The Best Exercises to Tone and Strengthen Your Quadriceps

Published August 24, 2019
<article> <section> <p>When we imagine our ideal body, a lot of us are focused on what’s up top: six-pack abs, toned biceps, and strong shoulders. With all the attention upstairs, many of us are downright neglecting exercises that work our legs. That includes the largest muscles in the human body the <i>quadriceps</i>.</p> <p>Fortunately, there’s a remedy to take you from weak quads to strong thighs. We’re about to show you some of our best leg exercises to tone and strengthen those quadriceps. </p> <p>But first…</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jp2"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="woman-running-shoes-stretching-legs-0225"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>What Are the Quadriceps and What Do They Do?</header> <p>The <i>quadriceps</i>—or “quads” for short—are a group of four large leg muscles that wrap around the front and sides of your thighs. Your quad muscles extend and straighten the knees and flex the hips. You use these movements every time you walk, run, squat, climb stairs, and more <sup>1</sup>.</p> <p>Because the quads are such a large muscle, they also play an important role when it comes to <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">losing weight</a>. The more muscle the body has, the more efficiently it burns fat. Strong quad muscles mean big rewards when it comes to building <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">lean</a> mass and <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">shredding fat</a> all over the body.</p> <p>A lot of us aren’t giving our legs the attention they need, and it’s a problem. Weak quads can make it difficult to run, walk, squat, and jump, and can even put us at risk of injury.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Why Are My Quads So Weak?</header> <p>Before we jump in: a quick note. Weak quad muscles can be a sign of leg injury or more serious underlying issues. If you’re experiencing pain in your quads or knees, make sure to check with your doctor to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.</p> <p>For the majority of us, however, weak quads are caused by underdevelopment. To put it simply, we just aren’t using them enough! In fact, more than 25 percent of Americans over the age of six report that they are “physically inactive,” meaning they do no exercise outside of the day-to-day basics of getting from here to there <sup>2</sup>. Like all of our other muscles, the quads need regular movement and targeted exercises to get strong and stay strong.</p> <p>What’s more, the quad muscles work in tandem with your hips, knees, and hamstrings. All of these leg muscles and joints need to be strong in order for the whole system to work smoothly. If your quads are weak, it’s possible that your hips, knees, and <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">hamstrings</a> need some attention too.</p> <p>But you don’t need to do intense exercises to get a set of stronger, more stable <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">legs</a>. One of the best things you can do for weak quads is something able-bodied folks do every single day…</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jp2> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="woman-walking-stroller-active-family-0225"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Does Walking Strengthen Quads?</header> <p><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Walking</a> is a full-body exercise, but your quads play an especially important role. The quadriceps—along with the hamstrings—provide the power to propel your legs forward when you walk. These muscles also provide stability to the hips and knees by supporting your weight as you walk.</p> <p>Whether you’re moving briskly or just strolling around, walking is a weight-bearing exercise. The quads support a lot of your weight as you walk, meaning that the more you walk, the more strength you build in the quads. And the stronger your quads are, the more likely you are to avoid <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">knee pain</a>.</p> <p>You probably won’t build a set of Superman thighs from walking alone but the benefits will be noticeable!</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>How Do You Rebuild Quad Muscles?</header> <p>Whether it’s getting in your steps each day, adding more running or walking to your daily routine, or doing a more targeted workout to build up your thighs, exercise is the best way to bolster those quads.</p> <p>If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort in the quads—or if you’ve recently had a knee replacement—you’ll want to check in with your doctor to find a treatment program that works for you.</p> <p>But for most of us, a few simple <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">bodyweight</a> exercises will do the trick! The best choice is to do targeted exercises that strengthen the quads and the surrounding muscles.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>How Can I Work My Quads at Home?</header> <p>You don’t have to go to a fancy gym to strengthen those thighs. In fact, the three moves we’ll share here are based on the <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">squat</a>—one of the best movements to activate the quads. The wall sit acts like an assisted squat, while the lunge is a variation on the squat that targets each quad individually. </p> <p>The <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">squat</a>—your key to quad strength—is a simple bodyweight exercise that can be done just about anywhere and doesn’t require any equipment.</p> <p>Let’s check out the three best exercises to tone and strengthen your quads..</p> <div class="sub-head">#1 Wall Sits</div> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jp2"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="young-businessman-wall-hold-legs-0225"> </picture> <ol> <li>Stand in front of a wall with feet shoulder-width apart.</li> <li>Lean your back on the wall, then bend the knees to lower your torso. Stop when your quads are parallel with the floor and your knees form a 90-degree angle. Extend your arms in front of you to stabilize.</li> <li>Hold this pose for an allotted amount of time.</li> </ol> <p>To maximize the benefits of wall sits, keep the knees directly over the heels. Press your feet into the ground to engage the quads and glutes. If this position is uncomfortable to start, sit a little higher up on the wall rather than the full 90-degrees. </p> <p>This is one of those exercises that works great as an interval workout. Do a one-minute interval with 10 seconds on and 10 seconds off to start!</p> <div class="sub-head">#2 Squats</div> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jp2"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="healthy-lifestyle-no-weights-man-squat-home-workout-0225"> </picture> <ol> <li>Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointed slightly outward.</li> <li>Inhale and hinge at the hips to start the movement. Bend the knees to lower your body towards the floor.</li> <li>Stop when your thighs are parallel with the ground—or as close to it as you can get.</li> <li>Exhale and press through the heels to return to standing.</li> <li>Continue for 10-15 reps.</li> </ol> <p>As you descend, make sure that your knees track directly over your toes to protect the knee joint. The breath is important to keep your core stable, so make sure to take a nice deep inhale as you descend and exhale to propel yourself back up to standing. </p> <p>Beginners can try a modified version of the squat: the <i>sit-to-stand</i>. Stand in front of a couch or <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">chair</a> and lower yourself just as you did for the squat. When your butt touches the chair, return to standing and repeat.</p> <div class="sub-head">#3 Walking Lunges</div> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jp2"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="woman-lunge-home-workout-legs-0225"> </picture> <ol> <li>Stand with feet underneath the hips.</li> <li>Take a large step forward with your right foot. Engage the quad as you bend at the knee to lower your left leg to the floor. Stop when your left knee is close to touching the floor.</li> <li>Press through your right heel to stand back up and bring your left leg forward to join the right.</li> <li>Repeat, this time stepping forward with your left foot and bending to let your right knee approach the floor.</li> <li>Continue to alternate until you’ve done 10-15 reps per leg.</li> </ol> <p>As you do walking lunges, make sure to keep your torso upright. When you step forward with your right leg, make sure that the right knee sits directly over the heel and vice versa. These points of alignment will maximize the benefits of your walking lunges and prevent you from hurting yourself.</p> <p>If you’re a beginner, start with a smaller range of motion in your lunges by only dropping your back knee down as far as you can comfortably. As you build strength and stability, you can increase the depth. </p> <p>You can also try alternating reverse lunges if walking lunges cause you knee pain. Perform the same lunging movement, but step backward rather than forward to remain stationary. Reverse lunges put less pressure on the knees, making them one of the best quad exercises for folks with knee pain.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>The Bottom Line</header> <p>Strong quads don’t just look great. They’re also one of the major muscles that help us get around in our day-to-day lives. The moves we’ve shared here will strengthen your quads, making everyday activities from stair-climbing to simple exercises like running and walking much easier.</p> <p>Incorporate these moves into your regular workout routine or do a <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">circuit</a> of these three exercises one day a week to gain some serious quad muscle!</p> <div class="sub-head">Resources</div> <ol> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Definition of the Quadriceps Muscles</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Physical Inactivity</a></li> </ol> </section> </article>

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