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9 Best Quad Exercises for Strength and Mass

Best Quad Exercises

Are you one of those guys (or gals) who avoid training legs?

If you are then you are missing out on the many benefits that training your lower body offers.

Many of you will suffer from knee pain, so will avoid squats as this will exasperate the problem, yet the reality is that training your legs, and more specifically your quads can do wonders for knee pain.

Having a strong pair of legs is also a good look, and not a lot looks worse than a strong muscular upper body paired with a weak set of legs.

Now, no one is expecting you to look like Tom Platz, a bodybuilder well-known for having the best quads in the business, but if you follow our tips you can certainly start to pack on muscle and develop quads that will be the envy of everyone at the gym. [toc]

Quadriceps Muscle Anatomy

The quadriceps femoris is usually just referred to as the quadriceps, quadriceps extensor or simply the “quads.” The name means “four-headed femur muscle” in Latin.

This is a vast muscle mass that incorporates the four predominating muscles on the front of the thigh.

Each of the four quadriceps is an effective extensor of the knee joint that are critical in strolling, running, hopping and squatting.

Since the rectus femoris connects to the ilium, it is additionally a flexor of the hip. This activity is likewise vital to strolling or running as it swings the leg forward into the following step.

The quadriceps, particularly the vastus medialis, assumes the critical part of settling the patella and the knee joint throughout squatting.

The quads or quadriceps are made up of four distinct muscles that are found on the front of your thighbone (femur), these muscles include the:

  • Rectus Femoris
  • Vastus Lateralis
  • Vastus Medialis
  • Vastus Intermedius

Quadriceps Muscle Anatomy

Rectus Femoris

The rectus femoris is a muscle that originates at two points on the pelvis and runs down the front of the femur before attaching to your kneecap.

This muscle is the only quad muscle that crosses two joints, both your hip and knee.

Vastus Lateralis

This muscle is found on the outside of your thigh. Originating at the top, outer portion of your thigh, it then attaches to your kneecap and tibia.

Vastus Medialis

The teardrop-shaped muscle found just above and inside of your knee. It runs along the inside of your femur.

Vastus Intermedius

The final muscle is hidden behind the other three quad muscles. It runs along the centre of your femur, underneath the rectus femoris.

Major Quadriceps Training Mistakes

If you have been training your legs for a while, perhaps for months but are not seeing much progress then it is likely that you have a few issues with your training.

Typically there are three reasons why your quad training isn’t effective. These issues are:

  1. The weight you are lifting is too light
  2. You are not doing enough volume (reps or sets)
  3. You are focussing on the wrong exercises

#1: You Are Lifting Too Light

If you are only doing bodyweight squats or lifting incredibly light weights then its gonna take you a long time to build muscle.

Research has found that building strength is key to muscle growth [1], therefore it makes sense that if you gain strength your muscle mass will increase.

Of course, lifting lighter weights with more reps can be effective, just as long as you are achieving hypertrophy. However, when it comes to science heavy weights, with lower reps was the most effective of the two [2].

This means that to build muscle effectively you should try to lift as heavy as possible, of course with good form to avoid injury.

#2: You Are Not Doing Enough Volume

It is important that if you want to achieve hypertrophy that you are doing enough reps and sets, but not too many that you experience overtraining.

Research [3][4] has found that you should aim to lift weights in the 60-85% range. Performing 30-60 reps for each muscle group when training three times a week.

#3: You Focus on the Wrong Exercises

There are two types of muscle fibres:

Type I Muscle Fibres – these are smaller and weaker, but with higher endurance that have less potential for growth

Type II Muscle Fibres – they are bigger and stronger but fatigue quicker. These muscle fibres have a higher growth potential

If you want to experience muscle growth then you need to choose the exercises that focus on these type II muscle fibres.

Compound exercises have been shown to be better than isolation exercises for building muscle and strength [5].

This may not be true in all cases, but a general rule of thumb is that the easier an exercise or workout is the less effective it will be for building muscle mass.

It is for this reason that I would recommend avoiding the Smith Machine while working out.

Research has found that you will experience fewer muscle gains using the Smith Machine when compared to free weights [6].

A Smith Machine will simplify the movements and reduce the need of any stabilising muscles that you will use to keep the bar level and balanced. In short, it makes lifting easier.

What Are The Best Quad Exercises?

If you want massive quadriceps there are some exercises you must perform. These include:

#1: Back Squat

If you are not squatting then how do you expect to build your quad muscles? They are one of the most common exercises and if you are not doing them then you must add them to your routine asap.

Not only are they effective at building your quads, but are also good for building both your glutes and hamstrings too.

To see the greatest gains you need to ensure you squat past parallel, that means no more half squats or partial squats. Research has found that doing so will cause a significant increase in leg muscle activation [7].

#2: Front Squat

Even though the back squat is the more popular option, research has found that if you want bigger quads then the front squat is the more effective exercise [8].

While the back squat places a large portion of its downforce through your glutes, the front squat transfers it to your quads.

#3: Hack Squat

This can be performed in a machine, but we prefer using a barbell.

To perform a hack squat you should place a barbell behind you on the floor. Stand in front of the bar with your legs shoulder-width apart.

You should then squat down to pick up the barbell using an overhand grip. You then stand upright before returning to the start position.

#4: Leg Press

If you are a newbie lifter then using the leg press will make you feel like the Hulk, as you will be able to load up the machine and move a much higher weight then you could possibly squat.

The leg press will also help build up your hip strength as it offers a larger range of motion than squats.

#5: Sprinting

Sprinting is an incredible quad builder, yet not many people will perform this exercise.

It has been shown that sprinting helps to significantly increase the recruitment of type II muscle fibres [9]. In simple terms sprinting helps to grow type II muscle fibres.

Research has also found that sprinting will help to increase both testosterone and growth hormone production [10].

Quad Exercises You Can Do At Home

For some of you getting to the gym 3-4 times a week will be a struggle. Luckily there are exercises you can perform at home where you won’t require any weights or specialist equipment.

Here are some quad exercises you can do at home:

#1: Bodyweight Squat

Just like the back and front squat, the bodyweight squat works your quads, glutes and hamstrings.

To perform a bodyweight squat stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight and bend your knees into the squat position. One rep is performed once you return to the starting position.

It is important not to allow your knees to extend past your toes.

#2: Pistol Squat

When performing a pistol squat you must tighten your core to stabilise your spine. Also, use your arms for balance.

This exercise will work the major muscles of your lower body, and will also work those stabiliser muscles too while you try to hold your balance.

#3: Alternating Forward Lunge

To perform this exercise stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes facing forward.

Take a step forward with either leg, land with your heel first, then your toes. You should then drive your hips down towards the floor creating a 90-degree angle with both knees.

Push off from the front leg to return to the starting position. You should then perform the same movement with the opposing leg.

#4: Sissy Squat

This is one of the hardest squats to perform because you are reliant almost solely on your quads.

To perform the sissy squat you should take hold of a squat rack or something sturdy, your feet should be shoulder-width apart.

Raise your heels so that you are on your toes. You should then lower down into a squat, hold this position for 10 seconds before you return to the start position.

If you suffer from any pre-existing knee injury then I would recommend avoiding this particular exercise.

Use Proper Form to Avoid Injury

Quadriceps training will include a few squatting and thrusting activities, which might be strenuous on the joints of the legs.

If you have an existing joint issue, then I would recommend that you speak to a specialist before performing any quadriceps workouts.

Knee and lower leg supports may be necessary for some individuals, and it is best to address these issues before they turn into a real problem.

Failure to do that could end up halting your quadriceps training routine.

You need to remember that exercises such as lunges and squats involve both legs and back so if you have any back issues you might need to think about some sort of support for your back.

The squat is one of the main exercises used to work your quads. Therefore it is critical to figure out how to perform a squat properly to stay away from harm and amplify muscle gains.

Doing a squat correctly will help develop muscle rapidly. Doing it incorrectly will prevent the strengthening of the area and may even cause damage.

While squatting you should never bend your back as this will cause injury.

For best results, you should lift as much as you can for a set of 8 reps. Beginners are recommended to start off with a lighter weight until they figure out how to lift safely.

If you’re really thinking about training your quads, it is recommended that you consider joining some sort of gym so that you can use the specialised equipment available.

Squat racks, for instance, are large, awkward, and bulky machines that you won’t really need or want in your home. However, for your safety, they are highly recommended for your quad workout.

General Tips for Big Quads

The following are some general tips for building massive quads:

#1: Make Sure to Squat Deep

You may be giving your ego a boost when you overload the bar when squatting, only to then do a quarter squat or partial squat.

While you may seem like you are doing a lot the reality is that you are not doing enough to activate your quad muscles.

When you squat below parallel you are forcing them to work harder, and therefore increasing the amount of gains you will potentially experience.

#2: Use One Leg at a Time

Single-leg work is going to help with your overall strength and muscle gains as without help from the opposing leg you are forced to work harder to stabilise yourself and to keep balance.

#3: Extend and Flex

We may not have mentioned the leg extension as one of the best quad exercises, as we have chosen a variety of squats variations instead.

However, if you want massive quads then the leg extension is something you shouldn’t ignore.

The leg extension helps to activate the rectus femoris, the muscle that helps flex the hip and knee. While squatting opposes its activation.

#4: Make Sure to Rest

Not only is it important to rest between workouts, giving at least 24 hours before heavy sessions, but it is also important to get adequate rest between sets too.

Depending on the number of reps you perform I would recommend the following rest periods between sets:

  • 4-6 rep sets = 3 minute rest period
  • 8-10 rep sets = 1 minute rest period

This may mean that you are waiting around a lot between sets, but will ensure you are able to recoup the strength needed to give 100% effort into your lifts.

#5: Are You Eating Enough?

Without going into too much detail, if you are not getting enough protein in your diet or enough overall calories then you are not going to build muscle, however hard you try.

If you are wondering how much protein you should be getting, or how many calories you should be eating then we have a guide just for you.

In Conclusion

I have no doubt that having read through this article that you now have a good idea of what you need to do to build strong, muscular quads.

If you do the right kinds of exercises, progressively overload your muscles, get the right nutrition and rest then there is no reason why you can’t see massive gains to your quad muscles.

Our final tip is to be patient. Building muscle takes time, but with patience and dedication to your goal, you will soon see results.

Good luck and post below if you found this article informative, or would like any further questions answered.

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