Are Your Hamstrings & Quadriceps Working Properly? Use These Simple Tests On Your Legs?


These quick posts are becoming a habit!?

Let’s simplify something called reciprocal innervation…so it can help people from the second they finish reading this?

As a Soft Tissue Specialist…Movement Analyst…and Elite Performance Coach…I run my own clinic fixing “Broken people”…and I work in numerous different capacities with professional athletes and the general public.

One thing I encounter a lot…is…dysfunction between the hamstrings and quadriceps during postural analysis and palpation. (For many different reasons as to why and where…that’s not what this blog post is about)

Reciprocal innervation…when assessing these muscle groups in their most simplistic of forms…means…when one switches on…the other switches off.

Is that the case for you?

Check…it’s really easy?

I’ve taken a couple of pictures using my mum to show you how to test your legs…yourself.



Preferably with a pillow or an appropriate bolster underneath your knees (Didn’t have one to hand and was only using her for demonstrative purposes)…have somebody apply gentle pressure while you resist upwards to fire the quadriceps. (You should not be aiming to raise the leg off the ground or force the other persons arm up – Apply approx 10% of your power…that should be enough to create a comfortable…contraction)

Push against the resistance and you should find the muscles on the front of your thigh activate (Quadriceps)…while the hamstrings on the back…completely relax.



Again…with a pillow under your knees…lightly press your heel into the floor…to contract the hamstrings.

You aren’t trying to break the floor…only apply 10% of your maximum power.

As you push the heel into the floor…you should feel the muscles to the back of your thigh contract (Hamstrings)…while the muscles on the front of your thigh completely relax.

So there is your explanation of reciprocal innervation…and how it should be…between hamstrings and quads…giving you real world examples…without having to get too technical…or too deep with it for a change!

This is an assessment tool you can utilise to see if there are any issues with your neuromuscular connection.

The aim of the game is to feel complete contraction…at the same time as relaxation.

If your legs aren’t coinciding with the above…then you can use these tests to identify where the issues lie.

I would never prescribe anything that “Fixes” to a an audience as every issue is personal…unique…and specific.

What I will say is above…you have your basis…your starting point.

If there are any irregularities…then start to train your brain.

It’s a great way to gain proprioceptive control and become more body aware.

All you have to do is focus on making the above work.

Concentrate and regain the control by concentrating on the contraction…and the relaxation.

The benefits would need a whole post on their own!

Extra Credit

As this was just a basic example…between two opposing muscle groups…you can also utilise this tool…to see if there are any issues elsewhere on the leg.

For example…when you push down…trying to activate the hamstrings…if you feel the inside of your leg working harder than the hamstrings…you know there is dysfunction in the adductor group. (In a nutshell)

Woman with elastic bandage on knee doing sport exercises in gym

Guest posts are always welcome on the clinic website…I just want to share other people’s stories…as we offer many different services…and information on varied topics.

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Soft Tissue Specialist – Movement Analyst – Elite Performance Coach


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