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Why Strong Quads Aren’t The Key To Strong & Healthy Knees

low back pain

Jessica Bento, Physical Therapist (Creator DVRT Restoration Certification, DVRT Rx Shoulder, Knees, Pelvic Control, & Gait Courses)

sandbag workouts

I get it, when we don’t feel well or are injured we want to know that ONE thing that will solve all our problems. I had patients all the time that wanted to know that one thing, or what was the one thing that caused them to have problems in the first place. While the internet is more than willing to tell you that there is that one thing, the truth is that it is often more complicated than that!

Nuance isn’t the strong suit of the internet, but if you want real solutions like strong and healthy knees, we have to be more thoughtful about our conversations and what we claim are solutions. For example, A LOT of people say that people do NOT have strong and health knees because their quads are weak. Well, my first question is “how do you know the quads are weak?” Of course if you haven’t been doing any physical activity, it is very possible that the quads are weak. However, they may be no weaker than any other structure of the kinetic chain.

One of the worst sayings in the fitness industry is the body is a machine. NOTHING could be further from the truth!

Josh requested a Rocky reference here!

Our body is a complex interplay of various systems, neurology, and chains of muscles that are constantly working to find the most efficient way to move and perform. Disturb any of this and we can see movement compensations come about quickly! We see it in the idea that things like stress, constipation, and lack of sleep can increase our perceived level of pain. Those issues have nothing to do with muscles, but they make our body hurt, so we are NOT machines!

Actual research tells us that yes, the quads being weak can be an issue, but so can weakness in functional testing; gastrocnemius, hamstring, quadriceps or iliotibial band tightness; generalized ligamentous laxity; deficient hamstring or quadriceps strength; hip musculature weakness; an excessive quadriceps (Q) angle; patellar compression or tilting; and an abnormal VMO/VL reflex timing. (Waryasz, G.R., McDermott, A.Y. Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS): a systematic review of anatomy and potential risk factors. Dyn Med 7, 9 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1186/1476-5918-7-9)

So, why focus on just the quads for strong and healthy knees? Especially because we know that ankle mobility is often actually a greater predictor of knee issues.

strong knees

That lends us to re-evaluate A LOT of information out there like we need really extreme knee bending to create strong and healthy knees. However, that darn science thing has showed again that our quads don’t actually become more active in deeper knee bending, it is more the glutes that come into play.

healthy knees

What about doing all those different types of leg exercises like altering the foot position during your squats to get more quads? Well, yea, science ruined that one too!

healthy knees

Comfort, Paul, and Peter Kasim. “Optimizing squat technique.” Strength and Conditioning Journal 29.6 (2007): 10.

In other words, we don’t need to do all the crazy exercises that you see on the internet to build strong and healthy knees. We DO need to focus on specific keys and executing the drills with great intent. Like what?

Start With Ankle Mobility

Ankle mobility and foot stability have a TON of research supporting their ability to help reduce knee injuries and help us build strong and healthy knees. How we do it is key though as you see below.

Improve Foot Stability

Increase Hip Stability & Mobility 

Use Progressive Lower Body Exercises That Connect The Chains Of The Lower Body & Train Multiple Planes Of Motion

No fitness goal has a magic pill. Usually there are multiple issues that need to be addressed and that isn’t a bad thing. It just requires us to have a better understanding of what is impacting our goals and how to go best about meeting those needs. I get it is easy to tell people, “hey it is your quad, your quad connects to your knee” because most people can see and get that. However, that is also why this rarely ends with real solutions for people and they keep on their journey of trying to find that magic pill rather than having someone explain to them all that is involved in real solutions. As you may guess, at DVRT we want to give you the truth of how to actually achieve your goals.

You can get so much help with challenging issues like low back pain with our special program bundle that address many of the facets of low back pain with smarter exercise. Don’t miss in getting this great combo for 35% off for this week only with code “special35” HERE