The quadriceps are one of the most sought-after leg muscles, and there's no doubt that big quads make a statement – but, they don't come easy.
If your goal is to get bigger legs and grow your quads, then the reality is that it will take some serious hard work and dedication.
Progressive overload, volume, and the best quad exercises need to combine for you to make the most out of your leg day.
We've put together a go-to guide for training your quads, to give you the tools you need to take your workouts to the next level and achieve your muscle-building goals.
(related: The 7 Best Hamstring Exercises To Build Stronger, Bigger Hamstrings)
What Are The Quadriceps?
Located on the front of your thigh, the main function of the quadriceps is to extend the knees and flex the hips.
The quadriceps are made up of 4 key muscles;
Rectus femoris: The main muscle that flexes your hips and extends your knee. This muscle runs from your hip bone and your knee.
Vastus lateralis: The muscle that gives an envious quad sweep. It's the largest of the four quadricep muscles and is located on the outside of your thigh.
Vastus medialis: Connecting your thighbone with your kneecap, the Vastus Medialis aids in the extension and stabilization of your knee.
Vastus intermedius: Located between the vastus lateralis and vastus medialis. The Vastus intermedus helps to extend your knee.
The 6 Best Exercises To Grow Your Quads
There are numerous exercises that can help you gain size and strength, we've put together some of the staple exercises that should be in your workout when it comes to training quadriceps.
Barbell Front Squat
Bulgarian Split Squats
Barbell Back Squat
Barbell Front Squats
Probably the first exercise that comes to mind when you think of growing your quads is the barbell back squat. While it is true that this compound exercise does engage the quads, it is the front squat that will really have them feeling the burn.
Often neglected, however, if you’re serious about making the quad gains, you need this exercise in your program. By holding the barbell at the front of your body, the load is focused on your quads.
Be warned; you won’t be able to take as much weight as you do in your regular back squat so if it’s your first time giving these a go start off light and build up your load slowly.
Weighted lunges, when performed correctly, are an incredibly effective exercise to build strength and size in the quadriceps.
As a unilateral exercise, lunges demand not just strength, but also demand high levels of balance and stability throughout the exercise - aiding athleticism and reducing muscular imbalances between the two legs.
If you really want to get those quads on fire, just as with the front squat, bringing the load to the front of the body will do the trick - be sure to maintain a neutral posture.
Once you've nailed bodyweight lunges, then you can add weights in plenty of different ways; dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells and weighted vests are all great ways to increase resistance and volume in your lunges.
Do not underestimate the leg extension.
Often fobbed off as nothing but a finisher, if you’re looking at building your quads, you might want to start taking this machine more seriously.
By targeting the quads in isolation, the leg extension ensures that the four muscle groups in the quadriceps are engaged during the hip flexion, with little assistance from other muscles.
Remember to maintain good time under tension, and you can further isolate your quads by performing the leg extension as a single-leg exercise.
There’s no cheating your way out of this one.
The perfect quad exercise for adding some serious volume to your workout.
The leg press allows different training mechanisms to come into play, such as training to failure or drop sets, whilst retaining an element of safety.
Due to the fact the movement is fixed, it does not require stabilizing muscles in the same way as a barbell squat might. This has its cons, but in the case of building huge quads, it is definitely a good thing.
By focusing specifically on the quads (as well as the hamstrings and glutes), you can pile on the load without worrying about the typically weaker stabilizing muscles letting you down.
Bulgarian Split Squats
If you've done these before, you'll know they're not easy.
If you’re looking at growing your quads, you cannot afford to be missing out on this one.
When it comes to this exercise, the load is predominantly on the quads, glutes, and hamstrings – not on the lower back, making it a great alternative to backloaded exercises such as the back squat. This helps activate the quadriceps to a higher level.
Perfect for all abilities, the Bulgarian Split Squat can be completed with, or without weights. Once you've nailed the movement with your body weight, progressing to weights is as simple as holding one, or two dumbbells.
As this exercise is also unilateral, it’s going to help improve your balance and core strength, too – everyone’s a winner!
There's a good chance you've done a few sets of the back squat already, and if you haven't, you may have a good idea of what it is.
The back squat is one of the fundamental compound exercises, placing a large emphasis on the legs, and, therefore, the quadriceps.
Often used as a measurement of lower body strength, the back squat should be a fundamental part of any leg workout – building the foundations for lower body strength.
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We've now given you the 6 best exercises for quads, so you can hit those mirror muscles with some intent and get ready for shorts season.
To get the best out of your leg workouts, start by aiming for 2twoworkouts per week, and maintain a high intensity. Don't forget about your glutes, hamstrings, and calves, too!