5 Best Quads Exercises for Strength and Size


by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

Leg day — the ultimate divider between procrastination and passion. Bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts have a love/hate relationship with leg day. Regardless of your feelings toward sculpting those quads, you’re undoubtedly chasing results if you invest your mindset into leg day and specific quads exercises. Ask any athlete to pinpoint the most visually striking muscle group, and chances are they’ll point to a set of impressive and powerful quadriceps.

There’s an undeniable aura of power and strength that comes from a robust set of quads. Beyond mere aesthetics, a muscular lower body broadcasts a clear message: your work in the gym extends far beyond casual dumbbell curls for the girls.

Whether you’re a casual lifter, a competitive strength enthusiast, or engaged in a sport that doesn’t involve barbells, strong and big quads aren’t just for show — they’re fundamental for optimal performance and maintaining a body that moves with vitality.

Also, let’s not forget their pivotal role in pushing the limits of your barbell squat. While the journey to massive quads isn’t overly complex, it demands time, strategic programming, and thoughtful planning in order to grow and showcase that teardrop shape.

In this article, we dive deeper into a collection of the best quads exercises designed to maximize strength and muscle size.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. It is recommended that you speak with your doctor if you plan on making any changes to your workout program.

5 Best Quads Exercises to Increase Strength and Size

Are you frustrated with slow quad gains? No worries! Here are the five exercises you can include in your leg days for serious quad size and strength.

1.      Front squat

When it comes to quad growth, the barbell back squat often takes the spotlight. However, for that intense quad burn, it’s the front squat that steals the show.

Often overlooked, this exercise is a must if you want some serious quad gains. Shifting the load to your quads by positioning the barbell at the front of your body, the front squat is your ultimate solution to unlocking the full potential of those powerful leg muscles. Don’t neglect this gem of an exercise — integrate it into your program and watch your quads blow up.

2.      Weighted lunges

Weighted lunges, when executed to perfection, emerge as a powerhouse exercise for improving both strength and size in the quadriceps. Lunges are unilateral exercises that require strength and a high degree of balance and stability throughout the movement. This not only contributes to athletic prowess but also works towards reducing muscular imbalances between the legs.

For an intensified quad burn, similar to the front squat, shift the load to the front of the body while maintaining a steadfast neutral posture. Once bodyweight lunges become easy, start with weights in various forms — dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, or weighted vests — to amp up resistance and volume in your lunges.

3.      Landmine squats

The landmine squat stands out as one of the best quads exercises in strength training. This method involves securing one end of a barbell to the floor, with the other attached to a landmine grip, presenting a different approach to leg day. Not only does it offer a gentler impact on joints, but it also places a paramount focus on impeccable form, carefully working the quads, glutes, and hamstrings.

With its anterior (front) loading, the landmine squat specifically targets the quads, upper back, glutes, and core. What sets it apart is its commitment to precise form, particularly in activating the glutes. This not only serves as a protective measure for joints but also lays the groundwork for mastering heavy-loaded back or front squats, improving strength and muscle mass.

4.      Leg extension

With precise control and proper form, the leg extension is one of the most impactful exercises for your quads. With a very simple learning curve, this exercise eliminates spinal loading, making it an ideal choice for those keen on sculpting their legs while keeping their back alive. The best part of leg extensions lies in their efficacy with lesser weight, focusing the rectus femoris muscle in its shortened position.

This specific quadriceps muscle, crossing the hip joint, plays a pivotal role in stabilizing the pelvis during various strength training exercises. By directly targeting the quadriceps without adding undue stress to surrounding tissues, leg extensions offer a strategic approach to leg day.

Performed in a seated position, leg extensions prove especially beneficial for lifters in recovery or those without access to a barbell, providing a tailored option for quads-centric strength training.

5.      Prowler sled

The prowler sled, known for its role in aerobic conditioning, becomes a dynamic tool when used for pushing or pulling. This versatile exercise increases your heart rate fast and offers diverse applications in your workout routine. By loading the sled with substantial weight, you deliver a robust stimulus to your legs while minimizing strain on your back — providing an efficient method to target your quads while incorporating conditioning work.

The prowler pull excels in isolating focus on your quads, strategically reducing stress on other joints. This movement seamlessly integrates cardiovascular training with quad hypertrophy, making it a valuable addition for those aiming to enhance both endurance and leg strength.