These Are the 10 Best Quad Exercises of All Time

The quads are one of the largest and most powerful muscle groups. Comprised of four individual muscles (rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius), the quads run down the front of your thighs from your hip to the knee. You quad muscles are responsible for hip flexion and knee extension, so having strong quads will help you run faster, jump higher, squat heavier, and perform basic activities of daily living easier.

quad muscles.
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The best quad exercises for men strengthen one or more of the four quad muscles and condition the quad muscles as a group to handle greater loads and higher forces. Quad exercises may also target the glutes and hamstrings, which work in opposition to the quads because working these antagonist muscles builds eccentric (lengthening) strength in the quads. Fortunately, there are plenty of effective quad exercises and quad workouts that can be done with just a few dumbbells or exercise machines. Keep reading for a detailed guide of the best quad exercises for men and start sculpting that iconic teardrop shape and leg strength you’ve always wanted.

Bulgarian Split Squat With Rotation

The Bulgarian split squat is a unilateral exercise so it requires coordination and balance, while also placing a greater demand on your quad muscles. Adding a rotation recruits your obliques and abs.

Equipment: Medicine ball, kettlebell, or dumbbell

Execution

  1. Stand about three feet in front of a bench, facing away, with the top of your rear foot up on the bench behind you. Your front foot should be far enough forward that when you drop into a lunge, your front knee does not extend beyond your toes.
  2. Hold a medicine ball or kettlebell between your two hands with your arms fully extended in front of your body parallel to the floor.
  3. Keeping your shoulders back and core engaged, bend your front knee to drop into a split squat/lunge while simultaneously rotating your trunk and extended arms towards the direction of the front foot.
  4. When the thigh of your front leg is parallel to the ground, press through your heel to return to the standing position while rotating the weight back.
  5. Complete 8-10 reps per leg per set.

Pistol Squats

Man doing pistol squat.
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Pistol squats are one of the toughest quad exercises because they require tremendous leg strength, core activation, and balance. It’s a great bodyweight exercise, so you can perform it at home, but you can also load up with dumbbells as you get stronger.

Equipment: None or dumbbells

Execution

  1. Stand upright with good posture and your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Lift your left leg and extend it in front of your body.
  3. Bend your right knee and sit your hips all the way back as you drop down into a single-leg squat.
  4. Drop as deep as you can while maintaining good form.
  5. Press through your right heel to stand back up.
  6. Complete 8-10 reps and then switch sides.

BOSU Goblet Squats

You can perform goblet squats with your feet planted on the ground, but standing on the dome side of a BOSU ball will further challenge your quads, adductors, and glutes, as well as the smaller muscles that stabilize the ankles and hips.

Equipment: Kettlebell or dumbbell and BOSU ball

Execution

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart on either side of the dome of a BOSU ball and your toes pointing slightly outward.
  2. Hold a heavy kettlebell or dumbbell up at chest height.
  3. Inhale, bend your knees, and sit your hips backward. Make sure your core is engaged, your chest is up, and your back is straight.
  4. Exhale, pressing through your heels to return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat 10-15 reps.

Dumbbell Step-Ups with Overhead Press

Strong quads help you climb stairs with minimal effort and charge uphill with speed. Step-ups are a great metabolic conditioning exercise and strengthen the quads along with the glutes, calves, and hamstrings. Adding an overhead press recruits your core and shoulders as well.

Equipment: Dumbbells and box, step, or bench

Execution

  1. Stand facing a plyometric box, bench, or step that is roughly knee height or slightly lower. Hold the dumbbells at shoulder height.
  2. Engage your core and glutes while you step up onto the box with your right foot while simultaneously raising the dumbbells straight up overhead.
  3. Step your left leg up onto the box as well.
  4. Step back down with your right foot first, then left, while lowering the dumbbells back to your shoulders.
  5. Continue leading with the right foot for 8-10 reps, and then switch sides.

Dumbbell Front Squats

Squats are certainly the go-to quad exercises for most guys, and for good reason: they work. There are all sorts of squat variations, but the front squat is one of the best quad exercises and puts less stress on your back than a back squat.

Equipment: Dumbbells or barbell

Execution

  1. Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart, shoulders back, chest up, and core engaged.
  2. Hold the barbell or dumbbells around the level of your clavicles.
  3. Bend your knees and sit your hips all the way back as if reaching your butt back to sit in a chair.
  4. When your thighs are parallel to the floor, press through your heels to stand back up.
  5. Complete 6-12 reps.

Leg Press

The leg press machine is a great way to strengthen your quads and build muscle, particularly if you don’t have a spotter for heavy. For hypertrophy training (gaining muscle size), use the heaviest weight you can handle for 3-6 reps. To increase strength but not size, use a lighter weight and complete 8-10 reps.

Equipment: Leg press machine

Execution

  1. Position yourself in the leg press machine so that you’re lying back with your head and back fully supported, your knees bent to 90 degrees, and your feet up on the platform a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Grasp the handles with your hands.
  2. Push through your heels to extend your legs fully without fully locking out your knees.
  3. Bend your knees to slowly the weights back down.

Leg Extension

The leg extension machine is one of the best ways to isolate your quads for maximal strengthening. If you don’t have access to a leg press machine, you can replicate the exercise with ankle weights, though the load you can lift will be much less.

Equipment: Leg press machine

Execution

  1. Sit on a leg press machine with your legs under the pads such that the pad is just above your ankles and your knees are bent to 90 degrees. Your back should be flush with the machine. Grasp the hand bars.
  2. Keeping your back, and thighs stationary, exhale while extending your legs fully.
  3. Pause and then slowly lower the weight.

Resistance Band Monster Walks

This quad exercise can be completed at home or outside if you don’t have access to a gym. Stay as low as possible throughout the duration of the movement to really engage your quads.

Equipment: Strong loop resistance band

Execution

  1. Place a loop band around your ankles.
  2. Get into a good squat position with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, core engaged, chest up, shoulders back, hands on your hips, and knees bent to 90 degrees.
  3. Staying down in your squat position, step one foot forward at a time, maintaining tension on the resistance band.
  4. Walk forward 30 steps in total, striding as long as you can with each step and staying low to keep your quads engaged.
  5. Turn around and come back the same way.

TRX Curtsy Lunge

TRX suspension straps are a valuable training tool for performing bodyweight exercises. You can perform bodyweight squats, single-leg squats, and other quad exercises with TRX straps, but the curtsy lunge is one of the best quad exercises to do with suspension trainers, and it also targets your glutes, hips, and core.

Equipment: TRX suspension straps

Execution

  1. Stand upright holding the TRX handles with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointing slightly outward. There should be slight tension in the straps.
  2. Lift your right leg up and cross it behind your left calf as you lower into a full single-leg squat on the left leg.
  3. Tap the right toe behind and to the outside of your left leg.
  4. Return it to neutral as you press up with only your left leg.
  5. Complete 10 reps and then switch sides.

Box Jumps

Box jumps are a challenging plyometric exercise. This total-body move builds power and strength in your quads, glutes, calves, and hamstrings. As you get stronger, use taller boxes to progress the difficulty.

Equipment: Plyometric box, bench, or step

Execution

  1. Stand facing the box or step with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, core engaged, arms at your side.
  2. Bend your knees to drop into a squat, sitting your hips back. Then press through your heels while using your arms to powerfully explode upward to jump onto the box.
  3. Use your arms and quads to absorb the forces of landing.
  4. Jump backward back down.
  5. Complete 15 reps.

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