How to Work Out Your Quads

Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on November 07, 2022

The quadriceps are four muscles in the front of your thighs. They extend your knee and assist in important daily tasks like standing, sitting, and supporting the knees while walking or standing. These muscles are important to your knees, so you should keep them strong at all costs. Many people use squats to strengthen their quads, but there are numerous other quad workouts you can do that give good results.

What Are Your Quads?

Your quadriceps form one of the key muscle groups needed for knee function. They are the primary muscles of knee support, and weakness of your quads can lead to instability of the knees. If your knees have instability, you are at a higher risk of developing additional wear and tear to your joints. 

Four main muscles make up your quads:

  • The muscle that runs frontally down your thigh is the rectus femoris. It aids in hip and knee flexion.
  • The largest of your quad muscles is the vastus lateralis. It connects your kneecap to your thigh bone.
  • The vastus medialis aids in stabilizing your kneecap and extending the knee joint. 
  • The vastus intermedius works with the other muscles of the knee to function in the extension of your knee.

Proper Quad Muscle Workouts

Your quads play an important role in almost all your leg movements. It is vital that you know how to work out your quads to keep them flexible and strong. If your quad muscles are weak, you can decrease the function of your knees. Studies also show weak knees increase your chances of joint cartilage loss which is a cause of osteoarthritis. 

Optimizing flexibility and strength in your quads will increase your knee function over the long term. However, you must do the correct exercises and amount. You should also engage other muscle sets that support the knee joint and help you to function properly in daily activities. A recent study found that 12% of its participants had quadriceps weakness at the onset of a study engaging in isometric strength testing and were more likely to suffer from high levels of pain in their knees. There were 163 people in the study, and they were 40 -79.

Best Workouts For Quad Growth

Known as the body’s “natural knee brace,” the quadriceps are not the only muscles that support the knee and allow for proper function. The back of the thigh, known as your hamstrings, and the glutes in your buttocks are also important. Along with the quads, they help you rise from a seated position and support day-to-day activities like climbing stairs, lifting, and getting in and out of your car. That is why quad workouts at the gym should also incorporate these muscles when possible. Here are some examples. 

Front squat: Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. At the same time, hold a barbell over your chest. You can hold the weight in your fingers with the wrist extended or cross your arms. Without arching your back, push the hips back and bend the knees to lower your body. Continue until your thighs become parallel to the floor. Force your heels into the floor and forcefully push yourself back up into the beginning position. 

Seated Dumbbell Leg Extensions: Sit on a gym bench. Have your back straight and a dumbbell between your feet. Holding your knees at a 90-degree angle, extend the legs, so they are straight while parallel to the ground. The rest of your body should be stationary. Hold the position for a second and slowly lower the weight back to your starting position. Take care not to go past the 90-degree level. 

Kettlebell front squat/10 X dumbbell: Bring a pair of average-weight kettlebells or dumbbells onto your shoulders. Stand straight and tall. Take a deep breath and bend into a front squat until your hip crease goes below your knee. Then straighten back up. As you repeat this movement, lower yourself slowly. When going back up, do so forcefully to get maximum engagement for the movement.

Quad Workouts – No Equipment

Quad set: Sit down with your legs stretched out and your arms behind you. Force your knees down into the floor while tightening your quadriceps. Hold this position for 5 seconds. A good set is 15 repetitions two or three times a week. 

Straight leg raises: While lying on your back, tighten your quad muscles. Lift your leg approximately a foot off the floor and keep the knees locked. Hold it for a second, then lower your leg. Try to do two sets of 15 repetitions two to three days a week. 

Lying quad stretch: While lying on your back close to the edge of a bench, bend the right leg while keeping your right foot flat on the bench. Hang the left leg across the edge of the bench keeping it relaxed and the thigh resting against the bench. Hold up to 15 seconds, then try with the opposite leg. Try doing this daily.

At-Home Quad Workouts

You should opt for low-impact aerobic-type exercises at home. Think elliptical training, cycling, biking, walking, and swimming. This contrasts to high-impact sports like jogging or singles tennis. If you are a fan of running, alternate it out a few times a week with low-impact sports.  

The short-arc quad exercise will help you to strengthen your front thigh quad muscles. Get a foam exercise noodle or roll a large towel. Lay on your back on the floor or a hard bed. Place the roll under the knees. Your heels should be on the floor or bed. Lift the lower end of one leg until it is straight while keeping the back of the knee on the towel or roll. Hold it straight for about 6 seconds. Slowly bend the knee and bring the heel back to the floor or bed and repeat 8 to 12 times. Switch legs and do the same 8 to 12 times.

Show Sources

Cleveland Clinic: "How to Strengthen Your Quads to Potentially Reduce Your Risk of Knee Osteoarthritis."
Men's Health Magazine: "The 10 Best Quad Exercises and Workouts for Building Muscle."
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital: "How To Do The Short-Arc Quad Exercise."

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