Quadriceps exercises to strengthen your legs and core

Quadriceps exercises to strengthen your legs and core
Quadriceps exercises to strengthen your legs and core

Last update: 04 November, 2019

Quadriceps are the body’s strongest and most powerful pair of muscles. They allow you to walk, run and jump. Work out your quads regularly to benefit from increased agility and strength.

In the gym, men tend to work hard to increase muscle mass in their backs and arms, more so than in their legs. Lots of women work to slim their lower extremities and belly through cardio routines. But for everyone, regardless of their specific fitness goals, working out the quadriceps will increase their overall fitness level.

The best quadriceps exercises

Strong leg muscles are very important for daily life, but lots of people do not think much about them during their gym routines. It is not uncommon to see bodybuilders with huge arms and necks, and skinny legs — it has become a bit of a joke to tell men, in particular, not to skip leg day at the gym.

To make sure that you do not end up with the classic, top-heavy bodybuilder look, you should work out your quadriceps along with your biceps or deltoids. Here are some great quad exercises to add to your gym routine:

1. Assisted bodyweight squats

First, find a support bar (they are often attached to gym walls and might look like a wooden ballet bar). Stand as far back from the bar as your arms allow, and grab the bar with both hands. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, and slowly squat down with control. Keep your gaze straight ahead and maintain a straight back posture.

Once your backside is close to the ground (go as low as you can to activate your quads, but make sure to not round your back or let your knees cave inwards), hold that position and count to 3. Return very slowly to the original standing posture. This is one repetition; do another 19 squats.

2. Squats with weights

Squatting with weights works your legs because they are carrying your bodyweight plus the weights, and your arms and core at the same time. This exercise can be done using a machine (like our cover picture illustrates) or with free weights.

To start this exercise, stand with your shoulder underneath the support bar of an assisted squats machine or lift free weights to rest on your shoulders behind your head. With a straight back and with your feet shoulder width apart, slowly squat down and flex your knees. Make sure that bending your knees does not cause your knees to extend over your big toes. Return to the starting position and complete 20 repetitions.

3. Lunges

firm gluten squats

Lunges are one of the best known quadriceps exercises, and for good reason! They are insanely effective at strengthening your quads and core. When you lunge, you work on coordination and balance in addition to strength training, and you can always add weight to increase the burn once you master the technique.

To start, stand up with your back straight. Make sure that your back stays straight throughout the exercise and take a big step forward with your right foot and deeply bend both knees (the left knee should come as close as possible to the ground). Hold the position for a count of 3 and then return to standing. Step forward with your left foot and do the same exercise. Complete 10 repetitions per side.

4. Isometric squats

isometric squats

Of course, we are back to squats! Isometric squats seem simple, but they will make your legs burn and shake (which is probably what you are going for, although we do know that it hurts!)

Stand close to a wall to start and lean your back and head on the wall. Slide your torso down along the wall while bending your knees to a 90 degree angle. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor and your arms should rest along the sides of your body. Hold the squat for 30 seconds, then stand and rest for 10 seconds. Do at least 10 repetitions.

5. Side lunge

The side lunge is one the most active exercises that still works your quadriceps.

Start by standing, then flex both knees, as if you were going to squat (at least you get a small break from squatting for the moment!) Staying low, slowly step your right leg to the side, bend your right knee until it is almost 90 degrees to the floor, and extend your left leg until it is straight.

You can turn your torso to the left and stretch the arm on that side, if you want, or keep your torso slightly bent forward to help you balance. Then, with a small jump, switch sides and bend your left knee and stretch your right leg. Do 10 repetitions on each side.

6. Bulgarian split squats

We are back to squats! If you don’t usually like squats because they bore you, you might find one variation that you do like, as there are thousands of variations. One great option is the Bulgarian squat, for which you will need a bench, chair or some other weighted support.

Stand with your back to the bench and bring the top of your right foot (where your shoelaces are) to rest on top of the bench. Maintain a straight back and bend your left knee to a 90 degree angle and lower your right knee until it is as close to the ground as possible. You can balance yourself by stretching your arms out in front of your chest. Stand back up and then lunge down to do 15 repetitions before switching sides.


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.