Quadricep or Extensor Lag

By coreadmin

Just because a lot of us are working through knee issues whether it be surgical, structural or chronic pain related, here is something that I came across and as a Medical Exercise Specialist wanted to share. We are always watching people’s movement patterns especially the way they walk. After any trauma to the knee area this is a must read written by Dr Mike and just reinforces the importance of balance and muscle recruitment as there is a relationship between weakness and range of motion or lack there of!

The extensor lag describes the lack of full knee extension with full contraction of the quadricep. Limited knee extension range of motion may also cause the lack of full extension but eliminating limited ROM as the problem, quad weakness is the major issue. The extensor lag is commonly seen after total knee replacement, ACL reconstruction or patella tendon rupture. The weakness in the quadricep extensor mechanism causes the extensor lag. Vigorous strengthening of the quadriceps is necessary to remedy an extensor lag.

In the case of a patellectomy, the client should be able to fully extend the knee with the proper stregthening regimen. Though the patella does provide a fulcrum that makes knee extension easier and more efficient, the lack of a patella doesn’t mean the inability to achieve full extension.

Here is a photo of extensor lag following total knee replacement. Notice the slight lack of full knee extension or the “extensor lag”. If you do not look closely you might miss it. Standing terminal knee exercise, quadriceps strengthening, leg press, short arc quads will all help restore full active knee extension.


-Dr Mike