10 Quad Exercises For Stronger Legs

The quadriceps muscles, or “quads” are primarily responsible for hip flexion and extension at the knee joint, which allows you to straighten the knee. They also help stabilize the patella (aka kneecap). 

A well-rounded leg workout should include exercises that specifically target all four muscles of the quadriceps. Here are 10 exercises you can try at home or the gym to build strength and endurance in your leg muscles. 

1

Bulgarian Split Squat

Bulgarian split squat

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The Bulgarian split squat is an intermediate exercise that strengthens the quads, hip flexors, glutes, and calves. It is a version of a single-leg squat that uses a bench or box to support the back leg. Unilateral lower body exercises like a Bulgarian split squat can help improve side-to-side muscle imbalances.

  1. Stand about two feet in front of a bench that is knee-height and level. Feet should be hip-width apart, chest and eyes pointing straight ahead, and shoulders back. 
  2. Place the right foot in the forward position and put your left foot on the bench behind you with the ball of your foot in contact with the bench. 
  3. Keep your back straight and lower the left knee towards the floor. Stop before it touches the floor. Your right knee will form a 90-degree angle, so your thigh is parallel to the floor.
  4. Pause for a few seconds before pressing the right foot into the floor while pushing the top of the left foot into the toe box. Return to the starting position.
  5. Do 12 to 15 reps on each leg.

Tip: If you’re new to the Bulgarian split squat, skip the resistance, and just use your bodyweight. Once you get familiar with the move, consider adding weight. 

2

Traditional Squat

Squat

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

When it comes to the best overall exercise for the quads, you can’t beat the squat. Known for its ability to target the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves, the squat is an integral part of an overall workout plan. And the best part? You can do them with or without weight. 

  1. Stand with feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart. If you’re using weight, hold a dumbbell in each hand and keep arms at your sides. 
  2. Engage your core and slowly bend your legs and squat down until thighs are parallel to the floor. For bodyweight only, raise your arms in front as you squat down. 
  3. Keep your head up and look straight ahead. 
  4. Hold the bottom position for a few seconds, then exhale and push through the heels and return to the starting position. 
  5. Do 12 to 15 reps.

Tip: You can use dumbbells, a kettlebell, or a barbell to add resistance to the squat.

3

Sumo Squat

Sumo squat

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

If your inner thighs or adductor muscles need work, then consider adding the sumo squat to your lineup. With the sumo squat, you get the same benefits as the traditional squat, but you’ll increase activation of the inner thighs. You can perform this move with or without weight. 

  1. Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width. Point your toes about 45-degrees outward. Your hips will be rotated outward. 
  2. Put your arms out in front of you at shoulder height. If you are using weight, hold the dumbbells securely at the shoulders. 
  3. Take a deep breath, engage your core, and push your hips back, lowering into a squat position. 
  4. Pause at the bottom, exhale, and press back into a standing position. Keep weight evenly distributed in heel and midfoot.
  5. Do 12 to 15 reps.

Tip: You can make this move more difficult by squatting lower or make it easier by shortening the distance you squat down.

4

Wall Sit

Wall sit

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

If you’re flooded with memories of middle-school gym class when performing this move, you’re not alone. The wall sit is an oldie but a goodie, especially since it only requires you and a stable wall. This move isolates the quadriceps and requires you to hold the position for a length of time, which builds isometric strength and endurance in the lower body muscles. 

  1. Stand with your back against the wall. Take a step forward, so you are 2 feet from the wall. Feet should be shoulder-width apart.
  2. Shoulders and back should be in contact with the wall. Engage your core and slowly slide down the wall until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Knees should be above your ankles, not your toes, so adjust if needed.
  3. Keep your head up and look forward and hold this position for 20 to 60 seconds. 
  4. Slowly slide back to a standing position. 
  5. Rest for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat. 
  6. Do 3 to 5 times. 

Tip: If you have any knee, ankle, or hip issues, don’t slide down to parallel. Only go as far as you can to stay comfortable. 

5

Chair Pose

Chair pose

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The Chair Pose is a standing yoga pose that strengthens your lower body, and more specifically, the quads, and improves balance. 

  1. Stand with your feet together and arms at your sides.
  2. Bend your knees and lower your hips into a squat position similar to sitting in a chair. Make sure your weight is in your heels as you lengthen your lower back and lift your arms up to the sky. Keep your knees bent and butt low. 
  3. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.
  4. Inhale and straighten your legs to return to the starting position. 
  5. Do 2 to 3 times.

Tip: Make the move more challenging by going lower in the chair position.

6

Step-Ups

Weighted step up

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Although the step-up is an excellent exercise for all lower-body muscles, it really packs a punch for the quadriceps. It also raises your heart rate, allowing you to burn more calories.

  1. Stand facing a box. When starting, choose a lower height until you are comfortable with the movement. 
  2. Hold a light dumbbell in each hand or no weight if just starting out. Keep arms at your sides. 
  3. Step up with your right foot. Bring the left foot to meet your right foot on top of the step.
  4. Step down with the left foot.
  5. Bring the right foot down to meet the left foot on the ground. 
  6. Repeat, leading with the right foot for the desired number of repetitions. 
  7. Change to the lead foot to the left, and repeat. 
  8. Do 12 to 15 on each side. 

Tip: To make the move more challenging, consider a higher step or adding resistance. You can also speed up the rate at which you step up on the box.

7

Box Jumps

Box jumps

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

If you’re looking to increase power and strength in your legs, then get jumping. The box jump is a plyometric movement that targets all of the lower body muscles and your core. They are an excellent addition to a sports-specific routine or as part of a lower-body workout. You can adjust the height of the box to make the move more difficult. 

  1. Stand facing a box with your feet hip-distance apart. When starting out, choose a lower height until you are comfortable with the movement. 
  2. Get in an athletic stance with knees slightly bent and arms at your sides. 
  3. Bend your knees and press your hips back while swinging your arms behind you. Explode through the balls of your feet, and jump straight into the air and land softly on top of the box. Both feet should land at the same time. 
  4. Step off the box carefully and rest before the next repetition. 
  5. Do 5 to 10 reps. 

Tip: This is an advanced move. If it is too difficult, start with step-ups. Avoid if you have any knee, ankle, or hip injuries. 

8

Jump Lunge

Jump lunge

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The jump lunge is an advanced move that strengthens the quads, glutes, and hamstrings while adding a plyometric element to help improve power and performance in the lower body. Taking a lunge in the air gives your cardiovascular system a boost, increases heart rate, and burns calories. 

  1. Get into a lunge position with your right leg forward and left leg behind you. 
  2. Lower your body, so the forward leg (right leg) is parallel to the floor. Arms will be at your sides. 
  3. Contract your core and lean slightly forward. Jump up with both feet, switching the position of your feet mid-air. Your left leg will now be forward and your right leg back behind you. 
  4. Land in a lunge position with left leg forward. You can pump your arms in the air while you jump.
  5. Repeat, alternating legs for 30 seconds or 10 jumps on each side. 

Tip: If the move is too difficult or you’re experiencing pain in your knees, take the polymeric jump out of the exercise and perform a forward or reverse lunge.

9

Farmer’s Carry

Farmer's carry

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Stronger quads make walking a lot easier. To boost leg strength and improve your gait, try the farmer’s carry. This full-body beginner to intermediate exercise increases heart rate, targets upper and lower body muscles and builds core strength. The best part? You only need a set of dumbbells, kettlebells, or even cans of soup to add resistance.

  1. Choose a resistance appropriate for your fitness level. The dumbbells or kettlebells should be heavy enough to feel the resistance but light enough to keep your posture upright.
  2. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand. 
  3. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Arms will rest at your sides. 
  4. Contract your core muscles, pull the shoulder blades down and back, and stand upright. 
  5. Take a step forward and begin walking. Continue walking with the weights for 30 seconds or for a specified distance, such as 15 to 60 meters. 

Tip: To make the move more cardiovascular, increase your pace. You can also increase the number of steps or time based on your fitness level.

10

Straight Leg Raise

Straight leg raise

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Don’t let the simplicity of this exercise fool you. The straight leg raise is actually quite challenging. You can add it to a lower-body workout or perform as a stand-alone while watching your favorite movie. 

  1. Lie on the floor with your legs straight and your arms by your sides. 
  2. Bend your right knee at a 90-degree angle. Plant your right foot on the floor.
  3. Engage the quadriceps muscles in your left leg, inhale, and lift the left leg to about a 45-degree angle—keeping the leg straight. 
  4. Hold for three to five seconds. 
  5. Exhale and slowly lower the left leg to the starting position. 
  6. Repeat 10 times before changing to the right leg.
  7. Do 2 sets on each side.

Tip: To make the move easier, decrease the distance you lift the straight leg. Start with lifting your leg a few inches off the ground and increase each time you perform the exercise.

It's important to include a variety of exercises to strengthen the quadriceps muscles. Try alternating bodyweight-only exercises with moves that add resistance. Use one day as a heavier quad day and another as a light day that relies on your body for resistance. To help balance your lower body, make sure to include exercises that target the glutes and hamstring muscles.

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  2. Davies G, Riemann B, Manske R. Current Concepts of Plyometric Exercise. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2015 Nov; 10(6): 760–786.