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The Best Quads Workout for Everyone

Updated: Jan 15

best quads workout

The quads make up a major muscle group in the body. If you do comprehensive lower body strength workouts a couple times a week, you’re probably hitting the quads.

But there are also good reasons to focus more on this important muscle group. Whether you’re interested in aesthetics or building more lower body strength, use these workouts for bigger, stronger quads. So, what's the Best Quads Workout?

Achieving muscle definition throughout the body is an art, driven by muscle overload, technique, and volume. Expand your expertise with ISSA’s Personal Trainer certification. You’ll learn the details of muscle anatomy and biomechanics and how to effectively implement workout strategies into your client’s exercise program for maximum results.

Know Your Quads – And Why to Work Them Out

The quadriceps muscles of the legs are true powerhouses. There are many reasons to make them the focus of one or two workouts per week.

Why Focus on the Quadriceps?

The simple answer is that you should be strengthening all your muscles for optimal health and wellness. But, there are also specific reasons to bring more attention to the quadriceps:

  • Strong quads support all types of strength training, lifting, and athletics. Stronger quads improve performance.

  • These muscles are also important for functional movements. Reduce injury risk with stronger quads for daily tasks, like stairs, lifting, sitting, and standing.

  • A focus on leg strength is great for anyone who sits all day at a desk.

  • Bigger quads are also important aesthetically for many people. They are like the show ponies of the lower body. Strength here makes a big difference to overall leg appearance.

What is the Best Quads Workout Actually Strengthening?

Formally known as the quadriceps femoris, this is actually a group of four muscles:

  • Vastus medialis. Also known as the teardrop for its shape, this is the muscle above the knee and toward the inside of the leg. It is important for knee extension and keeping the patella in alignment.

  • Vastus lateralis. This is toward the outside of the leg and is also essential for knee extension. It supports stability in the knee and engages as you stand up from sitting and go up and down the stairs.

  • Rectus femoris. This muscle is between the two vastus muscles on the front of the leg. It helps with hip flexion and supports the other quads muscles.

  • Vastus intermedius. This is just below the rectus femoris and it aids in knee extension.

How should you split your workouts weekly? It can be confusing to know when and how often to do upper body, lower body, and core, but we break it down for you in this post: Upper/lower splits.

The Best Quads Exercises, Period

There are many, many moves that will work out the quads, but the experts can narrow them down to the basics and the best. These are the moves that will give you the most bang for your buck, really adding strength and size to the quads.

The Squat

Trainers use the squat all the time because it is such an excellent compound movement. It engages a lot of muscles, but the primary groups hit with this move are the quads and the glutes. Both the back squat—the barbell sits behind the neck on the shoulders—and the front squat with the barbell in front, work the quads hard. You can do these with barbells or machine weights.

The Lunge

This is another essential compound move. It targets glutes, hamstrings, and quads. The deeper you can dip, the more you’ll feel the burn in your quads. Add weights and do variations to hit all areas of the quads.

Leg Press

Think of this machine-assisted exercise as a different version of the squat. It’s essentially the same movement, but it allows you to focus more on the quads. It isolates the quads to some extent and allows you to use more range of motion in the hips. The leg press also requires less technical proficiency to master form and safety.

Leg Extension

Isolate the quads even more with the leg extension. This requires a machine, but again, it makes it safer and more focused. You can add a lot of weight with this move and do it safely. It’s a great way to max out the quads.


Believe it or not, this exercise usually categorized as a cardio workout, is great for quads. If you have ever done a sprint workout at the track and felt it the next day, you get it. A sprint workout is great for when you have time limitations. Twenty minutes of a sprint HIIT workout gives you both cardio and quad strengthening.

There is nothing wrong with putting emphasis on quads, but for overall improved leg strength, check out this leg day workout.

The Best Quads Workout for Beginners

Do you have a new client looking to build strength and improve lower body appearance? Start small and progress to tougher workouts for the best results. Focus on basics and avoid weighting these moves too heavily as you get started.

Wall Sits

This is the ultimate beginner squat. Simply press the back against the wall and lower into a sitting position. Hold for as long as possible, stand up, and repeat. This works great for beginners, giving them support as they build quads strength.

Goblet Squat

The squat is one of the best moves for quads, but front and back squats get pretty technical. Start a beginner client out with the goblet squat as they begin to learn form. It’s easy to add weights to this move too.

Squat Jumps

Again, this move will work the quads but is not too technically difficult. The jumping forces you to lower down a little more, giving the quads an extra workout. Plus, you get more cardio with this move.

The Lunge

There are some technical aspects to the lunge, but it’s safer for beginners than some other moves. Start by lowering the back leg minimally and work up to deeper dips and adding weights. Add side lunges to work the outer quads muscles.

The Best Quads Moves if You Don’t Have Equipment

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has left gym goers scrambling for at-home options. If you usually rely on the machines at the gym, you need to go back to basics to work out at home. While you’re still locked out of the gym, or if you simply prefer to fit in exercises at home, do these moves to optimize the quads:

Squat Variations

Weight your squats with dumb bells or barbells if you have them. If not, use variations to increase difficulty. For instance, a single-leg squat or a split squat takes the basic squat to the next level.

Wall Sits

You can do a wall sit anywhere you have a wall. Make it more difficult by sitting more deeply and holding it for longer periods of time. You can also weight this move even if you don’t have dumbbells. Hold onto anything you have around to add to your weight, like a stack of books.

Plyo Quad Moves

Hit more of the quads muscles and add difficulty with jumping exercises. Try simple jumping squats, box jumps, jumping lunges, and skater jumps. Skater jumps are essentially lateral lunges with a jump.

Techniques to Take Your Quads Workout to the Next Level

If you have been working out the quads for a while, you may have hit a plateau in gains. Try these tricks to progress and break through it:

  • Focus on compound movements. Squats, lunges, and similar moves workout more than just your quads. This builds up overall leg strength, give you a tougher workout, and supports the quads.

  • Partial rep your squats. Do your squats as partial reps, meaning lower down just a few inches instead of going deep. This isolates the quads more. Just keep in mind that your glutes won’t get the same workout.

  • Load up on weights. Leg press machines are great for this. You can safely add extra weight to overload your muscles. Bigger weights and fewer reps can trigger new muscle growth to get you over a plateau.

  • Pre-exhaust the quads. Before going into full leg day, use something like the leg press or extension to exhaust the quads. This keeps the glutes and hamstrings fresh, so they won’t limit your reps during the workout. Your quads will get a longer workout.

The quads are powerhouse, important muscles, for appearance, overall strength, and athletic performance. Make them a focus of your lower body workouts to really maximize these essential leg muscles.

Take the fast track to becoming a personal trainer. The ISSA’s Certified Personal Trainer – Fast Track Program teaches you everything you need to know to get started in the industry, all from home and on your schedule.

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