THE 4 BEST QUADRICEP EXERCISES FOR MASS & STRENGTH

For most average gym-goers, it’s all about developing their chest, biceps and abs. Leg training is usually treated as an afterthought, or even worse, it’s ignored altogether.

Well, as the saying goes, “friends don’t let friends skip leg day”. If you’re serious about building an impressive and well-rounded physique, hard and heavy leg training is an absolute must.

Below, I’ll be outlining the 4 very best quadricep exercises out there for optimal size and strength development.

Direct hamstring and calf work is important too, but quad training is at the core of any effective leg workout since all compound quadricep exercises will target all of the major muscles of your lower body simultaneously.

Keep in mind that there are literally hundreds of different (and highly effective) quad exercises and variations available that you could perform.

This is by no means a definitive list, but these are the top movements that I would recommend centering your quadricep training around…


The 4 Best Quadricep Exercises

Exercise #1: Barbell Squats

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Squats have been a basic bread-and-butter quad exercise for as long as man has been strength training, and they should be a cornerstone in your leg routine.

They’re one of, if not the most demanding exercise you can perform (which is why the squat rack in most gyms is empty the majority of the time), but the payoff is well worth the effort.

A properly executed set of squats will hammer your quads along with your glutes, hamstrings, spinal erectors, obliques, abs and calves.

They’re also a highly functional lift that carries over to the real world in a variety of ways. Consistent squatting will boost your athletic performance (such as sprinting power and vertical leap), improve flexibility, develop core strength and reduce the chances of lower back injury.

Unless there is a specific reason why you can’t perform them, a basic barbell squat should definitely be included in your workout plan.

Proper form is a must with this exercise, so make sure to start off light and gradually work your way up if this is a new lift for you.

Every rep should be performed under strict control with your head up, lower back flat, abs tight, driving through your heels and stopping just short of locking out your knees.

If you have lower back issues, try performing the front squat variation instead.


Exercise #2: Leg Press

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The leg press is another basic compound movement that allows you to place a significant amount of tension on the quads with additional involvement of the glutes, hamstrings and calves.

The leg press allows for a bit more “focused” tension on the quads since it is a more basic movement pattern and you won’t have to worry about balancing the weight on your back.

Make sure to use a medium stance to shift more emphasis onto the quads (going wider targets more glutes, and this applies to any compound quad movement) and ensure that you don’t lock your knees out at the end of each rep. Locking your knees out puts more stress on the joints and also takes the tension off of your quads.

A horizontal leg press machine or 45 degree leg press machine are both fine choices, though the 45 degree angle will place a bit more stress on the lower back.


Exercise #3: Lunges

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Although this movement pattern is a little bit more complex, lunges are another highly functional lift and one of the top quadricep exercises out there.

The key benefit here is that each leg is trained independently, which helps to prevent muscular imbalances and allows you to develop better coordination.

They can be performed using either a barbell or dumbbells, and just like the squat, they engage many major muscle groups at the same time including the glutes, hamstrings, calves, abs, obliques and spinal erectors.

Make sure to keep your chest up, abs tight, lower back arched and use a large step forward while keeping the weight on the front leg and driving through your heel.

You can perform this exercise in an alternating fashion or perform two separate sets for each individual leg.


Exercise #4: Step-Ups

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Although you won’t see these being performed very often at the gym, step-ups are another awesome unilateral compound movement with a high carryover to daily activities and sports. They’re also one of the best quadricep exercises for building overall size and strength.

Step-ups can be performed using either a barbell or dumbbells, and just like lunges, they can be executed in an alternating fashion or by hitting each leg individually with two separate sets.


Structuring Your Complete Quad Workout

To form a complete quad workout, I would suggest selecting 2 of the exercises above.

Go with a barbell squat, and then pair it up with either a leg press (horizontal or 45 degree), lunge (barbell or dumbbell) or step-up (barbell or dumbbell).

Perform 2-4 sets of each exercise depending on your individual level of training intensity. If you’re training with all-out maximum effort, go with 2 sets, and if you’re training a couple reps short of failure, 3-4 sets will do.

Quadricep exercises are highly effective using virtually any rep range, and anywhere between 5-12 will work well for stimulating muscle hypertrophy. I personally prefer the lower ranges of around 5-7, as higher reps begin to involve the cardiovascular system to a high degree which can reduce overall muscular performance.

It may not seem like a lot of work, but keep in mind that you’ll also be including your direct hamstring exercises (and probably calves as well) after your quad training is done. For my complete rundown of proper hamstring training, click here.

Quadricep training is also very taxing when executed correctly, and 2-4 sets of 2 compound exercises will easily be enough to achieve maximum size and strength gains.

As with any form of bodybuilding training, always make sure to place your focus on progressive overload by consistently adding weight to the bar over time. This is the core, foundational principle of achieving continual muscle growth and should be given 100% focus at all times.

Squeeze out a few extra reps or add a few pounds to these lifts each week and you’ll be amazed at how strong (and big) your quads can become in a relatively short period of time.

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