Quad Dominance and Neck Pain in Women

neck pain

Most of us know that women have about 40 to 60 percent the upper body strength of men, while pound per pound, their lower body strength is much closer.

But when it comes to the lower body, did you know most women are quad dominant? That means women tend to recruit their quadriceps before their hamstrings. To correct the strength imbalance in the lower body, female athletic training and strength coach John Paul Catanzaro suggests including hip extension with pulls, Romanian deadlifts and reverse hypers for strength and activation into your workouts.

It’s important for women to address this imbalanace because it can lead to damaged ligaments that hold their knees together, resulting in knee injuries. And according to strength and conditioning specialist Lou Schuler, the problem worsens with time because women recruit their stronger muscles—the quads—first, which in turn makes them stronger. And that can lead to a literal pain in the neck.

That’s because the quadriceps muscles, which are much stronger in mature women in relation to the hamstring muscles, are connected to the rectus abdominis, otherwise known as the six-pack muscle. “When your quads are too strong, and your [abs] are overworked, the muscles on the front of your body tighten,” Schuler explains in The New Rules of Lifting for Women. “Tight muscles on the front will stretch out the connective tissues on the back, making them longer and comparatively weaker.”The stretched out connective tissues causes the head to tilt forward. “Picture an old lady with a dowager’s hump,” Schuler warns. “That’s the worst-case scenario of quad dominance.”

Schuler also warns against over-emphasizing ab exercise, especially crunches, which he describes as “a useless exercise.” Instead, Schuler suggests women focus more on twisting exercises like the horizontal cable wood chop. “If you’re a typical woman, your front body muscles are already stronger than they should be.”