Today is leg day, but you need a new plan. Working your quads the same way, at the same intensity, and for the same amount of time is boring. Your quads know it too. Change up your quads routine for maximum bulk and definition, as well as impressive strength. Here is a list of the best 13 exercises for quads.
Why Focus on the Quads?
I can name a few people who are serial upper body lifters. I mean, come on, the arms and back look great, but the legs look like two sticks poking out underneath. That doesn’t look good for your balance. Serial squat rack lifters know this all too well. Switch it up for the best look.
You should maximize leg day with quad exercises because they make your legs bigger, stronger, and awesome to look at. However, too many lifters miss the other side altogether. Working only the quads creates muscle imbalance and misplaced strength. This causes wear and tear not only on the muscle but the bone as well, as one part of the body tries to compensate for the imbalance.
To get the best quad workout, it must include these three things:
- Posterior movement (hamstrings)
When you work the front, you must work the back. These movements balance the muscle activity.
- Glute activation
These movements are needed for stability and to encourage contraction.
Don’t be afraid to get out a yoga ball or a Bosu ball for stability exercises. This stabilizes the knees and ankles for superior quad performance. Stability allows you to carry more weight and to perform better, while also reducing the likelihood of suffering a knee injury.
Combined all three of these factors into your quads workout on leg day will help you build massive quads.
Anatomy of the Quads
The quadriceps name comes from the group of 4 muscles in the anterior portion of the upper leg. The four muscles that make up the quadriceps are the vastus Medialis, the Rectus Femoris, Lateralis, and the Intermedius. The muscles connect the hip and the knee.
Functions of the Quadriceps
The quadriceps are the muscles the move the knee, either bending or flexing the knee. They are also the chief muscles in rotating your hips and moving your legs. It is important to work the quadriceps muscles for balance, to walk, for movement, for running, and even to avoid certain back and hip pain. Because the quadriceps work with the hamstrings, calf muscles, and the hep flexors, it is essential to include those in your quadriceps workouts on leg day.
Crafting a Quad Plan
Before we get started on the best exercises for your quads workout, here is a little advice first. There are a few things you need to know before you get started. These strategies will help you create the best quads workout for sculpted, strong legs.
- Keep your feet low and together. This foot position allows you to target your quads and increase the intensity of the workout. It also helps you work on your stability and stamina. The longer your stance, the better the workout is for your inner thighs, but it exhausts your quads.
- Don’t do a full rep, which denies your leg the comfort of the extension. This is a great way to change up your program by combing partial reps with full repetitions. Not doing a full rep intensifies the workout, but combining them with full repetitions activates the glutes and hamstrings. So, be smart about how you parse out the repetitions for the effect you want.
- Pre-exhaust your quadriceps. To pre-exhaust muscles means to use techniques that encourage pre-tiring or pre-fatiguing the muscles you want to target. The technique requires single joint isolation movements before transitioning to compound or double-joint movements.
- When you are doing any moves that require a stepping motion, make sure you follow the same rule as the before – keep the foot low. Once you blow a few low movements out, combine them with high foot and high knee movements to maximize activation.
- Stay off the Smith Machine. For the love of God, move away The Smith Machine is a real pain for absolutely no reason. You would be best served using smaller weights. The Smith Machine gives you a whole lot of misplaced confidence because you start to feel good about all the weight you can hand. Surprise! It’s not that much. Try a free weight squat instead and get back to me.
- Don’t get stuck in the same weight intensity. Change it up. It is okay to experiment and challenge yourself to push more weight, but do it gradually and do it only if you feel no pain. You should feel only discomfort – not pain. PAIN IS NOT POWER. No pain no gain is a ridiculous chant that is completely incorrect. You can have plenty of safe gain without debilitating pain. You need to know the difference between pain and discomfort to get the maximum results without injuring yourself.
- Don’t overtrain your quads. Overtraining can occur when you try too much weight too soon. Your body can’t handle that. You will get a whole lot of injured and a lot less power.
- Love the power rack. The power rack is simple, but it provides impressive results. The power rack is the spotter you need for intense leg and arms days, but without trying to find someone to actually go to the gym with you.
Before You Get Started
I know you want to see the exercises, but there is one more thing to talk about – getting started. Before you tackle the leg press machine, you need to warm up your legs and prepare your body for an intense day at the gym. The goal of working your quadriceps is to increase strength and muscle size, but your muscles themselves have to be ready for the exhaustive feat. Prepare your body for training by staying hydrated and increasing your protein before your workout. Whether you are heading to the gym in the morning or waiting until you get off work, you need to nourish your body with enough protein to support the work. Portable protein shakes and mass agents are the best way to prepare you for your quads workout today.
13 Best Quads Exercises
As I said before, don’t rely on the same old leg routine for enormous quads. Change it up a bit and start to do leg day the right way. The best way to improve the size of your quads is with heavy compound movements. This can be achieved with machines and/or weights. What you need to focus on is the number of reps you do each week for maximum gain. Let’s get started.
When you do barbell workouts for quads, use the power rack for some of the exercises to keep the movements controlled and the workout safe. When setting up the barbell, make sure it is at shoulder level. Step under the barbell and make sure the barbell sits on your back, not your neck. It should be on the back of the shoulders. Each arm should be the same distance from your shoulders on the bar. When using the barbell for quadriceps exercises, always look ahead.
- Barbell Full Squat
Place your legs shoulder-width apart and step away from the bar. Keep your back straight and your toes forward. Slowly bend your knees, sitting back into your hips instead of leaning into the floor. Inhale as you end down until your hamstrings are touching your calves. Exhale as you straighten the knees, pushing through your heel into the floor until you reach the starting position. Do 10-12 reps.
- Barbell Lunge
Step forward with one leg. Do not go too far out. Slowly bend the back knee to the floor. Your front knee should not go beyond your toe. Your front shin should be straight. When your rear knee touches the floor, slowly straighten your knee to return to the starting position. Do 8-10 reps.
- Barbell Squat to Box
The barbell squat to box gives your quads explosive power. Place your feet a little more than shoulder-width apart. Squeeze your shoulders together, tighten your core, straighten you back, and sit back into a squat until your glutes touch the box. When you feel the box, push your heels to the floor and slowly straighten your knees into the starting position.
- Barbell Step-Ups
For this exercise, you will need an elevated step. It must be shorter than the box you used for the box squat. Try a sturdy step instead. Step up to place one foot on the platform. Step up onto the platform, pushing your weight into your heel. Bring the opposite foot up to the platform. When finished, step the foot back to the floor and return to the original stance. Do 8-10 reps.
- Barbell Back Squat
This is one of the most desired squats in the business. It is the epitome of force, power, and stability. Let’s not forget that you look incredible doing it, too. To get a good, stable squat, make sure your feet are positioned properly. Position your heels under your shoulders and point your toes to the side slightly. Unrack the bar. Now sit back into the squat, making sure your knees are pointing out. Be conscious of this when you push back up. When your legs are between a 45-degree and 90-degree angle (depending on your ability and comfort level), press your knees outward and slowly straighten your knees into the original position. Do 4-6 reps.
Leg Press Machine
There are a lot of things you can do on the leg press machine. These leg press variations will give your impressive curvature and mass. When using the leg press machine, make sure you back is flat and your knees are not locked. When you perform the move, inhale when you perform the press. Exhale when you straighten your knees.
- Escalating Leg Press
When you do this press, don’t let your knees go all the way down to a 90-degree angle. After 5 reps, add 25 to 45 pounds. Do five more reps. Add more weight, and so on. Stop when you reach 20 reps.
- Teardrop Set
Instead of putting your feet in the middle of the platform, move them down just a little. Your feet should be lower on the platform for this one. Do 20-25 reps. When you are done with that, add 25 to 45 more pounds on each side. Do one more set of 20 to 25 reps.
- Quad Sweep
Spread your legs more than shoulder width apart and point your toes slightly to the side. Push your knees out as you lower the weight. Do this as quickly and controlled as you can stand it until you reach 20 reps. Stop for a couple seconds, and then do 20 more sets.
- Single Leg Press
You know you can blow out the leg press with two legs. Now let’s see what you can do with one leg. The single leg press is a good indicator of your quad strength, and it hurts like hell. Most bodybuilders use this exercise as their sole bulking move. The exercise is simple, instead of using both legs, use only one and hold on. You are going to feel it. Just a heads up: you are not going to need a lot of weight for this one.
- Banded Leg Press
Yep, you are about to cuss at me. Attach a band to each side of the weights so it provides resistance as you try to lift the weights back up. You can hang on to the bands or attach the other end to the machine.
A Few More Favorites
You don’t need machines or equipment to get a killer quads workout. These moves work, too.
The nice thing about sprints is that you can do them anywhere and at any time. All you need is a hard surface and a little bit of distance. If it’s nice, go outside and do it. Hit up the park, your backyard, or your basement. To do sprints, make sure your knees are high, your arms are moving, and your actions are explosive. These are good for your quads and your heart. The stronger your quads become, the easier and faster this gets. At first, try 5 sets of 50-years sprints.
- Hack Squat
Put your back on the pad and place your shoulders under the pads on the machine. Make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart and points your toes in front of you. Slowly bend your knees until you are just below a 90-degree angle. Do this move 20 times. If you want a bigger challenge, add weight after 5 reps.
- Romanian Deadlifts
Okay, I know, I know. It’s not really about the quads; rather, this exercise is more for hamstrings and glutes. Remember, you need balance. Every good training plan for your legs works the antagonist muscles. RDLs for your hamstrings are good for building strong quadriceps and maintaining healthy knees.
Keep Your Quads Happy
You have had a long, hard quads workout. It’s time to give them a rest with a few awesome recovery techniques. First, to help replenish the nutrients you lost and to boost recovery, try a whey protein shake to get the boost back your body needs. Next, bust out the foam roller for a little self-myofascial release (SMR). You can’t go wrong with these things. They aid in muscle recovery, they relieve tension, and they feel good, too. SMR is a good replacement for pre-workout stretching, and it is a feel-good tool for post-workout recovery. When you SMR your legs, focus on these areas on quads day: quads, hamstrings, knee, and IT Band. PLEASE roll the IT Band!
What are your best exercises for massive leg bulk? When you tackle quads day, is there an exercise you prefer? Remember, just because your legs are huge, doesn’t mean they are strong. Make your quads more than an aesthetic accessory to your body. Bulk them up for real.