15 Best Quad Strengthening Exercises and Their Benefits

Build strong and well-defined quads with some of the best exercises.

Reviewed by Hannah Shine, AFA Certified Personal Trainer
Written by Payal Karnik, MSc (Biotechnology), Certified Health & Nutrition Life Coach
Edited by Ravi Teja Tadimalla, BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health
Fact-checked by Sindhu Koganti, BTech (Biotechnology), Certified Health & Nutrition Life Coach  • 

The quadricep muscles, commonly referred to as quads, are a group of four muscles in the front of the thigh. We need them to get up off a chair, walk, run, jump, and do many more activities. It is vital to include quad exercises in your workouts as they reduce the stress on your knees and improve your daily actions.

“Strong quads are the foundation for a powerful lower body, allowing you to push yourself further than you ever thought possible,” says Hannah Shine, Personal Trainer.

All athletes and fitness enthusiasts agree that strong quads are essential for good performance. So, are you ready to fire up those legs and build strong quads?

Grab a pair of shoes, and let’s begin to do some of the best quad exercises. But before that, let’s get into the basics of quad exercises and their benefits.

protip_icon Workout Blueprint: Quad Strengthening Exercises
  • Frequency: 3 to 5 times a week
  • Benefits: Reduce knee stress and improve lower body movements and hip flexion.
  • Equipment Needed: Dumbbells, barbell, box, leg extension machine, kettlebell, and a small exercise ball
  • Space Required: Large area
  • Assistance Required: Yes, for certain exercises.
  • Who Should Avoid: Anyone with an existing injury, chronic knee joint pains, or who has recently undergone surgery.

What Are Quad Exercises?

 Quad exercises target all the four muscles in the front of your leg: rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius. They help straighten the knees and raise the thighs. Strong quads allow you to do regular lower body movements with greater ease and improve hip flexion. Quadricep exercises need time, effort, and discipline to increase muscle mass and make the quads stronger.

You must be wondering how to check if you have weak quads before you start exercising. Keep reading to know more.

Why Do I Have Weak Quads?

If everyday activities like climbing stairs, standing up immediately after sitting, and running are difficult and painful for you, it could be a sign of weak quadricep muscles. Not challenging your quad muscles regularly can make them lose their strength and cause muscle loss. If your day involves sitting a lot, inactivity, or not doing enough muscle-building exercises, it may result in weak quads. Studies also suggest that quadricep weakness can worsen knee pain in patients with osteoarthritisi  XMost common form of arthritis that occurs when the protective cartilage at the end of bones wears down and causes joint pain. (1). So, you must include exercises for quads in your regular workouts to avoid such situations.

Keep reading to know all the other benefits of these quad strengthening exercises.

Benefits Of Quad Strengthening Exercises

A girl doing leg presses for stronger quads
Image: Shutterstock

Quad strength exercises not only help you get stronger quads but also offer benefits:

  • They improve the extension of your knees, allowing you to do everyday activities easily.
  • They reduce knee pain and functional disability in patients with osteoarthritis(2)
  • These exercises improve athletic performance.
  • They increase jump height, knee-flexion angle, and quadricep-spinal reflex excitability during jump landing (3).
  • They improve the stabilityand balance of the body.
  • They reduce the risk of developing knee osteoarthritis (4)

protip_icon Did You Know?
Quadricep femoris muscles are the most voluminous muscles of the body (5).

Let’s get started with some of the best exercises for quads!

15 Best Quad Strengthening Exercises

1. Bodyweight Squats

Woman doing squats to strengthen her quads
Image: Shutterstock

Squats are a bodyweight exercise that strengthen the core and lower body. To keep getting better, try to increase the depth of your squats with every session, making them more challenging. You can do this exercise anywhere, at home or the gym.

How To Do It

  1. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your arms to the sides.
  2. Engage your core, push your hips back as you slightly lower yourself, and clasp your hands at chest height.
  3. When your thighs are parallel to the ground, pause for a second and then rise.
  4. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps.

Safety Tips

  1. Keep your feet aligned with your knees to prevent strain on the knee joints and tendons.
  2. Do not bend your back while doing squats.

2. Step-Ups

Woman doing step ups to strengthen her quads
Image: Shutterstock

This is a great at-home quad exercise that helps stabilize the knees and build quad strength to do all daily activities easily. This exercise helps you focus on one leg at a time and can help correct any muscular imbalances.

How To Do It

  1. You can use a box or an elevated knee-high surface to do step-ups.
  2. Put your left foot on the elevated box and step up, keeping your knee aligned with your ankle and not collapsing it inward.
  3. While stepping up, push your right knee up until it is at the same height as your hips.
  4. Step down without losing a single beat and step up with the opposite foot. Continue alternating feet this way for the entire set.
  5. Do a set of 10-15 reps.

Safety Tips

  1. Use a sturdy surface for doing step-ups.
  2.  When using dumbbells, keep at least one hand free.

protip_icon Quick Tip
While doing step-ups, keep your torso upright and avoid moving forward or pushing back your feet for support.

3. Lunges

A woman doing lunges to strengthen her quads
Image: Shutterstock

Lunges are a powerful addition to your lower body workout as they help you with strength training and mobility. This quad exercise helps tone quad muscles as well as sculpt them. They can also be done at home with dumbbells.

How To Do It

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and arms on your sides. You can also hold a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Step forward with one foot and lower your body until your lower leg is perpendicular to the ground. The opposite leg should be parallel to the ground.
  3. Hold for 10 seconds then repeat with the other leg.
  4. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps for each leg.

Safety Tips

  1. Avoid touching your back knee to the floor.
  2. Try to keep your knees aligned with your toes.

A beauty and fitness blogger tried lunges to tone her quad muscles and shared her experience in her personal blog. She writes, “Lunges are also great for working the leg muscles and the butt. I like to do lunges with free weights in my hand to make it more challenging (i).”

4. Wall Slides

Woman doing wall slides to strengthen her quads
Image: Shutterstock

This is one of the best quad-strengthening exercises for knee health that you can easily do at home. It helps improve the strength of your quads, calves, and glutes.

How To Do It

  1. Stand upright with your back against the wall and feet about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bending your knees, slide down the wall until your knees make a 45-degree angle with the wall.
  3. Hold for 10 seconds.
  4. Slide up the wall and straighten your knees until you are fully upright.
  5. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps.

Safety Tips

  1. Do not bend too much as it will put strain on your knees.
  2. While sliding back up, lift yourself slowly.

5. Bulgarian Split Squat

Woman doing Bulgarian split squats to strengthen her quads
Image: Shutterstock

This is one of the most effective exercises as it extends your range of motion and forces you to use more power and strength. It also helps improve your balance and coordination while engaging the core and building quads.

How To Do It

  1. Stand a few feet away from the workout bench with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Place your left foot on the bench behind you and get comfortable.
  3. Bend your right knee and let your left leg naturally bend forward.
  4. Lower your body till your right quad is parallel to the ground.
  5. Press through your right foot to straighten your legs and return to starting position.
  6. Complete one set and alternate with your other leg.
  7. Do a set of 10-15 reps for each leg.

Safety Tips

  1. Ensure that your foot is not too far from the bench.
  2. Do not rush to bounce up or down; do the squats slowly.

6. Leg Press

Woman doing leg press exercise to strengthen her quads
Image: Shutterstock

This is the perfect exercise to increase muscle mass. It challenges your leg muscles and their strength and tests your resilience. This exercise is best performed in a gym setting.

How To Do It

  1. Put your leg on the sled of the leg press, similar to your standard squat stance.
  2. Pull the sled out of the rack, lower the safety bar, and bring the sled slowly towards your chest until your thighs are bent at a roughly 90-degree angle.
  3. Press the sled up, pause, and repeat.
  4. Do 2 sets of 10-15 reps.

 Safety Tip

  1. Wait to lock your knees until the sled is fully up.

7. Walking Lunges

Woman doing walking lunges to strengthen her quads
Image: Shutterstock

This is a good exercise for strengthening the quadriceps, gluteus maximus, and hamstring muscles. You can perform this quad exercise with dumbbells as well to improve strength.

How To Do It

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and place your hands on your hips. If you are holding dumbbells, keep them on your side.
  2. Place your right foot forward and lower your body until your right knee is bent at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Ensure your thighs are parallel to the ground and pause for a moment.
  4. Step your left leg forward and repeat the same movement.
  5. Continue walking while you lunge for 10-12 repetitions on each leg. Perform 2-3 sets.

Safety Tips

  1. Avoid taking long steps to prevent putting strain on your knees.
  2. Keep your posture upright while walking so your shoulders don’t feel wobbly.

8. Barbell Back Squats

Woman doing barbell back squats to strengthen her quads
Image: Shutterstock

This is the ultimate leg workout that engages the core, activates every muscle in the lower body, and burns calories. It helps in building more prominent and well-defined quadriceps.

 How To Do It

  1. Take the bar inside the squat rack with your hands wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend and hold the bar, letting it rest on your upper back.
  3. Stand tall and take a few steps backward, keeping your feet shoulder-width apart.
  4. Pushing your hips back, look down at the floor, and bend your knees to squat. Try to push your knees slightly outward.
  5. When your hip creases below your knee, pause and push through your feet to rise again. Repeat.
  6. Do 3 sets of 10 reps each.

 Safety Tips

  1. Make sure your squatting posture is right before adding weights
  2. Refrain from trying to squat very deeply with a barbell.

9. Barbell Front Squats

Woman doing barbell front squats to strengthen her quads
Image: Shutterstock

This exercise helps develop muscle mass and strength. It helps in the overall improvement of your physical health and athletic performance as well.

How To Do It

  1. Step up the barbell and rest it on your chest, near the neck.
  2. Hold the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart and your fingers around the bar for support.
  3. Lift your elbows forward, engage the chest muscles, unrack the bar, and step backward away from the rack.
  4. Engaging your core and thigh muscles, lower your body in a squat position.
  5. Push through the heel and rise again and repeat.
  6. Do 3-4 sets of 1-5 reps.

Safety Tips

  1. Focus on form and then add weights to increase strength.

10. Box Jumps

Woman doing box jumps to strengthen her quads
Image: Shutterstock

This exercise is an excellent addition to your lower-body workout to increase strength. It is a quad and hamstring exercise that also engages the core.

How To Do It

  1. Stand in front of a box with your feet hip distance apart.
  2. Get in an athletic stance with your arms on your sides.
  3. Bend your knees, push your hips back, and swing your arms forward as you jump and land softly on the box. Ensure both legs land at the same time.
  4. Step off the box, pause, and repeat.
  5. Do 2 sets of 10-15 reps.

 Safety Tips

  1. Choose a box of a lower height until you are comfortable with the movement.
  2. Do not try this exercise if you have a knee, hip, or ankle injury.

11. Leg Extensions

Woman doing leg extensions to strengthen her quads
Image: Shutterstock

This is a quad isolation exercise that directly targets the quad muscles and sculpts them, avoiding adding volume to other tissues. It plays a vital role in stabilizing the pelvis and does not add weight to the spine.

How To Do It

  1. Get seated in the leg extension machine and adjust the back pad such that the back of your knees fits snuggly against the seat.
  2. Select a weight and rest your hands at your sides.
  3. Holding the support bar, lift the weight using your quad muscles until your legs are straight out.
  4. Keeping the knees loose, lower the weight back to the start position.
  5. Repeat. Do a set of 10-12 reps.

 Safety Tips

  1. While using the leg extension machine, keep your knees loose and your back straight.

12. Goblet Squats

Woman doing goblet squats to strengthen her quads
Image: Shutterstock

This is a good cardio exercise that engages the whole body. These squats help you perform daily movements with ease and increase your overall strength and endurance.

How To Do It

  1. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell with both hands on either side of the handles at chest height.
  2. Look forward and engage your core.
  3. Push your hips back and bend your knees in a squat position.
  4. Lower down while keeping the weight at chest level.
  5. Once your hips are parallel to the knees, pause for a few seconds.
  6. Slowly stand back up and repeat.
  7. Do 2 sets of 10 reps.

 Safety Tips

  1. Keep your feet flat on the floor while doing squats.
  2. Do not lift your heels while squatting.

13. Short Arc Quads

Woman doing short arc quads exercise to strengthen her quads
Image: Shutterstock

This exercise focuses on contracting the quadricep muscles and strengthening them. Make this exercise more challenging by adding a small 2-3 pound cuff weight to your ankles.

How To Do It

  1. Lie on your back and use a yoga block or a small exercise ball to prop up your knees. (You can also do this exercise one knee at a time.)
  2. Extend your bent knees upward slowly until they are straight.
  3. Tighten your quad muscles with your toes pointed toward the ceiling.
  4. Hold this position for 5 seconds.
  5. Slowly lower your legs and repeat.
  6. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps.

Safety Tips

  1. Ensure your hips are drawn down at the ground while you lift your legs.
  2. Lift your legs slowly and steadily.

14. Straight Leg Raises

Woman doing straight leg raises to strengthen her quads
Image: Shutterstock

This is the most straightforward exercise to get your quads working. It improves bad knees, mobility, and joint movement. You can also do this exercise with a resistance training band to make it more challenging.

How To Do It

  1. Lie down on your back on a flat surface.
  2. Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle and point the toes towards the ceiling.
  3. Slowly lift the legs straight up by contracting the quad muscles.
  4. Pause for 5 seconds and slowly lower your legs to the floor.
  5. Relax and repeat.
  6. Do 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps.

 Safety Tips

  1. The knees should be completely straight when you lift them up.

15. Reverse Lunges

Woman doing straight leg raises to strengthen her quads
Image: Shutterstock

This exercise focuses on all the lower body muscles and helps improve balance.

How To Do It

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and keep your core engaged.
  2. Take a step back with the right foot, keeping the right heel above the ground.
  3. Bend both knees to a 90-degree angle and sink into a lunge position, keeping your hips tucked in. Simultaneously, bend your arms and bring them together at the chest position.
  4. Push through your feet to reverse the movement and return to the starting position. Repeat.
  5. Do a set of 8-12 reps on each leg.

Safety Tips

  1. Keep your core tight to avoid putting stress on your lower back.

While quad-strengthening exercises are great for improving the strength of your lower body, some people should not be doing them. Find out more in the next section.

Who Should Not Do Quad Exercises?

Quads are one of the most powerful groups of muscles in the body. Injury to them can impair mobility. These muscles work in synergy, so damage to any one muscle can make the other muscles overwork, leading to tendon pathologiesi  XA group of inflammatory and degenerative tendon disorders that are caused due to trauma or overuse of tendons. and muscle strain. So, keep the following things in mind before you add these exercises to your workout routine:

  • If you have weak quadriceps, do not try to perform challenging quad exercises. Weak quads can reduce gait speed and increase stance time. You can do targeted, easy exercises to build quad strength first.
  • If you have a leg injury, chronic health condition, or have recently undergone surgery, or an injury after a sports performance, check with your doctor before including these rehabilitation exercises in your workout routine.

Infographic: 4 Easy Quad-Strengthening Exercises

The quadricep muscles are an essential group of muscles in the front part of the thighs that are involved in extending knees, raising thighs, walking, and running. So, quad-strengthening exercises are vital to increase quad strength and reduce pressure on the knees.

You can do some easy exercises to build your quad strength. Check out the infographic below to know more!

4 easy quad strengthening exercises (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Save the high-quality PDF version on your device now.

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Download Infographic in PDF version

The Final Word

Weakness in the quadricep muscles can make all your regular movements difficult. Strong quads are essential for maintaining balance and stability exercises. If you want to achieve more prominent, muscular, and well-defined quads, include these best quad-strengthening exercises in your daily workout routine. You can also include physical therapy, and muscle activation techniques. Squats, lunges, barbell squats, box jumps, leg presses, etc., are compound exercises that help achieve muscle growth and build strength. However, it is necessary to consult your doctor before doing any exercise if you have a serious health condition or injury.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are squats enough for quads?

While squats can help improve quad strength, it is better to include more exercises like lunges and leg presses to maximize your quad development.

Is it necessary to squat heavy?

No, you can start by doing lightweight squats and keep adding weights with each session to make them more challenging.

Do quad exercises work the glutes?

Yes, most quad exercises activate the glute muscles and help you get stronger legs.

Do quads grow faster than glutes?

Yes, quads have more capacity to grow as they work most of the time, so they get more stimulus and exercise to grow than the glutes.

How do you know if you are quad- or glute-dominant?

You can figure this out by being observant while doing squats. If your knees are the first body part to move while squatting, you are quad-dominant. If your glutes move first, then you are glute dominant.

Are quad exercises good for bad knees?

Some quad exercises, like short arc quads, lunges, and squats, are good for bad knees as they help improve knee stability and reduce knee pain.

Key Takeaways

  • The quadricep muscles are an important group of four muscles located in the front part of the thigh.
  • Quads help in knee extension, hip flexion, and help with balance training and maintaining stability.
  • Exercises like squats, lunges, and box jumps must be done to build quad strength, reduce knee stress, and improve regular movements.


Get ready to strengthen your quadriceps with these effective exercises! This comprehensive video guide will demonstrate the proper techniques to build stronger and more toned leg muscles.

Personal Experience: Source

References

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. The relationship between quadriceps muscle weakness and worsening of knee pain in the MOST cohort: a 5-year longitudinal study
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3774035/
  2. Effect of Isometric Quadriceps Exercise on Muscle Strength, Pain, and Function in Patients with Knee Osteoarthritis: A Randomized Controlled Study
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4047243/
  3. Quadriceps Neuromuscular Function and Jump-Landing Sagittal-Plane Knee Biomechanics After Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5842904/
  4. Age-related quadriceps-dominant muscle atrophy and incident radiographic knee osteoarthritis
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15815857/
  5. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis, and Lower Limb, Thigh Quadriceps Muscle
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513334/
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