The other day, I performed a home leg workout with a focus on quads and hamstrings. The only weight I had was a bag full of water bottles, trophy’s and whatever I could find that would fit in the rucksack to hopefully have a sufficient weight on my back for squatting. It turned out that I managed to build the backpack into around 20kg and therefore ending up being a high rep exercise which absolutely pumped the hell out of my legs and the lactic acid build up was pretty brutal.
A second exercise I performed was body weight sissy squats. Now these really stretch out the quads and produce a very high stimulus for just body weight. Very effective if you have no equipment at home for leg day. If you haven't performed these before, give them a go.
The next day, all down the middle part of my quads were on fire, the DOMS were real.
So it got me thinking... why is it only this part of my quad has taken the forefront of DOMS?
I then came to the realisation of the sissy squat movement and the correlation it has with the rectus femoris. So I thought I’d write a little article on this particular bodypart, specifying the attachment points, the joint movements and how you can target the rectus femoris more so than the whole quad region.
What is the rectus femoris?
The rectus femoris is a muscle that’s part of the quadriceps group. As you can see in the image below, it passed down the middle of the quad. It’s origin attaches at the anterior inferior iliac spine of the hip bone, and the insertion attaches at the patella (knee)
From this information we can see the the Rectis femoris is a biarticulate muscle, meaning it passes over 2 joints (the knee and the hip joint). This is where it’s singled out from the rest of the quad muscles, as the inner quad (Vastus medialis) or more typically known as the tear drop, and outer quad (Vastus lateralis) famously known as the quad sweep, both pass over just the knee joint.
Function of the rector femoris.
With now knowing the attachments of the muscle, we can come to realise the function and movement of the Rectus femoris.
As the image shows below, the muscle is responsible for both (as mentioned above) the leverage and movement of the hip joint, allowing it to function as a hip flexor, and the knee joint. More specifically extension of the knee and flexion of the hip/thigh.
Target your Rectus femoris with this exercise.
To enable full range of motion through an exercise to target the rectus femoris, the starting position will have the hip joint extended (full stretch to the muscle) while the knee joint flexed. From this position the Rectus femoris will be contracted and flexed while the knee joint extended. (see image below)
A great exercise to imitate and replicate the function of this muscle is to perform legs extension with a twist.
A standard leg extension exercise is performed with your torso sitting horizontally. In this case, the rectus femoris will be working but not to its full potential due to the hip joint not being extended at the start of the movement.
To create the added extension of the hip, simple push the seat as far back as it will go on the leg extension machine. This way, you are able to lean back and almost have a straight line going from you chest to your knee. Your hip is now extended.
Now perform the exercise, extend your knees and flex your hips at the same, finishing with your torso leaning forward and legs fully extended. This will create a full range of motion through the rectus femoris muscle while having constant tension and stimulus to target this muscle to allow for growth.
If you do 4 sets of these at around the 12 rep range mark, the next day you will know about it. You will have soreness from your lower quad, all the way up to your hip running straight down the middle of your quad.
As this muscle is part of the quadriceps group, don’t get me wrong, you will be working the Rectus femoris when performing your usual quad exercises. But, this exercise is to really help target the muscle specifically, if for instance you feel it is lagging compared to the rest of your quad muscles. Be sure to incorporate this into your leg routine and witness the benefits.