The Rectus Femoris Muscle

June 16, 2014     muscle | quadriceps | Anatomy | Lower Limb

What does rectus femoris mean?

The rectus femoris muscle is the most superficial muscle of the quadriceps group. It’s also the only quadriceps muscle that crosses both the hip joint and the knee joint.

  • Rectus means straight
  • Femoris refers to the femur
  • Rectus femoris is one of four muscles that make up the quadriceps group.
  • The four heads of the quadriceps group are the vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, and rectus femoris.

Where does the rectus femoris attach?

  • This muscle attaches above (proximally) on the AIIS (Anterior Inferior Iliac Spine) of the pelvis. This is the small bump BELOW the bump that we call our “hip point.”
  • This muscle attaches below (distally) to the bump on the front of the tibia (tibial tuberosity) through its attachment on the knee cap (patella).

The Rectus Femoris Muscle Attachments

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What are the actions of the rectus femoris?

  • It assists in flexion (folding forward) of the hip joint.
  • It assists in extension (straightening) of the knee joint.
  • Rectus femoris can also pull the front of the pelvis down and forward (anterior tilt).
  • It can pull the pelvis down in the front and create compression in the lower back, especially in a backbend.

Postures where this muscle contracts

Utkatasana (chair pose) is one place where this muscle contracts.


Virabhadrasana or warrior 1 pose (below) is another place where this muscle contracts.

virabhadrasana - warrior 1

Utthita hasta padangusthasana or standing leg raise (below) will definitely make this muscle contract.

utthita hasta padangusthasana - standing leg raise

Postures where this muscle is lengthened

Natarajasana or dancer pose (below) will lengthen this muscle.

dancer pose - natarajasana

Pigeon pose sometimes called kapotasana (below)

pigeon pose

Supta virasana (below) will also lengthen this muscle.

supta virasana

Rectus femoris injury

Rectus femoris strain/tear

  • It is commonly caused by forceful movement when the muscle is in a contracted position.
  • Strains can occur when kicking a ball and the knee is in some way restricted.
  • Strains are common in soccer players and also occur in football and other sports where kicking or sudden jumping is required.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain towards the top, front of the thigh
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Restricted range of motion depending on the extent of the tear

Rehabilitation of minor tears follows the RICE method, then gentle movement and stretching once swelling has been reduced. Serious tears (those verging on a complete tear) require surgery to repair. There have also been updates to the protocol and relevance of use.

Trigger points

Rectus Femoris Trigger Points


  1. Hi David, I am loving your book! I went to look for your take on setting up virasana and you don’t cover that. So I thought I’d ask here. I have heard both to set up with knees together and knees apart and was hoping that you might shed some light on why you might do either of those and which is the more optimal way based on the anatomy of the knee and hip.
    Thank you SO much!!!, Beth

    1. Post

      Hi Beth,
      I don’t cover Virasana specifically, but I very clearly point out knees together and apart starting on page 370. It’s part of the whole backbending story. But specifically for what I think you’re referring to might also be related to the thigh more internally or externally rotated? This also changes the angle that force runs through the rectus femoris. Check the book and see if that part helps.