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10 Effective Ways to Do Quad Exercises at Home

Whether you like to run, cycle, ski, hike, play tennis, shoot hoops with friends, or simply chase your kids around and run up a flight of stairs without feeling your legs burn, you need to have strong quad muscles. The quads are a group of four powerful muscles that run down the front of your thigh from your hip to your knee. They play an integral role in walking, running, jumping, ascending and descending stairs, squatting down, and getting into and out of a chair because they help flex the hip and extend the knee. Therefore, it’s important to include exercises for your quads in your workout routine to ensure your legs are as strong and powerful as you want them to be.

Man doing quad exercises at home.
Unsplash

Most people assume that the best quad exercises require access to a gym filled with fancy weight machines, squat racks, and barbells with heavyweights, and while you will want some form of resistance (dumbbells, kettlebells, etc.) for hypertrophy training to build larger quads, there are plenty of effective quad exercises you can perform at home with minimal equipment. That said, if you plan to do the bulk of your leg workouts at home, you might want to invest in a good set of adjustable dumbbells and resistance bands to give your muscles the stimulus they’ll need to get stronger. In the meantime, we’ve got you covered with the best exercises you can perform at home with just your bodyweight or a few resistance bands. Keep reading to get started sculpting and strengthening your quads.

Bodyweight Squats

Though you’re certainly going to feel the burn when using a heavy barbell or dumbbells at the gym, you can still get some of the benefits of squats with just your body weight. That said, if you have weights at home, feel free to use them to make this quad exercise more challenging.

Equipment: None or dumbbells

Execution

  1. Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart, shoulders back, chest up, and core engaged.
  2. Bend your knees and sit your hips all the way back as if reaching your butt back to sit in a chair while driving your arms forward in front of you for counterbalance.
  3. When your thighs are parallel to the floor, press through your heels to stand back up.
  4. Complete 20 to 50 reps.

Prisoner Squats

This variation of a bodyweight squat is slightly more challenging because it requires more core activation for balance and targets your quads more since you can’t use your arms for momentum.

Equipment: None

Execution

  1. Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart, shoulders back, chest up, and core engaged with your hands laced together behind your head and elbows fanned out to the sides.
  2. Bend your knees and sit your hips all the way back as if reaching your butt back to sit in a chair. Contract your abs and glutes to stay balanced and upright.
  3. When your thighs are parallel to the floor, press through your heels to stand back up.
  4. Complete 20 to 30 reps.

Single-Leg Squats

shirtless man doing a single leg squat.
Photo by Bastien Plu on Unsplash

Single-leg squats are one of the more difficult quad exercises because they require tremendous leg strength, core activation, and balance. A single-leg squat is often sufficiently challenging with just your bodyweight, 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 slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lift your left leg and use your abs to draw it up towards your chest and hold it there, or bend it behind your right leg and let it hover above the ground. You can also extend it straight 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. When your right knee is bent to 90 degrees and your thigh is parallel to the ground, press through your right heel to stand back up.
  5. Complete 10 to 15 reps and then switch sides.

Walking Lunges

You’ll need a little room for this quad exercise, but take it outside or get creative and meander around your home as you go.

Equipment: None

Execution

  1. Stand upright with good posture, gaze forward, hands on your hips.
  2. Take a giant step forward such that when you drop down into a lunge, your front and rear knee can bend to 90 degrees without your front knee going forward beyond your toes.
  3. Drop into a deep lunge, ensuring your front shin is perpendicular to the floor and your thigh is parallel to the floor.
  4. Keep walking forward with a lunge for each step.
  5. Complete 50 lunges.

Step-Ups

Step-ups are a compound movement that strengthens your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. You can use a stair in your home, a sturdy chair or couch, or your bed, or consider using a park bench outside. Use dumbbells, if available, to boost the difficulty of this quad exercise.

Equipment: Step, chair, or bench, and dumbbells, if available.

Execution

  1. Stand facing a chair, bench, or step that is roughly knee height or slightly lower. If you’re using standard stairs, aim to skip one full stair so that you step up to the stair two steps higher.
  2. Engage your core and glutes as you step up onto the stair or chair with your right foot.
  3. Step your left leg up onto the same step.
  4. Step back down with your right foot first, then the left.
  5. Continue leading with the right foot for 15 to 20 reps, and then switch sides.

Split Squats

You can get a good burn in your quads by performing long sets of rapid reps of this leg-strengthening move. If you have dumbbells, you can also hold onto those to ramp up the intensity.

Equipment: None or dumbbells

Execution

  1. Stand upright with good posture and your hands on your hips.
  2. Take a big step forward with your right leg such that when you drop down into a lunge, both knees can bend to 90 degrees without your front knee (the right knee) going forward beyond your toes.
  3. Drop down into your lunge, and pause momentarily.
  4. Power back up by engaging your quads and glutes.
  5. Keep your feet planted in this staggered split squat position and simply continue dropping down and up into a lunge.
  6. Complete 25 split squats and then switch sides.

Jump Squats

Man on a box doing a squat.
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Jump squats turn regular squats into a plyometric exercise, helping you develop the power, speed, and force generation you need in your quads for jumping prowess.

Equipment: None

Execution

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, core engaged, chest up, back straight, and arms at your side.
  2. Perform a squat by bending your knees and sitting your butt back as if reaching to sit in a chair while driving your arms forward.
  3. Push through your heels and then your midfoot and toes to explode upward as high as you can jump, straightening your knees and hips and using your arms to power your body up as high as possible.
  4. As soon as you land, bend your knees to cushion the landing, transitioning immediately into a full squat to begin the cycle again.
  5. Move quickly and powerfully from rep to rep.
  6. Complete 15 to 20 reps.

Leg Extension Squeezes

The quad muscles are responsible for knee extension, and you’ll isolate that motion with this exercise. It’s a great quad exercise for preventing knee pain. Use a heavy ankle weight, if possible.

Equipment: Ankle weights

Execution

  • Lie on your back with a towel rolled up under your right knee. Rest your right heel on the floor. Your left knee should be bent with your left foot planted flat on the floor.
  • Use your quad to straighten your right leg fully such that your heel lifts off the ground.
  • Squeeze your quads to hold this raised position for 5 seconds.
  • Relax to lower your leg back down.
  • Complete 15 reps per side.

Heel Drops

If your quads have ever been sore after hiking down a mountain, you’re probably aware of how involved they are in decelerating knee flexion. This quad exercise trains the eccentric motions of the quads and also improves balance and coordination. You can make the exercise more difficult by holding weights, if available.

Equipment: Stair, box, or curb about 8 inches off the ground and an optional dumbbell.

Execution

  1. Stand on a step or curb facing the stair or ground below it.
  2. Lift your left foot off the stair so that your heel is hovering just above the stair and your toes pointing up towards the ceiling. Your knee should be extended.
  3. Bend your right knee as if you’re going to step down to the stair below, but just hover the left heel over the ground or stair below without actually touching it.
  4. Use your core to stay balanced and then power yourself back up with the planted right leg.
  5. Complete 12 to 15 reps per side, moving in a slow and in a controlled fashion.

Single-Leg Wall Sits

Another good quad exercise for home workouts is a single-leg wall sit. You don’t need any equipment and you can even multitask, holding the position while on the phone or watching TV.

Equipment: None

Execution

  1. Stand with your back to a bare wall.
  2. Squat down so that your back is against the wall, your thighs are parallel to the floor, and your shin is vertical.
  3. Once down in your squat position, lift one leg up and hook it around the other so that only one leg is supporting you.
  4. Hold the position for 1 to 3 minutes and then switch sides. Be sure to keep your core engaged and breathe steadily throughout the exercise.

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