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Guide to Long Arc Quad Exercise

The "Long Arc Quad" (LAQ) exercise is often prescribed in physical therapy settings, especially post-operatively for patients who've had knee surgery, such as an ACL reconstruction. It's designed to target and strengthen the quadriceps muscle without placing a significant amount of strain on the knee joint.

Loaded Long Arc Quad exercise is often used in commercial and home gyms to target quads and isolate them from the rest of the leg muscles, allowing the trainees to focus only on this muscle group.

Published: October 2, 2023.

long arc quad therapy

How to Perform the Long Arc Quad Exercise

Long Arc Quad is one of the easiest exercises for quads, but it nonetheless requires focus and careful execution.

Despite often being done with no weight (post-surgery) or with light weight, the focus is on correct movement and Time Under Tention (TUT), helping the trainee to work the quads even without a larger load.

  • Starting Position: Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground.
  • Movement: Slowly extend one knee, raising your foot off the ground and straightening your knee as much as you can. Ideally, you want to achieve full knee extension, where the back of your knee approaches or reaches the chair.
  • End Position: At the peak of the movement, your leg should be straight, with toes pointing towards the ceiling. Hold this fully extended position for a few seconds, engaging and squeezing your quadriceps muscle.
  • Return: Slowly lower your foot back to the starting position.
  • Repetitions: Typically, you'd perform multiple repetitions as prescribed by a physical therapist. The exercise can also be performed with light ankle weights for added resistance as you progress.

The long arc quad exercise is excellent for improving quadriceps strength, especially when weight-bearing exercises might be contraindicated or challenging.

It's always essential, particularly post-operation, to follow the guidance of a physical therapist or medical professional when performing rehabilitation exercises.

How to Perform Loaded Long Arc Quad (LAQ) Exercise

Loaded Long Arc Quad (LAQ) exercises can be executed using the leg extension machine commonly found in most gyms. This machine allows for added resistance, making it a loaded variation of the basic LAQ exercise.

long arc quad loaded 2

Here's how to perform a loaded Long Arc Quad exercise using the leg extension machine:


  • Sit down on the leg extension machine and adjust the backrest so your back is comfortably supported.
  • Position the padded lever of the machine just above your ankles. The exact location might vary based on the machine's design, but it usually should be right on the top of your lower leg.
  • Select an appropriate weight. If you're new to this exercise or recovering from an injury, start with a light weight to avoid excessive strain.


  • With your hands holding the side handles or the seat for stability, slowly extend your knees, lifting the weight until your legs are as straight as possible. This movement should be controlled and smooth.
  • Squeeze your quads at the top of the movement and hold for a second.
  • Slowly lower the weight back to the starting position in a controlled manner.


  • Perform the desired number of repetitions and sets. If you're new to the exercise, 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions is a good starting point. Adjust based on your strength and fitness goals.

Safety Tips

  • Ensure you're not using excessive weight that forces you to use momentum or jerk the weight.
  • Keep your back pressed against the backrest throughout the exercise to protect your spine.
  • If you're recovering from a knee injury, be sure to get clearance from a physical therapist or physician before performing loaded LAQ exercises.

Remember, the primary goal of the loaded Long Arc Quad exercise is to strengthen the quadriceps muscle. Always prioritize form over the amount of weight lifted, and if you experience any pain (beyond normal muscle fatigue), stop the exercise and seek advice.

long arc quad loaded 1

Pros and Cons Of Loaded Long Arc Quad (LAQ) Exercise

The loaded Long Arc Quad (LAQ) exercise, typically performed using a leg extension machine, is a popular exercise to isolate and strengthen the quadriceps muscles. However, like any exercise, it comes with both advantages and potential drawbacks.

Pros of Loaded LAQ Exercise

  • Targeted Quadriceps Activation: The LAQ exercise is excellent for isolating the quadriceps muscles, allowing for focused strengthening.
  • Measurable Progress: Since it's a machine-based exercise, it's easy to track and measure progress by monitoring the weight being lifted over time.
  • Beneficial for Rehabilitation: For those recovering from specific knee surgeries or injuries, the controlled movement of the leg extension machine can be beneficial in the early to mid-stages of rehabilitation, helping restore quad strength.
  • Versatility: The machine allows for varying resistance, making it suitable for both beginners and advanced individuals.
  • Safety: The fixed pathway of the machine can reduce the risk of injury due to improper form when compared to free-weight exercises.

Cons of Loaded LAQ Exercise

  • Knee Stress: The exercise can place a significant amount of stress on the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the patellofemoral joint. Those with existing knee issues should approach this exercise with caution.
  • Not Functional: Unlike compound movements like squats and lunges, the LAQ exercise does not mimic many real-world movements, making it less functional.
  • Overdevelopment Risk: Over-relying on the leg extension machine can lead to an imbalance between the quadriceps and the hamstrings, potentially increasing the risk of injuries.


  • Limited Muscle Engagement: The isolation nature of the exercise means that other supportive and stabilizing muscles aren't significantly engaged, unlike in compound leg exercises.
  • Potential for Poor Form: If not executed with proper form, there's potential for strain or injury, especially if too much weight is used or the movement is performed too quickly.

While the loaded Long Arc Quad exercise has its place, especially for targeted quadriceps strengthening and certain rehabilitation protocols, it's essential to incorporate it into a balanced leg training regimen.

Combining LAQs with other exercises that target various leg muscles and promote functional strength is key to a holistic approach to leg fitness.

What is a Short Arc Quad Exercise?

The Short Arc Quad (SAQ) exercise is a rehabilitation and strengthening exercise primarily targeting the quadriceps muscle, particularly the vastus medialis obliquus (VMO).

short arc quad exercise

This muscle is essential for proper knee function and stability. The "short arc" refers to the limited range of motion used during the exercise.

How to Perform the Short Arc Quad Exercise

  • Starting Position: Lie flat on your back on a comfortable surface. Place a rolled-up towel, foam roller, or a large bolster under one knee to create a small arc or bend in the knee. The other leg should lie flat.
  • Movement: Tighten or contract the quadriceps muscle of the leg with the bolster under it. Slowly raise your foot off the ground by straightening your knee. However, unlike the long arc quad exercise, you will not fully extend the knee. Instead, you will move it just a short distance (hence the name).
  • End Position: Your leg should create a slight angle off the bolster. Hold this position for a few seconds, ensuring your quadriceps remains contracted.
  • Return: Slowly lower your foot back down to its starting position, allowing the back of your knee to rest on the bolster again.
  • Repetitions: Typically, perform multiple repetitions as prescribed by a physical therapist or trainer. Often, this exercise is done in higher repetitions (e.g., 10-20 reps) since it’s typically used in rehab settings or as a warm-up or cool-down activity.

Benefits of the Short Arc Quad Exercise

  • Isolation of the VMO: The SAQ is particularly effective at isolating and activating the VMO, a critical stabilizer of the knee joint.
  • Low Strain: It places minimal strain on the knee joint, making it ideal for individuals recovering from knee surgeries or injuries.
  • Versatility: Can be easily performed at home or in clinical settings without specialized equipment.

This exercise is commonly prescribed in physical therapy settings, especially for those recovering from knee surgeries or injuries.

If someone is considering adding the SAQ to their routine, it's always a good idea to consult with a medical or fitness professional, especially if they have existing knee issues or concerns.

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