What are the Best Quad Exercises?

Want to know the single best exercises to develop mind-blowing quads? Read on to see which moves you should be doing to get real results.

Shot of active man doing squatting exercise

If you’re serious about improving your health, building your physique, and developing the type of full-body strength that is universally admired then you should be making time to train your legs regularly, with particular focus being placed on your quads. And don’t worry, because if you’re thinking that there are only a few leg exercises that you can do, you’re wrong. In fact, while most people squat, do a few lunges then call it a day, the smart ones train their quads properly and with enough variety to avoid boredom, making sure they get the type of results that they have always dreamed of.

So if you’re looking for the best exercises to train your quads, then read on. Because in this article we’re going to take a closer look at the exercises that you need to help you grow bigger, stronger muscles.

Why Your Quads are Important

When it comes to building your body there are many positive reasons why you shouldn’t skip leg day. From an aesthetics point of view the quads, just like the biceps, are big attention-grabbing muscles that are guaranteed to turn heads and whether you’re wearing shorts at the beach, or dressing black tie for an event, having well-formed quads will make people notice you.
It also helps to give you a more defined and balanced look. If you spend all your time building your upper body, and focusing on your chest, shoulders, and arms, but neglecting your legs, there’s a good chance you’ll look uneven, out of proportion, and quite frankly funny to look at, which nobody ever aspires too.

But appearance isn’t the only reason why you should train your legs. The quads are big powerful muscles that can have a huge impact on your physical performance and help you to run, jump, squat, and move much better. Whether you play sport regularly or you’re just looking to be at your best for day to day life, building your quad muscles can and will help you to perform better.  

Quad Anatomy

Although we think of the quads as one big muscle down the front of the leg, the quadriceps are actually a group of four muscles together.

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

These muscles work together to help extend the knee joint and flex the hips which is why they’re so important for all forms of movement, whether you’re a regular walker, a basketball player, or someone who wants to squat in the gym. You use the quadriceps muscles in everyday life and by developing them now, even if you’re not doing it for performance reasons, you can help to lower the chances of you getting injured or having movement difficulties as you age.

The Best Quad Exercises Around

Now that we know why the quads are so important, and how they’re made up, let’s take a closer look at the single best exercises you need to help you grow, develop and strengthen your quads. Whether you’re a beginner or you have a lot of gym experience, there’s something on this list for everyone.

Front Squat

Front Squat

All squat variations hit your quads but a front squat puts unique stress on the quadriceps due to the angle of the movement.  Your torso is upright, which automatically applies more stress to your quads, making it a fantastic way to build the muscle. These are typically done holding a barbell.

Back Squat

Back Squat

A back squat is the traditional squat that most people think of, where you place the barbell on your back and squat. It’s a fantastic way to build your quads and really hit your entire lower body. Squatting should be one of your first moves if you’re looking for ways to build your quads and the back squat is considered essential.


Stationary Lunge Dumbbell

Lunges are great exercise as they put immense stress on the quad muscle, helping you to grow. They also work other muscles at the same time, giving you a whole leg exercise. If you suffer from any muscular imbalances lunges can also be very helpful and with so many variations, including reverse, side, walking, and jump, you can build your quads in many different ways.

Bulgarian Split Squat (BSS)

Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat with Dumbbells

The Bulgarian Split Squat, a lunge variation, is a very challenging but hugely beneficial exercise. It works in a similar way to the lunge except you raise one leg, usually onto a bench, to apply more stress to the glutes and quad. It places the entire load on your front leg and can be a fantastic way to build your quads and many people see huge results from doing this exercise.

Goblet Squat

Goblet Squat

Much like how the front squat keeps your torso upright and places extra load on your quads, the goblet squat does the same. It’s also a fantastic movement to help you improve your squat technique. It places you in an optimal position to squat and is great, whether you’re a beginner or more advanced exerciser.

Pistol Squat

Pistol Squat

Pistol squats are difficult to do, mainly because they require you to complete a one-legged squat with your opposite leg straight out in front of you. However, just like with the BSS, it puts the muscle through a lot of stress which is great to help you build your strength and develop the quad muscle.

Leg Press

Leg Press

The leg press is great for beginners and can be a superb exercise for anyone that struggles with knee pain. One of the best things about the leg press is the fact that you can load the weight up much more than you could on a squat and then push from a fixed, stable position. You also have the ability to change your foot position with ease, and in doing so, target some muscles more than others.

Leg Extension

Leg Extension

Anything that can directly target a muscle is going to be hugely beneficial, which is where the leg extension comes in. Think of it as a bicep curl for your legs, it’s a great way to isolate the quad muscle without any danger of other muscles taking over and it allows you to really burn the muscle out. It’s also a great way to train your quads for muscular endurance.

The Best Way to Train Your Quads

Truth be told there’s no hard and fast rule for training your quads but you’re going to want to train them more than once a week to see real results. The mistake many people make is they try to follow a traditional bodybuilder split, spending an entire day training one body part, and therefore they only train their legs once a week. The problem here is they forget that bodybuilders don’t just train 3 times a week, they train 6 days a week, for hours at a time, sometimes doing double sessions a day so they’re doing way more volume and often, they’ll target one muscle in particular.

Unless you’re a competitive bodybuilder, you’re going to need another plan. To get your volume, intensity, and approach right you’re going to want to train your legs 2-3 times a week, and once you’ve done that you can start to take a closer look at the sets and reps.

Most people stick with 3 sets of 10, which is perfectly fine when you’re starting out, but you might want to change as you become more advanced. 3-4 sets in the 8-12 range is great for building muscle and helping you to build your quads. However, if you’re focusing on strength then you’re going to find yourself on the lower side, between 3 and 6 reps for 4 or 5 sets.

These aren’t set in stone and it is possible to see great results in both rep ranges, but your overall goals will determine what you should do. The reason is simple, the heavier the weight you lift, the fewer reps you will do, and by continually lifting heavy weights, near your max, you are building your overall strength at the same time.

The Principles Behind Training Your Quads

One of the key principles of successful training and something that will help you to drastically improve your results is actually also one of the most under-utilized, ‘progressive overload’.

This is the principle of making things that little bit harder once you’ve mastered them. If we look at the example of an average gym-goer they will train a muscle, say the squat, and stick to the same rep range, always doing 3 sets of 10 reps.

They might be able to squat 110 lbs, and so that’s what they do, every time they go to the gym until their results plateau, the exercise becomes too easy, or they get bored (sometimes all 3).

What you should do instead is once you are comfortable on a weight, add a little bit more to test yourself further.

For example, if you could squat 110lbs consistently, you should try adding 5lbs to each side of the bar and trying again. The idea is then simple, if you can get at least 8 reps on your next set then your new weight is ok, however, if you struggle to get over 5 then you should go back to your initial weight and try adding 2 more reps before you try adding weight again.

It sounds complicated but it’s not. What you’re simply doing is making sure that when you feel comfortable, you’re actually pushing yourself to make things a little more difficult. This will help you to continue to develop and make good progress and will help you to change your body, build your strength and improve your fitness much faster than if you were to come in and go through the motions of the same workout you always do. 

The Key to Success

One of the most common complaints you will hear with people that want to develop 6-pack abs is that they do a ton of ab work but don’t see any results, you may have even said it yourself at one point or another?

Well, I’m sorry to break it to you, and anyone else who’s had this issue, but all the ab work you’re doing won’t make any difference if you don’t have low enough body-fat to actually reveal the muscles.

The quads, to a certain extent, have the very same problem.

To build muscle and get bigger you have to take on enough calories and feed the muscle to promote growth. Just like how to lose weight, and get smaller, you will need to take on fewer calories.

So whether your goal is to grow eye-popping quads that make finding jeans that fit the ultimate adrenaline sport, or you want to get that elusive quad separation and finally see the individual muscles, you’re going to have to pay attention to your diet.
You need to make sure you eat in a way that is supportive of your goals, otherwise, you may not get the results that you desire.

Final Thoughts

Building your quads is extremely important, not just to look aesthetically pleasing but it will help you with all of your movements, whether you’re walking, sprinting, jumping, or squatting.

Strong quads have a direct impact on how well your legs and hips work and can have a huge impact on how well you move as you grow older. That may not sound too important now but is something you will be thankful for as you age and try to do simple everyday things like get up out of your chair or tackle the stairs.

By focusing on training your quads and developing both strength and endurance now, you can make sure you’re building a stronger, fitter body for later.

Our advice would be to follow a program that sees you train your quads 2-3 times a week and base your exercise selection around the big powerful movements listed above. Of course, you can add in other exercises for variance, such as training your hamstrings, or glutes, but by focusing on the exercises in this article and consistently working hard, you’ll be on your way to attention-grabbing eye-popping quads in no time.

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