On this page, I'm going to list all quad exercises I have done.
I will let you know what I think of each and give you some tips along the way for each of the exercises.
Let's go ahead and get right into each of them.
Here they are:
This exercise is the king of all exercises and not only quad exercises. Deadlifts are very close, but squats will work the quads much better than deadlifts.
I love squats and attribute most of the muscle I have gained to squats and deadlifts.
A squat is a tough exercise to learn and beginners should start out with very light weights and make sure they have the movement down before adding any weight.
Start out with an empty bar if you are a beginner. Try to add a little weight at a time once you have the movement down. Don't worry! The weight will come. Enjoy it while it's easier for you. It won't last for long!
There are different stances one can use and different bar placements along the upper back area. I have always used the powerlifter style squat because it feels much better to perform for me.
I believe it places more emphasis on the hamstrings and glutes than the olympic style squat. I have pretty wide shoulders so I like to use about a shoulder width stance with feet pointed out around 30 degrees or so.
I place the bar pretty low on my back with my grip out fairly wide on the barbell. I keep my lower back tight at all times and keep my head looking forward (not up) throughout the entire movement.
I suggest you always do your squats in a power rack. In the past, I used a free standing squat rack with safety spotters but ever since I started using a power rack I will never switch back.
When the weights get heavy, I always feel safer and contained in the power rack.
I always work out alone so I always had a slight negative feeling when doing squats because I didn't want to lose my balance and hurt myself badly. When using a power rack, I feel so much safer and do not worry about injury.
Always go past parallel when doing squats.
Going past parallel ensures that there is less stress on your knees. Believe me. You can easily feel the difference in stress on your knees when stopping above parallel compared to going past parallel.
I like to go as far down as possible. The difference in quad development is night and day when you go down as far as possible. Think about it… you get much more stretch in your quads the further you go down.
More stretch under such a load leads to greater development of your quads.
Unless you are unable to do squats, I want you to include them in your program! Olympic style squats or powerlifter style squats are perfect quad exercises.
Hip Belt Squats
Many people probably haven't heard of Hip Belt Squats.
Hip Belt squats are a great quad exercise. I love hip belt squats because they seem to put a little more stress on the lower quad muscles without any load on the lower back.
The only thing I do not like about Hip Belt Squats is the set up, but with some practice I've made my own style of hip belt squats.
I like to use a triceps bar and load it up with 25 pound weights so you have a little more range of motion. I make sure the hip belt is very tight so I don't get any slipping from the belt. The triceps bar ensures that the hip belt straps do not move.
I sit the loaded triceps bar on a flat bench, stand over it, strap the hip belt to the bar, slightly lift the weight, walk forward into the power rack, hold onto the sides of the power rack for support, and perform squats.
I make sure to put the weight on my heels as I push up.
With hip belt squats, it is easy to put the weight towards your toes. You will need something to hold onto that is stable. You do not want to fall even though hip belt squats are very safe because the weight is below you.
If you have lower back problems and have trouble doing back squats, you must try hip belt squats. They are one of my favorite quad exercises now. You should give them a try especially if you need a good quad exercise that seems to develop the lower quads more than other quad exercises.
Also, have a look at the TK Waist Band for help alleviating back problems.
I've got to tell you that I've never got into the hang of doing front Squats.
I could never get comfortable with heavy weights on Front Squats. If you like Front Squats, then by all means choose them as one of your quad exercises. They are a very good exercise and place more stress directly on your quads than a regular back squat.
This means they are very good for developing the quads without developing the posterior leg muscles as much as a regular barbell squat.
I've always had good quads and slightly lagging hamstrings and glutes, so I never put much effort into learning how to get comfortable with heavy front squats.
They are a great exercise, though, so try them and see what you think for yourself.
Barbell Hack Squats
I love Barbell Hack Squats.
This exercise fits me very well, and I feel my entire quads so much in this exercise!
I can actually do more weight with Barbell Hack Squats than regular barbell squats. I've gotten very good quad development from Barbell Hack Squats. As you can see, this is one of my favorite quad exercises.
Barbell Hack Squats are like deadlifts, but the barbell is placed behind your legs instead of in front of your legs. I can keep the weight on my heels very well in this exercise and use only legs to lift the weight upwards.
Make sure you get this movement down before adding a whole lot of weight.
If you've never done them, you should definitely try them as you will eventually be able to lift heavy weights. I like this exercise so much because I've been able to lift heavier than barbell squats and my quads seem to like them very much.
You might need to work on stretching the right muscles if you have trouble with this exercise. Some people don't have the natural flexibility to perform this exercise properly.
I've done dumbbell squats before, but I've never liked them at all. I've always done them while holding the dumbbells by my sides.
It's hard for me to sit back when I squat with dumbbells.
I always feel more stress on my knees when doing dumbbell squats. If you can do them while being able to sit back into the squat position without leaning forward too much, then I believe they will be a great exercise.
You might try them by cleaning the dumbbells up to your shoulders.
You will eventually need access to some big dumbbells, though. So if you don't have access to large dumbbells, then I wouldn't bother with dumbbell squats.
It will be really hard to stress your legs very much with dumbbell squats once you get stronger. It's much easier to go with a barbell version of squats.
Try using 200 pound dumbbells versus a 400 pound barbell squat. The barbell version is much safer and easier to use.
I love Barbell Lunges. As you've heard me say before, I've always had good quad development but lagging hamstrings.
Well, Barbell Lunges are a great exercise to use if you have this problem. Many people will say that you just can't use as much weight with barbell lunges as you can with squats.
I will argue that all day long.
With barbell lunges, you will be using less weight but all of the weight goes onto one leg at a time! So, of course you will be using less weight. But your muscles may be getting more load, one leg at a time, than squats.
Barbell Lunges have always helped my leg development and I highly recommend them if you are in the same situation that I am.
If you choose to do Barbell Lunges and have never done them before, make sure that you get the movement down. You can lose your balance easily and must concentrate throughout the movement.
You do not want to reach total failure on this exercise or you'll have to dump the weight on the floor and hope the weight doesn't smash your legs on the way down. So be careful when performing this exercise.
I consider this to be a quad exercise even though you get very good hamstring development from this exercise too.
I think this is one of the better quad exercises you can do that gives you total leg development also. Many people may disagree with me about barbell lunges, but I think they fit very well into weight lifting programs.
Dumbbell Lunges are also a good exercise, but I've always hated trying to hold onto the dumbbells for so long.
You're essentially working one leg at a time, so the set can last twice as long as a normal set.
I end up having to use straps to hold onto the heavy dumbbells long enough to get some good leg work in. I would rather do barbell lunges because of these reasons. There are better quad exercises out there to choose from.
If you need to work on your grip, though, dumbbell lunges are a great choice as they will work your grip and your entire lower body.
I see no use at all in doing leg extensions.
I think this exercise is an easy way out for many people. Leg extensions are not a substitute for squats! If you do substitute them for squats, you are severely limiting your gains.
I think Leg Extensions are useless for muscle gain. They may be a good rehabilitation exercise, but are only good for advanced bodybuilders who might need to bring their quads up and nothing else.
I do know they have proven useless to me in the area of muscle gain. Pick yourself another quad exercise if at all possible.
I started to not even mention these in the quad exercises section, but I wanted to give you my opinion on this weight training exercise.
Leg Press Machine
I have never used the Leg Press all that much. I have always seen it more as a machine that locks you into a specific plane of movement.
I would much rather do free weight squats than the Leg Press.
I've never given it much of a chance, so I can't say how good this exercise is. If you've proven to yourself that Leg Press gives you good development, then go ahead and trust yourself. I would much rather you do free weight squats of some type for your quad exercise.
So for this exercise, you're on your own. I don't have much an opinion on this one due to lack of experience.
Hack Squat Machine
I have also never used the Hack Squat machine before.
I would rather do free weight squats or other quad exercises. I would rather you choose some type of free weight squat over the hack squat machine.
I would choose barbell lunges over the hack squat machine and not even call that a contest.
I am just biased toward free weights. If you think this exercise fits you well and you've gotten good quad development out of it before, then you may want to choose it as one of your quad exercises.
Summary of Quad Exercises
The list of quad exercises on this page is plenty to get you any type of legs you want.
Stick with Squats unless you just can't for some reason.
It's got to be a good reason, though. And it can't be because they are too hard. They are a tough exercise, but they're very rewarding.
Any variation of squats are great too! You've got:
- Zercher Squats
- Bulgarian Squats
- 1-Legged Squats
- Jefferson Squats
- Cossack Squats
And there are many more variations of squats out there. Try them and all and see what works best for you as everyone is different.
Good luck building those quadriceps!