Many of my clients exhibit limited quadriceps flexibility and anterior hip tightness. Excessive sitting, biking, running and prolonged periods in hip flexion contribute to tightness in the anterior hip and quadriceps. Quadriceps tightness is also one risk factor that has been associated with anterior knee pain. One method I like to utilize to improve quadriceps and hip flexor mobility is rope stretching.
Execution: Begin in a sidelying position with the right leg up. Position the end of a closed rope around the right foot. Grasping the rope behind the head, slowly pull the right heel toward the buttocks while keeping the hip near the midline of the body. There will likely be some mild hip extension, but aim to keep the hip near neutral. A stretch should be felt along the quadriceps.
Hold the stretch for 3-5 seconds and then release the tension. Repeat for 5-10 times and switch legs. To increase the stretch, consider using reciprocal inhibition by contracting the hamstrings as you pull the rope.
Note: if you desire to target the hip flexors (primarily the rectus femoris), perform the same rope stretch while now passively extending the hip beyond the midline. It is helpful to reduce knee flexion to attain a more proximal stretch. Watch for compensatory rotation through the hips/spine, and consider using tactile cues to help maintain proper alignment for those unfamiliar with this technique.
Application: This exercise is an excellent way for clients to reduce quadriceps/hip flexor tightness. Foam rolling and/or myofascial compression therapy prior to stretching may further enhance mobility. This exercise can be used with runners, cyclists and clients struggling with patellofemoral pain. It works well as part of a mobility workout, warm-up, regeneration day or at the end of a workout.