Many people want to build bigger quads and for valid reasons. The quadriceps or quadsare one of the largest muscle groups. The quads are located on the front of the thigh and are composed of four muscles (rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius).
Reasons to Develop Bigger Quads
There are numerous benefits associated with bigger quads.
Lower Body Health & Athleticism
The quadriceps are knee extensors and hip flexors. They, also, help to stabilize the patella and knee joint. Developing your quads is advantageous for daily activities(walking, running, etc.) as well as for athletic movements (jumping, squatting, etc.).
Hormone Balance & Health
As you learned, the quads are a big muscle group and building muscle has positive effects on hormonal responses. Some of the hormones positively influenced by weight training and muscle building are growth hormone and testosterone.
Testosterone is another hormone produced in your body that plays a key role in men’s health. Testosterone helps increase muscle mass, fat loss, energy, and strength. It’s involved in libido, sexual performance, bone mineral density, cognition, and moodas well as in cardiovascular health since it helps red blood cell production. But testosterone is not only essential for males. It is involved in female health even though males produce 20 times more testosterone than females. Exercises that work big muscle groups, like leg exercises, and compound moves, such as squats and deadlifts, help elevate your T-levels.
Burn More Calories
Working big muscles requires a lot of energy, which translates into higher metabolic rates and fat burning. By building more muscle, you burn more calories.
Well-developed quads give your legs great shape. But they are not only for lower-body aesthetics, working out your legs helps build a more proportionate body. Many males work on their upper body regularly but neglect their lower body, giving them a “chicken-leg” look. This is not only aesthetically unpleasant but can create imbalances in the body.
Keeping your legs strong, not only keeps your legs healthy but your body as a whole. Poorly conditioned leg muscles can lead to tight muscles and joints, muscle imbalances, lack of mobility, poor stability, low back pain, and injuries.
Techniques to Build Bigger Quads
There are different techniques that can help you gain more muscle in your quadriceps. For bigger gains, apply diversity to your routine by using the following techniques at different times.
Do Quad-Specific Movements
Besides doing squats, incorporate exercises that isolate your quads. Isolation exercises allow you to focus all your energy on quad contraction.
Interchange Your Foot Placement
You can shift your foot placement by positioning your feet closer together during certain exercises or by placing your feet lower on the platform during other exercises. For instance, you can position your feet closer than hips-apart during squats and position your feet lower on the platform during leg presses or machine-hack squats.
Avoid Just Lifting Heavy
Some studies have found that moderate load training is better for quad hypertrophy than merely heavy lifting. Conversely, heavy load training is superior for maximal strength goals. Only doing heavy weights with low reps can, also, increase your risk of injury.
Alternate Repetition Scheme & Surpass Failure
Do lighter weight and high reps as well as heavier weight and low-reps. Additionally, train beyond failure - beyond the point at which you can't do any more reps with good form.
Forced Reps: This requires someone to assist you while you lift the weight after you reach muscle failure. That person helps you move the weight so you can get more reps in.
Drop sets: Here you drop the weight to continue the set. After you reach failure, you immediately reduce the weight by 20% - 30% to continue repping. This technique works well with leg extensions and lateron in your workout.
Supersets: Supersetting entails that you perform two exercises back-to-back with no rest between those movements.
Change the Range of Motion
When you alter the range of your movement during your exercises, you recruit and stimulate diverse muscle fibers. You can do so by incorporating partial reps and combine them with full reps.
Partial Reps (also called half reps): Exercise repetitions that are completed using a shortened range of motion (ROM). Instead of going through the full range of motion of an exercise (full extension and flexion to the joint's ability), you stop a quarter, half, or three-quarters of the full rep. So instead of going parallel to the floor or beyond during your squat, you don’t go as deep and stay shallower. Doing partial reps during squatting emphasizes your quads more.
Pre-exhaust Your Quads
Instead of doing isolation exercises at the end of your workout or after doing compound exercises, you start your workout with quad-specific exercises. This reversal allows you to take your quadriceps to complete muscle failure. You feel your quads more as you squat when you do them after your isolation exercises. Then, if your legs start to give out is because of your quads - not your hamstrings or glutes. This technique works great with leg extensions.
Train When You Are Fully Rested
Working out the muscle that you want to grow after your rest day is highly effective. This allows you to train when your muscle glycogen stores are full and you are more energized.
Do Cardio the Right Way
Avoid long cardio sessions as they can create a catabolic state and break down muscle. Instead, you can improve your cardiovascular level, stay lean and maintain muscle with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and/or circuit training.
Circuit training involves doing 8-10 exercises one after another. After completing one exercise or station, instead of resting, you move quickly to the next station. Each exercise lasts anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. You complete your circuit when you are done with all the exercises. You can do different cardio exercises (jogging in place, stationary cycling, rowing, sprinting, etc.), as well as strength training in a circuit training fashion.
If your goal is hypertrophy, you should increase your caloric load. You should eat more protein, which helps build muscle. Also, don’t be afraid of eating carbohydrates - the right carbs supply your muscles with glycogen, help repair your muscles and recover, and allow you to perform at a high level. If you want to add mass, eat 60% carbs, 30% protein, and 10% fats (60/30/10). But if you want to stay leaner, have a diet eating 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fats.
Exercises to Build Bigger Quads
As you learned, quad development requires volume and a lot of time under tension. The following are some exercises and techniques that can help you build bigger quads. You can use an exercise bike or an elliptical if you are a beginner, some of the exercise bikes come with back support which is great for seniors or people who have an injury and can't perform some of the exercises we mention.
The squat is a great compound, functional, and strength-building exercise. However, since the regular squat involves numerous muscles and doesn’t just target the quads is not the best quad-building exercise. Sometimes you must stop a set of squats prematurely because your lower back, hamstring, or lungs give out before your quads do.
The following are some ways to do squats to enhance quad activation:
- When doing squats, try pausing for three seconds at the bottom of every squat for the first half of the set and follow the set with a unilateral exercise like lunges.
- Allow your knees to travel a bit over your toes.
- Squat with Olympic lifting shoes or with plates underneath your heels.
- Perform more front squats. In the front squat, the barbell is placed across the front side of your shoulders - close to your neck - instead of your upper back. The grip is the same as that of the clean exercise with your fingertips under the bar or just outside of your shoulders. The front squat switches the center of gravity forward, working your quads more than your glutes and allowing a more upright posture.
- If you have difficulty executing the front squat, try Frankenstein squats. During the Frankenstein squat, the bar rests on the shoulders, not held up by your hands. Your arms are outstretched straight ahead and slightly elevated to keep the bar from rolling forward. This hand-free front squat allows you to work on keeping your torso vertical and implement the proper movement dynamic without having to be concerned about hand placement or wrist mobility.
The leg press is a wonderful exercise to grow your quads because it isolates them more. If you must stop a set of leg presses is because your quads give out, not any other muscle. This is a much safer exercise to do to failure since you are already sitting down, and you can’t fall or lose balance. At the very end of a set, you can even assist with your hands on your knees to push to exhaustion and get some extra reps in.
The following are some ways to do leg presses for bigger quads:
- An effective way to perform leg presses is to do the eccentric part (lowering the weight) of the exercise in a slower and controlled manner.
- You can also do leg presses to failure. Start by using 45 lbs. at each side for 10 reps. Keep adding 25-lb-plates or 45-lb-plates at each side until you can’t complete 10 repetitions. Then, proceed to remove a set of plates and do as many reps as you can with the weight on the platform. Rest 10 seconds and remove another set of plates and rep out to failure again. Keep removing plates and repping, with minimal rest, until you have no more plates on the leg press machine.
- Another way of burning your quads is by doing leg presses for 20 to 25 reps while maintaining constant tension - without locking at the top - for two or three sets. Then, you perform a heavy set for 8 to 12 reps.
- Alternatively, you can avoid counting reps and just do reps for two minutes straight.
- You can, also, activate the quads more by positioning your feet lower on the sled and allow your knee to pass forward over your toes. In this manner, your knee extensors (the quads) must work harder to extend your leg.
- Position your feet closer than hips-apart to target the outer quads to a greater degree and a wider stance to work the inner thigh.
- Press mainly through your toes rather than your heels to highly stimulate the quads as well.
Bulgarian Split Squats
The Bulgarian split squat is a single-leg unilateral squat where the back leg is elevated on a bench or step. Using a single leg at a time keeps the quads under constant tension.
- Perform the set for at least 30 seconds to help your legs grow. Do this exercise after doing leg presses, hack squats, or squats.
The lunge is another single leg / unilateral exercise that’s great for the legs.
- Superset your squats or leg presses with walking lunges. In order to activate the quads more, you can do short-strides instead of long-strides while doing walking lunges. Aim to perform around 20 reps of lunges.
Machine Hack Squats
The machine hack squat is great for recruiting the quadriceps muscles while providing stability. Obviously you are gonna need a hack squat machine to do this exercise.
- Place your feet low on the machine's platform to increase the degree of knee flexion/extension and target your quads more. However, avoid this technique if you have knee problems as it increases stress on the knee joint.
- Perform sets of 8-10 reps on the hack squat. You can combine full-range reps with partial squats.The partial squats target your quads more than your glutes or hamstrings. You can, also, lift about 30 percent more than with full-range reps. Perform heavy sets of 6 reps.
The leg extension is a single-joint exercise that’s not necessarily mass-building for the quads but isolates them.
- Use a repetition range higher (>12) than the typical 8-12.
- Pair leg extensions with another exercise or do them at the end of a leg workout to wear out the quads.
- Or start your leg workout by doing leg extensions to failure. This technique isolates and pre-exhausts your quads before doing compound exercises like squats, which involve your glutes and hamstrings.
Incorporate some of the exercises delineated above to build bigger quads. Alternate different technique sthrough out your workouts to help you maintain your quads under tension and increase metabolic stress to get better results. Developing a good set of quads is not only pleasantly appealing but good for your whole body.
If you find these exercises hard you can start by doing easier exercises like jumping jacks to start activating your body. I've been doing 100 jumping jacks a day now and it's an amazing fun exercise.
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