The Only 5 Quad Exercises You'll Ever Need For Strength And Size

Building your quads is going to take a bit more effort than just a throwing in a few sets of squats on your leg day. Your quad, or your rectus femoris, is a large muscle that takes time, effort, and dedication to build and develop more muscle mass. But with the best quad exercises and training program, you can start building mass on those legs in no time.

Quad Muscles And Anatomy

Your quad muscles, or quadriceps femoris, are a group of four muscles at the front of your thigh. Together, they contain more mass than any other muscle group in your body, helping with a variety of movements, including kicking, running, jumping and walking. The quad muscles are composed of the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius. 

How To Build Bigger Quads

Several critical factors play into developing and building bigger quads, such as genetics, nutrition plan, training program, and supplementation.

If you want thick strong quads, then you’re going to need a combination of resistance training and cardio. Resistance training or more commonly referred to as lifting weights, is going to build more muscle through a process called muscle hypertrophy.

The body has an amazing ability to adapt to its environment. Applying repeated stress and trauma to your muscle tissue through lifting weights, indicates and signals a need to build more muscle and strength to accommodate heavier loads, more workout volume, and increased workout intensity to protect itself from future stress. Muscle hypertrophy refers to an increase in the size of muscle cells and total muscle mass from physical stress. Hypertrophy is often achieved with resistance training and progressive overload (increasing the amount of weight lifted overtime) to breakdown and rebuild muscle tissue, resulting in more total muscle mass and bigger gains.

RELATED ARTICLE: How To Build Thick Thighs

Next, is your nutrition plan. 

You have to eat, to grow. Of course, muscle growth cannot occur without resistance training. However, for your body to build and rebuild muscle tissue, it must be in a positive protein balance, which means you need to eat more protein, than your body is utilizing to rebuild muscle mass. Training without eating enough protein will actually cause you to lose muscle mass, not gain it. Protein is also not the only macronutrient your body needs to replenish and rebuild. Your body requires fuel from high quality proteins, heathy fats, and complex carbohydrates to maximize muscle growth and gains.

If you want to achieve maximum results and build bigger, stronger quads, then we suggest working with a certified nutrition coach from The Swole Kitchen. They'll help you take the guess work out of your nutrition and create a plan customized for you and your needs.

RELATED ARTICLE 16 Of The Best Muscle Building Foods To Get Big Thighs

The Best Quad Exercises To Build Strength And Size

1. Bulgarian Split Squat 

The Bulgarian-split squat is a single-leg squat variation. Compared to a traditional barbell squat, it removes all the pressure and load from your lower back, and places it directly into your legs. The stabilizing leg of the Bulgarian split-squat is elevated behind you, which allows greater range of motion and depth, to achieve greater muscle hypertrophy, and strength gains in your glutes and quadriceps. Bulgarian split squats are key for not only building a bigger barbell back squat, but for building quadriceps and glutes, midline stability, and it offers an awesome range of motion movement for the hip flexors. 

The Bulgarian split squat is one of the best quad exercises, because it extends your range of motion, forcing you to recruit more power and strength.

How To Bulgarian Split Squat

  • Start with your feet hip-width apart. with the right foot forward and the left foot placed back behind the body on a bench or box that is about knee-height, or just below knee height.
  • Keeping your shoulders stacked directly above your forward-facing hips, begin to descend into a lunging position. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in both hands in a vertical position hanging on each side of your body.
  • Keep your back straight while lowering your left knee towards the floor
  • Go as low as you can while still ensuring your chest is staying open and the front knee is not protruding out in front of your toes.
  • When your left knee lowers, press your right foot into the ground, pull back on the right knee, and push the top of the left foot into the box to return to standing.

2. Barbell Back Squat

The back squat is a compound functional movement, that recruits multiple muscle groups, joints, and stabilizing muscles. Back squat focuses and builds lower body strength and core stability, which is the foundation to several compound movements in functional training modalities. 

The barbell back squat is a bilateral movement that helps build full-body strength. Barbell back squats, and back squats in general, demand a strong posterior chain, hamstrings, quads, and a substantial amount of midline stability as well as ankle mobility. 

RELATED ARTICLE 9 Tips To Improve Squat Form And Technique

Back squat is easily one of the most tried and true exercises to build bigger, well defined quadriceps. Back squat is a functional strength movement which emphasizes joint mobility, better core stability, and explosiveness.

How To Squat

  • To start, set up a barbell on the uprights of a squat rack. You’ll want this right around mid-chest.
  • Grab the barbell with an overhand grip just beyond shoulder width.
  • As you lift the barbell off of the rack, let the barbell sit on the traps snugly on the back of the shoulders. 
  • Step back from the rack with your feet shoulder-width apart, and toes pointed forward. Make sure your elbows are high.

The Descent

  • Your hips will descend back and down, until your upper thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Keep your torso as upright as possible, with your lumbar curve maintained.
  • Keep your heels down and the weight balanced, with your knees in line with your toes.

The Ascent

  • Push back up to the starting position
  • Push your weight into your heels, and keep your back straight

3. Front Squat

Front squats are a type of squat variation, however instead of having the barbell placed on your back behind your head, the barbell is placed in front rack position, with the load anteriorly loaded. Front squats are a compound functional strength movement, simulating multiple joints, muscle groups, and stabilizing muscles all in one motion. 

Both forms of squats, back and front recruit major muscles involved in lower body strength; quadriceps, hamstrings, gastrocnemius, and the gluteus maximus. Squats are one of the few compound movements that recruit multiple muscle groups and joints in one single movement and are considered as one of the most effective and efficient functional movements. While both front squats and back squats are similar, there are slight variations in technique and the muscular movement. Front squats have been found to relieve stress on your lower back and knee stress and load. Like back squats, they will help increase overall leg strength and build bigger quads.

How To Front Squat

  • To start, set up a barbell on the uprights of a squat rack. You’ll want this right around mid-chest.
  • Grab the barbell with an overhand grip just beyond shoulder width.
  • As you lift the barbell off of the rack, lift your elbows in front of your torso to form a 90-degree angle at your shoulders, with your upper arms perpendicular to your torso. This is called the front rack position, and the barbell should sit nicely in the groove of your deltoid muscles.
  • Loosen your grip and allow the bar to roll from your palms to your fingers. If this is difficult, you want might want to read how to improve your wrist mobility. It may seem awkward at first, but you’ll get used to it.
  • Step back from the rack as you would for a conventional back squat, with your feet shoulder-width apart, and toes pointed forward. Make sure your elbows are high.

The Descent

  • Your hips will descend back and down, until your upper thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Keep your torso as upright as possible, with your lumbar curve maintained.
  • Keep your heels down and the weight balanced, with your knees in line with your toes.

The Ascent

  • Push back up to the starting position
  • Push your weight into your heels, and keep your back straight

4. Lunges

Lunges are a fundamental quad exercise, which can add more size and strength to your legs. With an emphasized range of motion lunges effectively stimulate your quads, hamstrings, and glutes, to help build more lean muscle mass. If you want to build bigger quads, lunges are one of the best exercises to help you get there.

Lunges can emphasize a deeper and pronounced range of motion, which is a fundamental piece in contracting your quads, and focusing on your balance, coordination, and core stability.

RELATED ARTICLE The 6 Best Overhead Lunge Variations

How To Lunge

  • Grab two dumbbells, or single dumbbell – stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart
  • Keeping the dumbbells directly by your sides or in front rack position, with engage your glutes, quads, and hamstrings muscles, bracing with the core
  • Exhale as you take a step forward with one leg, slowly lowering your body until your front knee is bent at least 90 degrees
  • Don’t allow the weight to carry you forward. Instead, think about dropping your hips straight down as you step forward. Keep your abs tight and chest up.
  • Pause, then push through the front foot to the starting position as quickly as you can
  • Complete the prescribed number of repetitions by either alternating each leg or performing the full set with one leg before switching to the other 

5. Landmine Squats

Easily one of the best quad exercises, the landmine squat is a strength training squat variation that affixes one end of a barbell to the floor, with the other end attached to a landmine grip. This movement is a very beneficial accessory leg exercise, providing less impact on your joints, and placing more emphasis on form to help build strength in your quads, glutes, and hamstrings.

Landmine squats are an anteriorly (front) loaded movement which will place more emphasis on your quads, upper back, glutes, and core. What’s great about the landmine squat is that it emphasizes proper form, specifically glute activation, which is crucial for performing heavy loaded back or front squats to build more strength and mass.

How To Landmine Squat

  • Place one end of the barbell into the landmine device and stand facing the other end of the barbell.
  • Stand with your feet hip or shoulder width apart, with a tall stance and slight bend in your knees with a neutral spine and neck.
  • Evenly distribute your weight and grip the floor with your feet to create a stable foot position.
  • Using a full grip, clasp the end of the bar with both hands. Your elbows should be close to your ribcage.
  • Engage your core and slightly tuck your pelvis. All repetitions should begin from this starting position.
  • Begin the downward or shortening motion by bending your hips, knees, and ankles. Lower until your legs are parallel or slightly below parallel to the ground. The weight on your feet should be evenly distributed. Pause at the bottom position, activating your glutes.
  • To begin the eccentric or upward movement, push your feet into the ground to initiate standing. Place emphasis on pushing through your mid-foot and heel while keeping your toes and glutes engaged.
  • Keep your chest high, squeeze your glutes, and allow your knees to straighten and your hips to travel forward. As you finish the movement, squeeze your glutes and quadriceps while maintaining a neutral spine.
  • Repeat the landmine squat for your desired number of repetitions.

Best Quad Exercises: Takeaway

If the goal is to build bigger, stronger quads, then make sure to add these quad exercises to your workout training plan. Compound functional exercises, such as the barbell back squat, front squat, lunges, and landmine squat will help you achieve more muscle growth. By adding key quad exercises to your training split 2-3 times per week, you'll build well defined muscular quads in no time. 

Need Help With Optimizing Your Diet, Nutrition, And Training Plan To Finally Get The Results You've Been Waiting For?

The Swole Kitchen provides 1:1 nutrition coaching, macro coaching, and custom meal plans to help guide you to becoming the best version of yourself. We teach you how to enjoy the foods you love in the right amounts, so you can fit into your favorite pair of jeans, hit your health and fitness goals, and be healthy and happy. We guide you through making sound nutritional decisions and teach you along the way, so you can learn how to take control of your health, and discover what if feels like to live again.

We believe that everyone can optimize not only their athletic performance but their human potential. The way we believe we can optimize performance is through transparency, clinically effective doses, and clinically proven ingredients with evidence-based outcomes. We provide the nutrients you need to power your active lifestyle.


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