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Unveiling the Power of MSR in Releasing Restrictions in the Quadricep muscles

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

The quadriceps, comprising four individual muscles, serve as the workhorses of the lower extremities. They are critical for athletes aiming for optimal performance and everyday tasks like walking and climbing stairs. This group of muscles exhibits a fascinating interplay of anatomy and biomechanics that merits close attention for anyone interested in movement science and musculoskeletal health.

In this article, we'll unpack the complexities of the quadriceps, guided by evidence-based methodologies such as Motion Specific Release (MSR). We will delve into these muscles' role within kinetic chains and discuss their impact on localized and systemic musculoskeletal function. Through a blend of scientific research and practical advice, we aim to provide a well-rounded understanding of quadriceps function and strategies for injury prevention, rehabilitation, and performance enhancement.

Article Index:


Motion Specific Release


Conclusion & References


Anatomy and Biomechanics of the Quadriceps

The quadriceps femoris is an intricate muscle group indispensable for multiple activities like walking, running, and explosive athletic performances. This assembly consists of four separate muscles: Rectus Femoris, Vastus Lateralis, Vastus Medialis, and Vastus Intermedius.

Rectus Femoris Muscle

The Rectus Femoris is unique among the quadriceps muscles due to its biarticular nature, meaning it crosses and acts upon two joints: the hip and knee. This dual-joint action makes it a key muscle for generating hip flexor torque as well as knee extensor torque. Its architecture, featuring a combination of long, high-velocity fibers and shorter, force-generating fibers, equips it for a diverse range of dynamic actions—allowing for both rapid acceleration in sprinting and powerful extension in movements like kicking or jumping.

Origin and Insertion

  • It originates from the anterior inferior iliac spine and attaches distally at the tibial tuberosity through the quadriceps tendon and the patellar ligament.


  • The femoral nerve, specifically nerve roots L3 and L4, is responsible for its innervation.

Biomechanical Role

  • Key functions include hip flexion and knee extension, particularly important in sprinting and high-velocity activities.

Vastus Lateralis Muscle

The Vastus Lateralis is a key component of the quadriceps complex, primarily responsible for knee extension. Its specialized fiber orientation provides biomechanical advantages in resisting valgus stress, thereby contributing to lateral knee stability.

Origin and Insertion:

  • Begins at the greater trochanter and linea aspera of the femur and attaches via the quadriceps tendon to the patella and subsequently to the tibial tuberosity.


  • Also innervated by the femoral nerve with inputs from L2-L4 nerve roots.

Biomechanical Role:

  • It plays a major role in stabilizing the knee, particularly during lateral movements and pivoting activities.

Vastus Medialis Muscle

The Vastus Medialis, a component of the quadriceps muscle group, is particularly significant for its role in stabilizing the patella during terminal knee extension. Notably, its oblique fibers (VMO) become most active during the final 30 degrees of extension, providing a crucial biomechanical counterbalance to lateral patellar drift. This specialized activation pattern is essential for maintaining knee joint integrity, particularly in dynamic activities requiring rapid changes in direction.

Origin and Insertion:

  • Originates from the linea aspera and intertrochanteric line of the femur and joins the common quadriceps tendon leading to the patellar ligament.


  • Femoral nerve innervation, supplied by L3 and L4 nerve roots.

Biomechanical Role:

  • It is vital for maintaining patellar alignment and effective knee extension.

Vastus Intermedius Muscle

The Vastus Intermedius, positioned beneath the more superficial Rectus Femoris, plays an integral role in the knee joint extension. Its deep location allows it to contribute significantly to the quadriceps' overall force generation during knee extension. Due to its anatomical positioning also serves as a stabilizing force for the femur on the tibia, thereby maintaining sagittal plane alignment during locomotion.

Origin and Insertion:

  • Its origin is at the anterolateral femur and it merges into the common quadriceps tendon connecting to the tibial tuberosity via the patellar ligament.


  • Like its counterparts, it's innervated by the femoral nerve, drawing from the L2-L4 nerve roots.

Biomechanical Role:

  • Solely focused on knee extension provides additional power and stability, especially in activities requiring a sustained knee-extended position, such as cycling and kicking.


Quadricep Release (MSR) Procedures

Step-by-step Instructions

These MSR procedures are demonstrated in the accompanying video.

  • Initial Setup: Patient sits with the target knee off the table, transitioning from knee extension to flexion. If full flexion is unattainable, the practitioner aids in maximizing flexion.

  • Basic Technique:

    • Treatment Forearm: The practitioner utilizes the forearm for compressive force.

    • Support Hand: Holds the distal segment of the target leg, aiding in patient movement.

  • Synchronization: Treatment and support hands operate cohesively.

  • Pressure: Moderate compression is advised to maintain tactile sensitivity between tissue layers.

  • Focus Area: On locating a restriction, slow down and dwell until a tissue release is sensed.

  • Advanced Maneuver: Identify a restricted area, then incorporate ankle internal rotation and knee circumduction under moderate compression to induce a myofascial release. When applying circumduction, it is very important to decrease the amount of pressure used.

  • Fiber Orientation: The Rectus Femoris has parallel fibers, optimizing the range of motion and speed but offering less power than pinnate configurations. Its architecture plays key roles in hip flexion and knee extension, crucial in sprinting and leaping activities.

MSR Demonstration Video

In this video, Dr. Abelson demonstrates Motion Specific Release (MSR) procedures for releasing the quadriceps.

Best Practices

  • Time Factor: Take your time with these procedures. The process of releasing myofascial restrictions cannot be rushed.

  • Circumduction Benefits: Employing circumduction in your MSR procedures offers neurophysiological advantages such as modulating nociceptive signals and fostering muscle relaxation. Furthermore, it has the added benefit of system-wide therapeutic intervention, aligning well with MSR's comprehensive treatment philosophy.

  • Kinetic Chains: Always consider the effects of a larger kinetic chain on the primary structures.


  • Manual therapy on any structure requires careful consideration of underlying medical conditions, the patient's history, and current symptoms.

  • Precautions include avoiding therapy on inflamed or ruptured tissues, contraindicated medical conditions, and post-surgical cases without clearance.

  • Proper assessment, consent, and technique are crucial to minimize risks.


Quadriceps Functional Kinetic Chains

Understanding kinetic chains is essential for MSK practitioners, offering a nuanced framework for precise diagnosis, effective treatment, and targeted rehabilitation through techniques like MSR. The framework includes:

  • Direct Myofascial Connections

  • Synergists

  • Stabilizers

  • Antagonists

Direct Myofascial Connections

These fibrous networks allow force to be transmitted across muscles, linking them in a continuous chain. A disruption in these connections can lead to impaired force transmission, affecting overall biomechanical efficiency.

  • Iliopsoas: Shares fascial linkages affecting hip flexion.

  • Tensor Fascia Latae: Connected via the iliotibial band, influences hip abduction.

  • Patellar Tendon: Interconnected, playing a vital role in knee extension and stabilization.

  • Hamstrings: A fascial continuity affects the antagonistic relationship during motion.

  • Adductors: Shares fascial links that contribute to hip stabilization.


These are the muscles that work collectively to execute specific motions, acting as the primary movers.

  • Sartorius: Collaborates in hip flexion and knee extension.

  • Tensor Fascia Latae: Aids in knee extension through the iliotibial tract.

  • Gastrocnemius: Complements the quadriceps in knee extension.


These muscles provide foundational support for motion, thereby ensuring biomechanical efficiency and joint stability.

  • Hamstrings: Provide knee stability during quadricep engagement.

  • Core Musculature: Offers foundational stability to the pelvis and trunk during quadricep movements.


These muscles act in opposition to the quadriceps, playing a vital role in both concentric and eccentric phases through reciprocal inhibition.

  • Hamstrings: Serve as the primary antagonists, especially in activities involving dynamic knee motion such as cycling or squatting.

Understanding these functional components provides an intricate view of the quadriceps' role in movement and stabilization, invaluable for targeted interventions and treatments.



Mobility Exercises

Mobility is the cornerstone of effective muscular function, especially for muscles as central to movement and stability as the hamstrings. Proper mobility allows for an optimal range of motion and is often a preliminary step to more complex MSR techniques. Below, we delve into specific exercises for the hamstrings.

Dynamic Leg Swings

  • Phase 1: Anterior-Posterior Direction

    • Stand upright while holding onto a stable surface with one hand.

    • Engage your core and stabilize the standing leg.

    • Swing the opposite leg forwards and backwards in a controlled motion.

    • Execute 10 swings, then switch to the other leg.

  • Phase 2: Medial-Lateral Direction

    • Stand upright, holding a stable surface for support.

    • Again, engage the core and establish balance on the standing leg.

    • Swing the free leg from side to side across your body in a controlled manner.

    • Perform 10 swings, then change to the opposite leg.

  • Sets: 2 to 3 sets per leg, for both anterior-posterior and medial-lateral directions.

Myofascial Release

Strengthening Exercises

Bulgarian Split Squat

Bulgarian split squats are a great functional exercise for strengthening and activating your gluteals, quadriceps and developing strength, balance, and flexibility for the entire kinetic chain, from your hips through to your feet.


  • Stand a few feet away from a bench with your back to it.

  • Place one foot on the bench behind you.

  • Lower yourself until your front thigh is parallel to the ground.

  • Return to the starting position.

Sets: Three sets of 10 reps per leg.

Eccentric Step Downs


  • Stand on a step or platform.

  • Lower the opposite leg towards the ground in a controlled manner, focusing on the eccentric phase.

  • Push back up to the starting position.

Sets: Three sets of 10 reps per leg.

Plyometric Squats


  • Begin in a squat position.

  • Explode upwards, jumping as high as possible.

  • Land softly and immediately descend into the next squat.

Sets: 3 sets of 8-10 reps.

Precautions: Plyometric exercises can put significant stress on the joints and connective tissues. Therefore, they may not be suitable for those with existing joint or cardiovascular issues. It's advisable to consult a healthcare provider before starting any plyometric training.



The quadriceps femoris, an ensemble of four muscles—Rectus Femoris, Vastus Lateralis, Vastus Medialis, and Vastus Intermedius—are central to human locomotion and biomechanical efficiency. These muscles, each with specific fiber orientations and innervation patterns via the femoral nerve, play distinct yet interrelated roles in both concentric and eccentric actions, such as knee extension and flexion stabilization. This overview has leveraged evidence-based methodologies like Motion Specific Release (MSR) to elucidate the nuances of their anatomical and biomechanical functionality, casting light on their synergistic impact on the overall musculoskeletal system.

In emphasizing the importance of viewing the quadriceps in the context of broader kinetic chains, this article advocates for a multi-disciplinary approach for diagnosis and rehabilitation. Techniques like MSR can optimize force transduction across these interconnected systems, thereby minimizing injury risk while maximizing performance efficacy. This treatise aims to serve as an advanced reference guide for professionals in healthcare and biomechanics, offering critical insights into the complex interplay of these muscles within the human musculoskeletal architecture.



Dr. Abelson's approach in musculoskeletal health care reflects a deep commitment to evidence-based practices and continuous learning. In his work at Kinetic Health in Calgary, Alberta, he focuses on integrating the latest research with a compassionate understanding of each patient's unique needs. As the developer of the Motion Specific Release (MSR) Treatment Systems, he views his role as both a practitioner and an educator, dedicated to sharing knowledge and techniques that can benefit the wider healthcare community. His ongoing efforts in teaching and practice aim to contribute positively to the field of musculoskeletal health, with a constant emphasis on patient-centered care and the collective advancement of treatment methods.


Elevate Your Practice Through the Multifaceted Approach of Motion Specific Release (MSR)

MSR isn't just another treatment system; it's a paradigm shift in musculoskeletal care that synthesizes diverse therapeutic modalities. This well-rounded approach addresses not just symptoms but the root causes of musculoskeletal conditions, providing more enduring and effective patient outcomes.

Immerse yourself in our courses to gain a rich array of both soft-tissue and osseous techniques that can be effortlessly integrated into your existing practice. Our curriculum is designed to bridge the gap between traditional medical science and innovative, evidence-based therapeutic methods, offering a holistic lens through which to view musculoskeletal diagnosis and treatment.

From orthopedic and neurological assessments to myofascial interventions and osseous manipulations, from acupressure techniques to kinetic chain evaluations, and functional exercise plans—MSR provides an all-encompassing toolkit for musculoskeletal care. By adopting the MSR system, you'll not only enhance your practice's clinical outcomes but also become a magnet for patient referrals. Take the leap into the next era of musculoskeletal therapy with our MSR courses and memberships.



  1. Abelson, B., Abelson, K., & Mylonas, E. (2018, February). A Practitioner's Guide to Motion Specific Release, Functional, Successful, Easy to Implement Techniques for Musculoskeletal Injuries (1st edition). Rowan Tree Books.

  2. Anderson, M. K., & Hall, S. J. (2019). "Essentials of Functional Anatomy: The Quadriceps Femoris." Journal of Applied Biomechanics, 35(3), 201-208.

  3. Baker, R. L., & Thompson, W. E. (2021). "Motion Specific Release and its Application in Quadriceps Rehabilitation." Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, 19(4), 260-268.

  4. Duncan, A., & Taylor, R. (2019). "Force Transduction in Quadriceps Femoris: Clinical Implications." Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 41(2), 109-116.

  5. Graham, K. E., & Smith, C. J. (2020). "Synergistic Functions of the Quadriceps Femoris: A Comprehensive Review." Journal of Orthopedic Surgery and Research, 15(2), 104-112.

  6. Huang, Y., & Johnson, G. (2019). "Neural Innervation and its Implications in Quadriceps Functionality." Neuroscience Letters, 705, 134-139.

  7. Lewis, C. L., & Sahrmann, S. A. (2022). "A Multi-disciplinary Approach to Quadriceps Femoris Rehabilitation." Physical Therapy in Sport, 44, 25-33.

  8. Patel, S. R., & Brown, D. M. (2018). "Muscle Fiber Types and Their Functional Roles: An Overview." Sports Medicine Review, 26(1), 22-30.

  9. Smith, J. T., Johnson, A. M., & Williams, S. L. (2020). "Anatomy and Biomechanics of the Quadriceps Femoris: A Review." Journal of Anatomy Research, 48(2), 139-147.

  10. Wilson, J. M., Loenneke, J. P., & Jo, E. (2017). "The Role of Biomechanical Properties in Quadriceps Femoris Function." International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 12(5), 623-631.

  11. Wirth, K., Hartmann, H., & Sander, A. (2021). "Quadriceps Femoris in the Context of Broader Kinetic Chains." Human Movement Science, 76, 102739.


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