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10 Best Quad Exercises for Strong, Muscular Legs

Strong quads are the necessary counterpoint to all the work you put into building a buff upper body. Here’s how to get the legs of an athlete in 10 simple moves.

The quad workout should be a staple workout for men — up there with abs, biceps, triceps, and pecs. From a functional perspective, they are the main thing standing between you and a knee or hip injury. The stronger your quads, the better they will absorb the load from any kind of impact activity, like running or a pickup game of hoops. From a performance standpoint, the stronger your quad muscles are, the more power and speed you will have when you bike, run, or do any kind of plyometric move like box jumps. They also provide the necessary support when you do overhead presses, Olympic lifts, and give your kid a piggyback ride. And then there is the aesthetic factor. A ripped upper body with scrawny legs looks unbalanced, to say the least.

The best quad workouts hit four individual muscles: the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius. Each one plays a unique role in bending and flexing your knee and hip joints, but they also all work together to power you through your day.

There’s no hard and fast rule about when to do a legs workout. Some like to add it to arms day; others prefer to stagger the two. If you play any rec sports, you’re probably giving your legs some kind of workout every time you hit the field or court. The most important thing is that your legs feel rested before you hit the weights so be sure to take a recovery day between workouts. Follow this 10-move, 20-minute program to be sure you’re giving your legs the love they deserve.

Barbell Squat

Using a weight suitable for 8-10 reps, unrack the barbell and place it behind your neck on your shoulders, holding it with an overhand grip (palms forward). Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly turned out. Allow your chest to lean forward slightly, back flat, as you bend your knees, aiming to get knees over toes. Straighten back to standing. Do 8-10 reps, 2 sets.

Weighted Lunges

Holding a medium-weight dumbbell in each hand, stand with feet parallel, arms by your sides. Take a big step forward with your right leg, landing with a bent knee. Bend your right knee until your leg forms a right angle, knee over toes, and back left knee hovers just above the ground. Push off right foot and return to standing. Do 10 lunges on the right side, then 10 lunges on the left side. 2 sets total.

Leg Lifts

Lie on your back, legs straight out in front of you. Place a 10-15 pound weighted ankle cuff on your right leg. Keeping your back flat and legs straight, lift your right leg about a foot off the floor. Lower back down but don’t let it touch the ground. Immediately lift again. Do 15 reps on your right legs, then switch the weight to left side and do 15 reps on the left side. Repeat on both sides.

Bavarian Split Squat

Stand with your back to a bench, about a foot away. Holding a medium-weight dumbbell in each hand, lift your right leg behind you, knee bent, and rest your right toes on the bench. Bend your left knee over your left toes, letting your right knee drop toward the floor. Straighten up again. Do 12 reps then switch sides. 2 sets.

Wall Sit

Stand with your back to a wall, about a foot away. Bend knees and let your back sink against the wall, pressing into it with your spine as you lower yourself down into a “sitting” position. (Your legs should form a right angle with your knees over your toes.) Hold for 90 seconds to 2 minutes. Release.

Step-Ups

Face a bench with a medium-weight dumbbell in each hand. Step up onto the bench with your right leg, allowing your left leg to swing through until it is raised in front of you, knee bent. Step back down with your left leg first. Perform 10 step-ups on the right side, then 10 on the left. 2 sets.

Single-Leg Squat-Sits

Stand with your back to a bench, about a foot away. Holding a medium-weight dumbbell in each hand, lift your left leg in front of you. Bend your right knee and sink back and down to the bench until your butt just touches the seat. Immediately engage your quad and return to standing, without letting your left leg touch the floor. 8 reps on the right, switch sides and repeat. 2 sets.

Box Jump

Stand facing a bench or box about two feet off the floor. Bend your knees and let your arms drift behind you. Explosively push through the floor, jump, and tuck your knees as you spring up onto the box, landing on both feet. Step back down. 15 jumps.

Kettlebell Lateral Lunges

Holding a heavy kettlebell by the handle with both hands, stand with your feet together, legs straight. Take a wide step to the right, landing with a bent right knee and straight left leg. Bend deep to the ground, then push through your right foot and return to standing. Repeat on left side for one full rep. 10 reps, 2 sets.

Stair Sprint

Find yourself a set of stairs, and race to the top, jog to the bottom, for 60 seconds, lifting knees as high as you can and moving your feet as fast as they will go.