The quads are a large set of four muscles which make up the front of your leg and are important for allowing you to walk, run, jump – move. Quad strength is important and allows for the body to handle heavier and more frequent loads on the legs. Your quads are important for flexion and extension of the knee. If you have weak quads, you’ll struggle to do leg dominant exercises at high intensity or for a long duration. Fortunately, there’s many exercises you can do to strengthen your quads!
12 Exercises To Strengthen Your Quads
There are many exercises you can use to strengthen your quads. Generally, you can achieve a lot of general strength with bodyweight exercises. However, if you want to get really strong and big quadriceps, then you’re going to need to hit some weights. For the bodyweight exercises, if you want to make them difficult go to fatigue, then go further. Stop. And then go again.
Many of these exercises won’t just strengthen your quads, but also the glutes, hamstrings and other core muscles in your body.
When doing these exercises, make sure to give your quads a rest, especially if you go hard. I didn’t and I ended up getting a really tight knot in my one of the quads in my right leg which has ended up pulling on the tendon attached to my knee causing some minor pain, so make sure to do give your body the rest it needs after working your quads. If your quads feel like they are sore or tight, I suggest doing some self-massage, using a Theragun or performing some other form of myofascial release.
It’s worth noting that all of these exercises can be made more difficult by carrying a weight whilst simultaneously doing the exercise. This can be a kettlebell you have lying around at home or perhaps a couple of milk cartons. The only exercise I wouldn’t recommend carrying weights for is sprinting as this will completely change the biomechanics of how you’re running.
#1 – Air Squat
The air squat is a simple exercise anyone can perform anywhere. Even in a toilet cubicle. Simply sit down as far as you can into a squat and lift yourself back up so your legs fully extend.
Make it harder by:
- Going into a deep squat
- Increasing reps
- Carrying a weight
#2 – Bulgarian Split Squat
One of the great things about single leg exercises, such as the Bulgarian split squat is that you can’t hide any muscle weaknesses like you can in a squat where you might have one leg do more of the work.
Place your back leg on an elevated surface and kneel down like you’re doing a lunge and come back up. I recommend doing these at a controlled tempo pace of 2 seconds down and 2 seconds up. Another killer exercise to try is simply holding the lower position of a Bulgarian split squat for anywhere between 30 to 60 seconds.
#3 – Pistol Squats
These are effectively single leg squats where your other leg is straight out in front of you. They are quite difficult, but you can give them a go by using a wall for assistance. The more you use your legs (and less your arms for assistance), the more these burn.
#4 – Wall Sits
Place your feet about 2 feet or 60 cm away from a wall and sit yourself down so your knees are at an angle anywhere from 90 to 120 degrees. The closer to 90 degrees, the harder the exercise. Push your back against the wall and hold the static position. If it’s too easy, try doing single leg wall sits or holding a weighted object.
#5 – Sprints
Sprints place a tremendous amount of force on your quadriceps and are a great way to improve quad strength. Each sprint you do should be flat out with sufficient rest (generally minimum 2 – 3 minutes) between sprints to ensure you can give a maximum effort. I suggest doing anywhere from 4 to 10 sprints depending on your fitness level. They don’t need to be long either. You could do 6 x 10 second sprints and get a solid workout in although if you’re especially fit you could extend these so that you’re doing sprints in the range of 25 – 30 seconds.
You can make sprints harder by doing them on a hill or using a weighted sled or mini parachute to act as an additional resistance. Doing them with a friend or workout partner makes them even more fun and competitive so you push even harder!
#6 – Lunges
Similar to Bulgarian split squats, lunges are almost identical except there’s no elevated platform to put your back leg on. These are great for developing single leg strength. Try to make sure you place at least 70% of your total bodyweight on your front leg.
#7 – Step Ups
When executed properly, steps ups are a killer – not just for the quads, but the glutes. Simply step up and step down from an elevated platform. The higher the platform, the harder the exercise. If you do step ups so that the leg on the box or elevated platform in front of you is doing all the lifting (so you back leg is simply on the floor for balance – don’t push off your back leg) then these will really give your quads a good workout.
#8 – Box Jumps
Box jumps are also great alongside sprints because they focus on that explosive action of the muscles. Lots of force is generated in one contraction allowing you to propel your body up onto an elevated surface. I suggest doing up to 5 box jumps before taking a short rest and going again. 5 sets of 5 is usually a good place to start.
For those that want to load their legs with extra weight then here are some weighted exercises to try.
#1 – Front Squat
All types of squats are great for working your quadriceps, but when it comes to quad development, front squats are king. Why? It’s all down to the angle of shin bones (tibiae) and the angle of the torso. The more angled the tibiae, the more quad dominant the exercise will be. The same principle applies to the torso.
Angled Tibia + Upright Torso = Quad Dominant
Vertical Tibia + Inclined Torso = Hip Dominant
#2 – Back Squat
Back squats are another great exercise and generally allow for greater loads to be lifted than that of a front squat. They work the quads and glutes particularly hard, along with the hamstrings if you do tempo squats.
#3 – Deadlift
In my opinion, when it comes to compound lifts, there is almost no better bang for your buck than deadlifts. Deadlifts work the quads along with the whole of the posterior chain from hamstrings to glutes to back and shoulders. It really is an all body workout. Even if you do an isometric deadlift (where you try and lift a bar which is too heavy) and maintain a strong contraction, you’ll be working your quads and whole body hard as they contract to try and lift the weight.
#4 – Power Clean
What I love about the power clean is how explosive it is. What most people don’t realise is that it’s more about the legs than the arms. You need to generate such force when lifting the bar to bring it high enough to flip it before catching it in your arms. It’s great for working on explosive quad strength.
There are many other great quad exercises you can do, but these are my favourite for quad development. Thanks for reading! If you found this post informative, I’d greatly appreciate it if you could share this post with anyone who might enjoy reading it!