that you are creating a healthier body that will help you do all the things you love for many years to come.
With love and lubricated knees,
-- Jill & Kerry