After coming back from your long run, do you feel that your quads are burning? Not only the quads but your adductors hurt too. Does that sound like you? You are a quad dominant runner my friend. Don’t worry I am too. Welcome to the club. Running involves many different muscles from the arm swing to pelvic twist to all the small muscles in your feet. Over the last year I have become very familiar with quad dominance and my physical therapist’s office. In this blog you’ll learn what quad dominance is and why it affects the runners.
How to Tell if You Are Quad Dominant
- If you’re not sure that you belong to the quad dominant group, here are some things to look out for.
- In a reclining core exercise, where your back is flat on the mat, you feel your hip flexors muscles. Hip flexor muscles is a group of muscles that run around your groin area and attach the upper legs to torso.
- You always feel the front of your legs when you squat and lunge but nothing much in the back of your leg.
- You feel a strong stretch in the front of your legs when you go into a bridge position.
- Your quads and hip flexors are sore after running and walking
What Causes Quad Dominance
Quads are the muscles across the front of the thigh that are responsible for flexing your knee. The muscles at the back of your legs, hamstrings, and glutes, are responsible for extending your knee and extending your hips. When your body relies primarily on the front on of your leg for extension and flexion of the knee and hips, that’s what’s called quad dominance. In simple terms, there is an imbalance between quads and hip flexors, and hamstrings and glutes.
The muscles in front of your body try to take over every movement even when its none of their business. Our bodies like to take the path of least resistance. When you have weak muscles in your body, the stronger muscles take over the work of weak muscles.
Modern humans like to sit for extended periods of time. All the sitting at the office desk shortens and weakens your hip-flexor muscles and shuts off your butt muscles. This results in a muscle imbalance in your legs and leads to quad dominance very quickly.
Runners and Quad Dominance
Quad dominance presents as overstriding for runners. Overstriding means that the runner’s leg is falling too far in front of the body with an overly extended leg. This results in the knee absorbing most of the landing force which stresses the knee. Overstriding can lead to injuries. Coach Caitlin Sapp explains it well in her blog, “your leg is the pendulum which should move equally in front and behind your body at any speed. When we overstride, the pendulum is swinging more forward than it is backward, as we are not getting the leg behind us while running.”
Another reason why quad dominance doesn’t work for runners is it leads to fatigue early. Quadriceps muscles are made for power and mostly consist of fast twitch muscle fibers which fatigue quickly. Glutes have mostly slow-twitch fibers and are supposed to endure. Relying on your quads results in less endurance and poor aerobic capacity.
Quad Dominant Running Injuries
Whenever I tell someone that I am a runner, people always tell me that they can’t run because it hurts their knee. The painful knees aren’t due to running. The painful knees are a result of poor posture and quad dominance. When a runner is running at speed, a lot of force is required from the muscles to extend the hips. Because of the poor posture and weak gluteus muscles, runners favor the quads to do the work instead of the glutes. This results in sheer forces at your knee which can lead to many injuries for runners.
The most common running injury because of this postural asymmetry is an adductor or quad strain. Other common injuries seen in quad dominant runners are shin splints, tibial stress fractures, knee osteoarthritis and plantar fasciitis. Notice that these running injuries are in the front part of the legs, the muscles that are overused.
Strengthening the weak muscles and placing your hips over your feet when you land, can relieve the knee pain, and avoid these leg injuries. Next time you go on your run, make a video of yourself running from a lateral view. Check if your legs are following the full pendulum swing or not.
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About the Author
Aesha Tahir is a health and wellness coach and a certified personal trainer. She holds a Master’s degree in Applied Exercise Science and is certified by the NASM as a Personal trainer. She is a certified USA Track and Field Running Coach and Road Runners of America Coach. She is a 200-HR Registered Yoga Teacher. She is also a group exercise instructor specializing in barre, spinning, strength training, boot camp, and yoga classes. She has over five years of experience in the fitness and wellness arena with focused expertise in coaching, corrective exercise and injury prevention, individualized fitness programs, and group fitness programs. She is also an aspiring public speaker in the fitness and wellness world who believes in this quote; “To be inspired is great, but to inspire is incredible.”