Why is quad strength important for triathletes?

Your thighs are made up of four muscles, commonly known as the quadriceps, and it's these muscles that are responsible for generating power – an important commodity for triathletes. Physio Juliet Slade explains more

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The quadricep muscles are power generators for athletes and these muscles needs a lot of attention if they’re to work at their maximum efficiency and enhance performance, just look at those of Sir Chris Hoy! You don’t necessarily need quads like his, but Hoy’s thighs have played a big contribution in his six Olympic gold medal wins.


What muscles make up the quadriceps?

what muscles make up the quadriceps

The quads are made up of four muscles:

  • Vastus lateralis The muscle on the outside of the thigh
  • Vastus medialis The inside thigh muscle
  • Vastus intermedius This muscle sits between the two above.
  • Rectus femoris This muscle is the only one that makes up part of the hip flexor complex, so is particularly important to keep flexible to avoid hip and knee pain. Consistent sitting – whether at a desk or on a bike – will shorten this muscle and impact its ability to produce power. You can keep it flexible by foam rolling and stretching.

What are the quads responsible for?

The main role of the quads is to extend the knee and assist with its bending, while also providing stability to the knee joint itself.

In order to avoid classic running and cycling injuries, such as patello-femoral joint pain (runner’s knee), it’s important these global muscles stay strong and flexible to offload the knee during activity.

The fact that they control our knee movements means they’re a huge power generator for triathletes. In order to pedal, swim or run fast you need leg speed and strength. Think of them as your accelerator muscles that’ll push you towards reaching your goal PB. This again highlights our need to keep them flexible as well as strong.

How can I strengthen my quad muscles?

3 recommended exercises to develop quad strength

  • Weighted squats
  • Dynamic lunges
  • Step ups

During these exercises focus on keeping hips parallel and knee pointing to the centre of your foot.

Quad mobility exercises

  • Hip flexor stretch
  • Foam roller

Physio Juliet Slade is a rehab specialist at Six Physio

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