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The 10 Best Quad Exercises

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The Best Quad Exercises

What are the best quad exercises? 

The best quad exercises are undoubtedly on this list, and the great part is, many of them don’t require any equipment — they’re done through bodyweight! 

The quadriceps muscles – known as the “quads” – help support hip flexion and extension at the knee joint, allowing you to straighten your knees.

Quads are a highly functional and essential muscle group, and quad workouts are key to maintaining strength and functionality.

The quads are made up of four muscles, and the quadriceps exercises listed below target all four muscles for a challenging, strength-building workout.

Ready to build that quad strength? Here are the best exercises for quads.

 

The Best Quad Exercises

Our exercise lists are created by determining the best exercises for muscle growth, core strength, and overall health and well-being. 

Here’s our list of the 10 best quad exercises:

 

10. Bodyweight Squats

Best Quad Exercises - Bodyweight Squats

Great for:

A full-body workout that strengthens the core and lower body. 

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, and your toes slightly turned outward
  2. Keep your arms at your sides or in front of you 
  3. Mimic the movement of sitting into a chair by pushing your hips back and your chest up 
  4. When your thighs are parallel with the ground, pause for one second and then rise back up 
  5. Repeat as desired 

Why:

Quad-focused exercises are ideal for targeting the legs in an effective, low-impact movement. 

The more you train, the deeper you’ll be able to squat, and the more you’ll sculpt the muscles in your legs.

Keeping the feet aligned with the knees is important to remember; this prevents strain on the knee joints and tendons. 

When:

Whether you’re in the gym, working out at home, at work, or traveling… squats are possible!

 

9. Step-Ups

Best Quad Exercises - Step Ups

Great for:

Improving knee stabilization and strengthening the quads, hips, hamstrings, and core.

How to do it:

  1. Grab a box or other solid surface that is knee-high or slightly lower
  2. Take one step up with your left foot, making sure to keep your knee strong and aligned with your ankle 
  3. As you step up with your left foot, drive your right knee up until it’s the same height as your hip
  4. Step back down from the box, and without losing a beat, step up with your right foot and drive your left knee up 
  5. Keep alternating knees and feet for as many reps as you want 

Why:

Being a unilateral exercise, step-ups help you focus on a single leg at a time and can even out any muscle imbalances that occur. 

This motion activates your lower back muscles to help stabilize the core and upper body, so you’ll see an increase in balance over time.

When:

Thanks to their versatility, step-ups can be completed anywhere with the right equipment to stand on. 

It doesn’t take many reps to get your heart rate pumping and your quads burning, so try to complete 3 to 4 sets of 30 reps. Your quads will be screaming, but that’s when champions are made!

 

8. Goblet Squats

Best Quad Exercises - Goblet Squats

Great for: 

An exercise for quads that also engages the full body for building muscle and a cardiovascular boost.

How to do it:

  1. Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell 
  2. Hold the weight in both hands at your chest, with one hand on either side of the handles (like you are cupping a goblet)
  3. Train your eyes forward and engage your core
  4. Hinge your hips back and bend your knees into a squat
  5. Press your hips all the way back and lower down while keeping your chest tall
  6. Once your hips are parallel to your knees, pause, then slowly stand back up 
  7. Repeat as desired  

Why:

You probably know the health benefits of cardiovascular exercise, so we won’t go too far into it.

However, did you know goblet squats check off both boxes… strength training AND cardio? A match made in quad-heaven.  

Goblet squats train the body to move through a full range of motion without sacrificing form.

They’re also a compound exercise, meaning they translate easily into movements we perform daily and increase your strength and endurance. 

When:

Perform goblet squats as a warm-up to get your heart pumping and your muscles awake, or incorporate into your favorite quadriceps exercise for a full-body strength lesson.

 

7. Lunges

Best Quad Exercises - Lunges

Great for:

A quad exercise that builds core and leg strength with several effective variations for any fitness level. 

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your hips, or hold a dumbbell in each hand
  2. Step forward with your left foot and lower your body until your knee is at 90 degrees
  3. The opposite back shin should be parallel to the ground
  4. Hold for two seconds, then repeat
  5. Switch to the right foot, and repeat

Why:

Lunges help athletes and weightlifters gain strength and mobility, but they’re a functional movement that can apply to daily life.

As your body moves and changes direction, lunges can help strengthen the muscles used.

Lunges are one of our favorite quad exercises for mass because they tone and sculpt the quad muscles with or without weight.

When:

Lunges are a powerful addition to any leg or lower body workout. We recommend doing this quad workout 3 times a week.

Try to perform 10 lunges on each leg, and add weight if you need to.

 

6. Leg Extensions

Best Quad Exercises - Leg Extensions

Great for: 

Isolating the quads and sculpting muscle definition in the leg muscles. 

How to do it:

  1. Take a seat at the leg extension machine with the pad at the top of your lower legs, at the ankles. 
  2. Select a heavy weight, something you are comfortable doing several sets with 
  3. Rest your hands at your sides, holding the support bars
  4. Lift the weight using your quad muscles until your legs are almost straight out in front
  5. Keep your knees loose and neutral, and your back straight against the backrest
  6. Lower the weight back down to starting position
  7. Repeat as desired 

Why:

For those who try to get their quad burn from other exercises like cycling, leg extensions will wake up those muscles you think you’re training hard enough. 

We think leg extensions are one of the best quad exercises for mass that you can do during training.

If you want to target the upper frontal thigh muscle, get on the leg extension machine and start burning it out. 

When:

Hit the leg extension machine three times a week with moderate weight, or go heavy and toss a few drop sets in there for recovery.

 

5. Bulgarian Split Squats

Best Quad Exercises - Bulgarian Split Squats

Great for:

A single-leg unilateral quad workout that trains balance and coordination while engaging the core. 

How to do it:

  1. Stand a few feet in front of a workout bench with your feet hip-width apart
  2. Pick up your left foot and rest it on the bench behind you, with your laces on the bench pad. Get comfortable, as your left foot will help balance when you squat with your right foot
  3. Bend the right knee and let your left leg (on the bench) naturally bend forward 
  4. Lower til your right quad is parallel with the ground
  5. Push through your right heel to stand back to starting position 
  6. Complete a set, then alternate resting and working legs
  7. Repeat as desired

Why:

Adding split squats to any quadriceps exercise will train more than just the legs, and we love compound exercise

Split squats put a heavy focus on the quads because they’re a single-leg move, requiring the quads to balance and lift while the core keeps them stabilized. 

Unilateral movements also help train away any muscle imbalances and improve agility strength.

When:

If you have a workout bench or a sturdy chair, you can perform Bulgarian split squats.

Once you’ve mastered the form, make it more challenging by holding a kettlebell or an unloaded barbell across the shoulders.

 

4. Leg Press

Best Quad Exercises - Leg Press

Great for:

Strengthening the quads through heavy lifting and consistency, ideal for any fitness level. 

How to do it:

  1. Rest your feet on the sled of a leg press, mimicking your standard squat stance
  2. Press the sled out of the rack and then slowly lower the sled towards your chest until your thighs are bent past 90 degrees
  3. Press the sled back up, pause, then repeat

Why:

If you’re new to lifting or want to challenge your leg strength, the leg press is the way to go.

It’s one of those quad exercises that not only test your physical strength but your resilience as well. 

When:

Add this quadriceps exercise to your typical quad workout. The heavier the weight, the fewer reps you’ll be able to perform.

If you’re focusing on quad exercises for mass, there’s nothing better than the leg press.

 

3. Hack Squats (Machine)

Best Quad Exercises - Hack Squats

Great for:

Building quad strength while completing strength training that translates easily into other movements, like lifts and squat variations.

How to do it:

  1. Settle on the hack squat machine with your feet low on the foot platform 
  2. Engage your core and make sure your lower back is flat on the back pad 
  3. Lower your body until your thigh bottoms are parallel with the foot platform
  4. Pause here and drive back to a standing position, powering through your quads to the top
  5. Repeat as desired 

Why:

To exercise the quads on a machine, hack squats effectively target the legs while remaining balanced, thanks to the squat machine. 

Because it balances you, unlike with traditional squats, you can focus strictly on improving your form and technique.

When:

Perform hack squats once or twice a week at the gym as part of a leg day routine or quad workout.

 

2. Barbell Front Squats

Best Quad Exercises - Front Squats

Great for:

Targeting the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and hips while engaging the erector spinae muscles.

How to do it:

  1. Load the barbell with weight
  2. Step up to the rack and rest the bar on your chest, near your neck
  3. Grip the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart
  4. Lift your elbows forward by placing your fingers underneath and around the bar for support
  5. Engage your pec muscles to avoid putting pressure on your fingers from holding the bar
  6. Unrack the barbell and step backward away from the rack
  7. Lower your body into a deep squat, engaging your core and thigh muscles
  8. Rise up by driving your heels into the ground and squeezing the glutes
  9. Repeat as desired
  10. Re-rack the bar

Why:

The barbell front squat is key to success if you’re trying to build quad strength and mass.

There are many variations of the squat that you can perform to jack up the quads and get the leg workout you’re looking for. 

Squats focus on strength-building through heavyweights and consistency. They are a great movement to train your overall physical health and athletic performance. 

When:

You do need a barbell and may require a power rack for this quadriceps exercise, so either spice up your home gym or head to the gym to complete this exercise.

 

1. Barbell Back Squats

Best Quad Exercises - Back Squats

Great for:

The ultimate leg day workout. Targeting the entire lower body while engaging core muscles and getting your heart rate up.

How to do it:

  1. Unrack the bar from the power rack and let it rest on your rear shoulders, behind your head
  2. Take a few steps back and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart
  3. Look down at the floor and move your body down and back, like you’re sitting in a chair 
  4. When your hip creases are below your knees, pause and start to rise up 
  5. Repeat as desired

Why:

The best quad exercise is the barbell back squat! As the #1 spot on our list, barbell back squats do it all for the quads, and they’re no joke. 

Squats force us to brace our core, engage our lower body muscles, and contract our back muscles to sustain good posture.

Whole-body tension is important to perform squats correctly. 

Barbell back squats activate nearly every muscle in the lower body while burning calories as you lift.

If you’re trying to drop a few pounds while building muscle, this move has your back.

When:

Target and sculpt beefy quad muscles in the gym three times a week. Focus on your form and getting comfortable, then add weight or reps to each set as you gain strength.

 

FAQs About Quad Exercises

Ready to build those jacked quads, but got a few questions first?

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about quad exercises and what you need to know.

 

Q: Why is it important to workout quads?

Strengthening and toning the quad muscles in your legs helps promote movement and stability in the knee joints, surrounding tendons, and ligaments for better muscle performance and motion all-around. 

Strong quads help reduce the risk of knee injuries or muscle strain during daily activities or while exercising.

 

Q: How often should you train your quads?

Quads should be trained three times a week.

If you are working at a lower strength to start, you can do full-body workouts and incorporate quadriceps exercises within your workout.

If you’re lifting heavy and training, quads should be a part of a leg day workout with a primary emphasis on building muscle and mass.

 

Q: How many exercises should I do for quads?

Beginners or those trying to build strength should focus on perfecting form and technique within 3 to 5 exercises per workout. 

This number allows you to take your time to determine what weight amount works best for each move and how you can improve your form.

 

Q: How long does it take to build big quads?

You’ll notice a difference in the appearance and strength of your quad muscles if you’re working them three times a week. 

For best results, give it three to four months before you evaluate your gains and add weight for more mass.

 

Q: What is the best exercise for quads?

The best exercise for quads is the Barbell Back Squat.

We love this exercise for various reasons, but primarily because it targets the quads and other leg muscles while activating the core, leaving you busted and breathless.

 

Summary 

In summary, the quads are one of the most important muscles in your body for strength training and daily movement.

Toning and strengthening the quads is essential for athletes, weightlifters, and the average Joe. 

It doesn’t matter who you are; getting jacked quads takes time and consistency, but you won’t regret the work you put in. 

Once you train your quad muscles with a few of the quadriceps exercises on this list, you’ll never skip leg day again. 

Here’s a quick recap of the 10 best quad exercises:

  1. Barbell Back Squats
  2. Barbell Front Squats
  3. Hack Squats (Machine)
  4. Leg Press
  5. Bulgarian Split Squats
  6. Leg Extensions
  7. Lunges
  8. Goblet Squats
  9. Step-Ups
  10. Bodyweight Squats

What’s your favorite quad exercise? Leave a comment below. 

With almost two decades of lifting experience under his belt, Matt shares his knowledge and expertise with us around bodybuilding and supplementation. Deadlifts and barbell curls are his go-to exercises, and, when he's not writing about health and fitness, you'll find him in the gym busting out some arms! Follow Jacked Gorilla on Instagram: @jackedgorillanews

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