Have you ever felt like your quads aren’t growing the way you think they should? Do your legs not get sore with an intense leg work out? Do you not have the definition and strength you want? Can you flex your quads as a whole group without any mushiness? And I mean REALLY flex as a whole group.
I lifted legs for years and thought I had good leg development. It wasn’t until I expanded my knowledge in Applied Kinesiology and found a way of assessing quad activation and inguinal ligament integrity that I found how to really fire my quads. Quadriceps activation is a must if you want maximal strength, power and aesthetics.
Inguinal ligament laxity directly effects your quad activation and ultimately muscle growth by putting pressure on femoral nerve. When the inguinal ligament has integrity and is properly stabilizing the anterior pelvis and abdominal wall the hip flexors, femoral arteries, veins and nerves and other structures are not compromised. When the ligament is lax or damaged it stretches out placing pressure on the nerves, arteries, veins and muscles deep to the ligament. This can be noticed at pain or tightness in the hip crease, but more importantly it decreases femoral nerve activity and decreases activation to the quadriceps muscle group. Not a good thing if you want tree trunk legs or simply have full use of your quads.
Ligament laxity is one of the most common causes of sports and lifestyle injuries. In my years of clinical practice and assessing using muscle testing, I have found most lower back injuries have a major lumbo-pelvic, sacro-pelvic ligament cause or link. When the pelvis isn’t stable the low back and ultimately the spine can’t be. The inguinal ligament is no different. It is the anterior ligament support for the pelvis. The best way to assess your inguinal ligament stability is with a seated assessment of the rectus femoris. This is done by simply lifting you need straight up toward your head. Have someone apply even firm pressure down and assess how strong it is. If you can’t support your knee and is very weak the odds are you have a damaged inguinal ligament. (Note: a more in depth assessment must be performed find all parameters involved like spinal problems, nerve problems, muscle injury, etc.) If you do not have access to a proper assessment from a practitioner who practices Applied Kinesiology and muscle testing then follow this pattern:
1. Does your Transverse Abdominus work?
a. If you are not a pro, chances are, NO. This is by far one of the top muscles people do not use. Back pain is an epidemic and almost all back pain is partly related to weak TVA activation and overall strength. Many people have written in depth articles on this topic and please refer to one of them. Paul Chek has one of the most in depth TVA articles titled, “Back Strong and Beltless”. Google it.
b. The TVA is attached to the inguinal ligament. This means when your TVA is injured, weak or not being activated correctly it directly effects the inguinal ligament, and ultimately the quads.
2. Can you flex your quads maximally?
a. When you flex your quads are they rock hard, or do they have some softness to them? They should be rock hard. Soft or flaccid muscles are sign they are not receiving maximal neurologic input. This is probably due to a lax ligament, preventing proper neurologic stimulation, thus decreases strength.
3. Is your inguinal ligament sore to the touch?
a. When you rub and massage your inguinal ligament is it sore? It is located in your hip crease from top of the hip bone (ASIS) to the pubes. If yes, this is a sign it is stressed, damaged, irritated, lax or all of the above. Pain is a wonderful indicator of a problem. I have yet to find an inguinal ligament that is too tight, so odds are if it is sore, it is irritated, lax and weak.
4. When you do a quad specific workout do you feel the pump?
a. If not, your quads are not working properly. That is pretty simple. Chances are it is an inguinal problem or simply a problem of Upper Body Syndrome. Upper Body Syndrome is a disease commonly found in weight rooms where a select population finds no need for strengthening leg muscles. Symptoms include arm circumference equal to thigh circumference. Not a good look. Can be treated with proper training principles and application.
How to fix the problem and workout to improve inguinal ligament integrity:
1. TVA. Get it working properly and flexing.
a. This is by far the number on way to improve your inguinal ligament health. The TVA is attached to the ligament and therefore is used to stabilize it during movement. Most people do not utilize their core correctly. It must be trained properly. Read one of the many articles on T-Nation about strengthening your TVA.
2. Massage and workout out adhesions in the ligament. This is usually a painful endeavor and many different methods work. Cross friction massage, trigger point work, ART, percussion, etc.
a. Your best bet is to find a soft tissue practitioner and have them assess and work out.
3. Begin working the quads with basic strength exercises, single leg to start.
a. Start with single leg exercises and always be sure to engage your core.
b. Progression: Poliquin Step Ups > Pederson Step Ups > Front Foot Elevated Front Foot Split Squats > Elevated Rear Foot Split Squats > Ready for anything.
c. The time frame can vary and really depends on TVA activation and inguinal health. Depending on the length of time your quads have been deficiently working it could take a while to increase strength and proper neurologic input. The good news is the more you apply proper stimulation the stronger the connection will be leading to improved muscle control and strength.
4. ALWAYS BE FLEXING YOUR TVA DURING ALL LEG EXERCISES.
a. You will begin these single leg exercises with light weight, but you will feel a pump in your quads if you are doing it right.
b. This will be very challenging in the beginning. It will be very hard to keep your TVA flexed for 6-8 reps on each side. This is because your TVA doesn’t know how to work yet. You have not been working it properly for your whole life.
This process is a sure fire way to get your quads firing and feeling the pump. Odds are you have not been getting the maximum strength output from your legs and the inguinal ligament may have been holding you back.
Time to get STRONG LEGS!
-Dr. Kurt Waples
Picture Source: https://www.dartmouth.edu/~humananatomy/figures/chapter_15/15-5_files/IMAGE001.JPG