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5 Best Quad Exercises

Build lower body strength, improve athletic performance and reduce knee injury risk by adding these quad exercises to your fitness routine. This quick quad workout is designed to target the top of the thighs (the quads, or quadriceps). Strong and well-developed quads are essential for overall lower body strength and functional movements, such as walking, running and jumping.

When it comes to athletic performance, knee stability and overall lower body strength, the quads are one of the most important muscle groups to focus on.

Previously we’ve shared the best hamstring exercises, the best glute exercises, the best inner thigh exercises, and the best calf exercises.

Today’s workout rounds out our lower body isolation workouts by focusing entirely on the top of the thighs, also known as the quadriceps.

The quadriceps, often referred to as “quads,” are a group of four muscles located on the front of the thigh. These muscles are critical for movements such as knee extension (straightening the knee), hip flexion (lifting the leg), deceleration (slowing down during running or jumping) and knee stability.

Use it as a quick leg workout on its own, or add it on to another leg day workout as a quadricep burnout.

two women performing a front lunge as part of quad workout at home

Quad Exercises FAQs

What Exercises Are Good For Your Quads?

Squats, lunges, step-ups and wall sits are some of the best exercises to strengthen the quad muscles at home. Leg presses and leg extensions are common exercises using gym equipment to target the quads.

What’s the #1 Quad Exercise?

Squats are one of the most effective compound lower body exercises that work not only the quad muscles but also engage the glutes, hamstrings, and core. To make the squat more quad focused, elevate the heels to perform a heels up squat.

What Are the Four Quads In The Leg?

The quads are a muscle group made up of four muscles: the Rectus Femoris, Vastus Lateralis, Vastus Medialis, and the Vastus Intermedius. These four muscles work together to support lower body movements, like walking, running and jumping.

Why Should You Train Quads?

Strength training the quads is a naturally low impact way to support everyday movements and prevent injury (specifically knee injuries) and reduce knee pain. Adding quad exercises to your leg day workout is important for overall lower body strength and function.

woman performing a single leg squat as example of quad exercises

5 Best Quad Exercises

10-Minute Quad Workout

Isolate the quadriceps with this quick and effective Quad Workout: the best quad exercises with dumbbells.

A focused quad workout designed to strengthen the tops of the thighs, increase knee stability and support, and improve athletic performance.

Add this quad burnout to your home workout plan 1-2 times per week to build and maintain strength in the lower body.

Workout Equipment:

Medium Set of Dumbbells. Option to add a small step or plyo box (or sub a bench/chair).

I recommend between 5-25 lbs depending on your fitness level. We used 15 and 20 lb dumbbells in today’s workout. Option to drop weights at any time and do this workout with just your body weight.

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two women performing heels elevated goblet squats as part of best quad exercises

Workout Instructions:

Follow along with the guided Quad Workout on YouTubeled by certified personal trainer, Lindsey Bomgren. 

Your Workout Looks Like This:

  • 5 Best Quad Exercises
  • Timed Intervals (40 seconds of work, 20 seconds rest; complete as many repetitions as you can in the timed interval)
  • Repeat All 5 Quad Exercises x2 Sets

Note: this quick workout doesn’t include a warm-up or cool down. If this is your first movement of the day, warm up with this glute activation series and cool down with this lower body stretching video.

Workout Outline

  1. Heels Elevated Goblet Squat
  2. Front Lunge
  3. Bulgarian Split Squat (Rear Foot Elevated Lunge)
  4. Steps Ups
  5. Single Leg Squat to Box
Woman performing a rear foot elevated split squat (bulgarian split squat) as part of quad workout

Prefer to Watch On YouTube?

youtube icon Quad Workout

5 Best Quad Exercises

Heels Elevated Goblet Squats

Targets: Leg muscles, quads, glutes, hamstrings, inner thighs (hip abductors), chest and core.

Raising your heels allows you to get deeper range of motion in your squat. A goblet hold keeps the torso upright – shifting more of the work to the quads.

two women performing a heels elevated goblet squat as part of quad workout at home

How To Do Heel Elevated Goblet Squats

  1. Stand with your feet hip width apart. Hold a dumbbell vertically at your chest, elbows tucked in (goblet hold). Engage your core.
  2. Inhale as you bend your knees and sit your hips back (as if sitting down in a chair). Aim for 90 degree bends at each knee, focusing on pushing your knees out (not letting them cave in). Keep your torso in an upright position.
  3. Exhale as you press through your heels to stand tall, driving your hips forward to return to standing position.

Modification: Perform this move with feet flat on the floor if heels raised isn’t comfortable for you.

Front Lunge

Targets: Quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and core muscles.

The front lunge variation increases the load on the quad compared to other lunge variations, such as the reverse lunge.

two women performing front lunges as example of best quad exercises

How To Do Front Lunges

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell between both hands at your chest, core engaged.
  2. Step your right leg forward, then bend both knees to 90 degree angles, lowering until your front thigh is parallel to the floor. Aim to keep your back straight and chest up.
  3. Push through the front right heel to return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat, this time stepping forward with the left leg.

Bulgarian Split Squat

Targets: Legs, glutes, quadriceps muscles, hip flexors, hamstrings and core.

Also called Bulgarian Lunges, or Rear Foot Elevated Lunges, this challenging split squat exercise is an excellent way to build quad strength. Lean forward to shift the emphasis to the glutes, or keep your torso upright to maintain focus on the quads.

two women performing bulgarian split squats as part of best quad exercises workout

How To Do Bulgarian Split Squats

  1. Kneel in front of your bench or chair, then place your left foot behind you on a chair or bench, shoelaces down. Hold a dumbbell in your left hand.
  2. Step your right foot forward (it will vary for everyone, but a little over a foot in front of your bench). Your front thigh will be parallel to the floor. This is the bottom of your movement.
  3. Drive through your front right heel, squeezing your right glute to stand tall. Feel your front quad and glute engage to power the movement.
  4. With control, bend your knee to lower down back to the starting position (back left knee should lower down close to the ground), to make your front thigh parallel with the ground. Shoulders remain stacked over hips throughout the movement.

Modification: Perform split squats from a standing position instead of elevating your back foot.

Step Ups

Targets: Quads and all three parts of the glutes — the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus.

Step-ups are also great for improving knee stabilization.

two women performing step ups as part of quads exercise workout

How To Do Step Ups

  1. Start standing, feet shoulder-width apart, core tight and engaged.
  2. Step your right foot up onto a bench or chair, planting your right heel firmly on the surface.
  3. Using the muscle in your right quad (rather than momentum from your left leg), press through your right heel to stand tall.
  4. With control, slowly lower your left foot down to touch the ground, returning to starting position.

Modification: The lower the step, the less intense this exercise is. The bottom step of a staircase is a great place to start. If you don’t have a step available, perform a reverse lunge with a knee drive.

Single Leg Squat to Box

Targets: Quads, hamstrings, hips, glutes and core.

This is one of the best exercises to build up to a pistol squat: a tough test of leg strength, endurance and mobility.

two women performing single leg squats as part of best quad exercises

How To Do Single Leg Squats to Box

  1. Stand in front of the box, couch or bench; feet hip-width apart. Engage your core.
  2. Lift your left foot off the ground and extend it slightly forward, engaging your left quad to keep it as straight as possible.
  3. Slowly lower your body down towards the box by bending your right leg. As you lower, keep your chest up, and your core engaged.
  4. Lower your hips until your glutes lightly touch the box or bench.
  5. Then, push through the heel of your right leg to stand tall, returning to starting position.

Modification: Perform an 80/20 squat, keeping 80% of your weight in your front working foot and 20% in your back toes.

Pin This Workout: 10-Minute Quad Workout (5 Best Quad Exercises)

Build lower body strength, improve athletic performance and reduce knee injury risk by adding these quad exercises to your fitness routine. This quick quad workout is designed to target the top of the thighs (the quads, or quadriceps). Strong and well-developed quads are essential for overall lower body strength and functional movement, such as walking, running and jumping.

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