Quadriceps Exercises | Photos and Instructional Exercise Guides


The quadriceps, or “quads”, which is a short and common name for the quadriceps femoris (quad = four), is the group of four headed muscles arising from the femur attached to the front of the tibia. These four muscles include the vastus intermedius, the rectus femoris, the vastus lateralis and the vastus medialis. They are all essential for knee extension (straightening the knee) which are necessary for movements like walking, running, squatting, etc. The rectus femoris has an additional purpose as it is attached to the ilium, so it helps in bending the thigh. The quadriceps muscles are some of the strongest muscles in the human body.

Exercise Guides For Your Quadriceps!

The vastus intermedius lies between the vastus lateralis and vastus medialis which is located on the front of the femur. The rectus femoris originates from the ilium and occupies the mid-part of the thigh. The vastus lateralis lies on the lateral side of femur and it’s the largest of the four muscles. Lastly, the vastus medialis lies on the medial side of femur or inner side of the thigh. The oxygenated blood to these muscles is supplied from the lateral femoral circumflex artery with the femoral nerve (and its subsequent branches) innervating these muscles.

Even though all of these muscles are attached to the tibial tuberosity through tendons, all of them do not cross the hip joint. In fact, only the rectus femoris crosses both the hip and the knee joints. The main function of these muscles is to move the knee resulting in ambulatory movements. These muscles become active when bending or straightening the knee. The quadriceps muscles are essential for almost every movement in the leg. They are active primarily during running (especially downhill) which demands high activity from the quadriceps. These leg muscles also help in stabilizing the kneecap (patella). There are various forms of exercises to target the large muscles of the quadriceps and some of the best movements include squats, lunges and leg press.

Stretching is one of the most essential and important ways to keep the quadriceps flexible and to maintain a proper and constant supply of blood and oxygen. Before a heavy workout, it is very important to warm up the area thoroughly by walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike in order to avoid injuries. You may also want to perform some dynamic stretching movements to warm up the quadriceps before getting into a heavy weight training routine.

One of the cornerstone mass building exercises for the quadriceps is the barbell squat. In order to make squats more “quad-focused”, you can position the barbell on the front of your shoulders (instead of behind your head resting on your traps) and perform front squats which really target the quadriceps extremely well. If you would rather use dumbbells instead of a barbell, you can hold the dumbbells in front of your chest while keeping your back flat, pushing your hips back and bending your knees slowly down to the bottom squat position. The leg press machine is another very effective exercise to target your quadriceps, especially if you have any back issues and do not want to put pressure on this area when using a barbell.

Here are some other great exercises which target your quads extremely well:

  • Barbell Lunges: Lunges are excellent for both your quadriceps and your glutes (butt muscles). You can practice lunges with either dumbbells (holding them down at your sides) or a barbell (resting it on your upper back). You can perform stationary lunges, stepping lunges and walking lunges.
  • Step Ups: With a barbell on your upper back, or using dumbbells and holding them at your sides, step up onto a bench or stable platform while pushing off with your quads and butt and then slowly step back down. Repeat the same stepping technique with the other foot to complete a full repetition.
  • Leg Press: The leg press is performed with a leg press machine which is a common piece of equipment found in most gyms. It’s an excellent movement for the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes. There many different variations and foot positions you can implement when doing the leg press in order to place the emphasis on different areas of your legs.
  • Sprinting: Sprinting not only builds up your quadriceps, but it also works the cardiovascular system very well while burning lots of calories and helping to reduce overall body fat. For the best results, implement interval training into your sprinting routine (sprint for 30-60 seconds and then rest for 1 minute and repeat).

Your leg muscles are the foundation of your physique so it’s crucial to properly train them each week with the right mass building exercises. If your main goal is to pack on muscle and get bigger, you want to make sure to train with high intensity when targeting the larger muscles of the body (like the quadriceps) and one of the best overall exercises you can include in your leg workout is the barbell squat to help build size and strength.

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