The 15 Best Quad Exercises That’ll Offer Major Leg Gains

Oh my quad.


Leigh Gerson |

Your glutes aren’t the only part of your lower body that deserve some serious workout love.

Your quad muscles, which are located on the front of your legs between your knees and your hips, are responsible for everything from keeping your knees in proper alignment (uh, kinda important) to helping you walk, run, and jump like a boss.

They’re also one of the largest muscle groups (yes, your quads are technically made up of four muscles — hence the name “quad”) in your body.

So, tempting as it may be to do all the booty work, no leg day would be complete without a few solid quads exercises.

The following equipment-free moves will fire them up so you can build strong, balanced legs by playing with your tempo (or speed) and adding jumping to the mix. What’s more: All of them are easy to advance with a pair of dumbbells or a kettlebell too, so as you get stronger, you can keep seeing results.

For a full-on quads workout (that, let’s be real, sets your whole lower-body on fire), mix and match a few of these quad exercises and get ready to burn.

Time: 20 minutes

Equipment: box or step, kettlebell or dumbbells are optional (water bottles or canned goods work, too)

Good for: quads and lower body

Instructions: Select four or five of the exercises below. (Challenge yourself by picking a variety, like tempo squats, curtsy lunges, alternating see-saw lunges, and jump squats.) Complete the indicated reps for each exercise and then continue on to the next, resting as noted. Once you’ve performed all of them, recover for one minute. Repeat twice more for a total of three rounds.

1. Squat

How to: Stand with feet parallel and shoulder-width distance apart, arms at sides. Engage core and push hips back as if lowering into a chair while simultaneously reaching arms forward until clasped at chest height. Keep torso upright and spine straight, press knees outward, and distribute weight evenly between both feet. When thighs are parallel with the floor, press through heels to reverse the movement and return to start. That’s one rep. Perform 10 to 12 reps, then rest for 15 seconds and continue to the next move.

READ MORE: 13 Hamstring Exercises That’ll Seriously Sculpt Your Legs

2. Modified Pistol Squat

How to: Stand directly in front of a chair with feet parallel and shoulder-width distance apart, hands pressed together at chest height. Engage core and push hips back to lower into the chair with control. While seated, lift right leg off of the floor and extend straight. Engage core and drive through left heel to push back up to standing. That’s one rep. Perform up to 10 reps per side, then rest for 15 seconds and continue to the next move.

Pro tip: Avoid using momentum or shifting weight from side-to-side throughout movement.

3. Step-Up

How to: Start standing facing a sturdy box or surface about a foot tall. Step left foot straight up onto the box. Shift weight into left foot and pick right foot up off the floor, drive knee toward chest, and come to balance on left leg. Keep core engaged, slowly reverse the movement to return to start. That’s one rep. Perform 10 to 12 reps per side, then rest for 15 seconds and continue to the next move.

Pro tip: Keep torso as upright as possible and avoid using momentum (like swinging forward or pushing off back foot).

4. Split Squat

How to: Stand tall with right foot forward and left back (as if standing on railroad tracks), hands on hips. Keep both legs straight and lift up onto ball of back foot. This is your starting position. Engage core, keep torso upright, and bend at both knees to lower body until back knee hovers just above floor or gently taps down. Press through front foot to straighten legs and return to start position. That’s one rep. Perform 10 to 12 reps per side, then rest for 15 seconds and continue to the next move.

Pro tip: Press front knee outward throughout the movement and keep hips as square as possible.

5. Squat Jump

How to: Stand with feet parallel and shoulder-width distance apart, arms at sides. Engage core and push hips back as if lowering into a chair while simultaneously reaching arms forward until clasped at chest height. Press knees outward, distribute weight evenly through feet, and keep chest up and spine straight. This is your start position. When thighs are parallel with the floor, press through feet to straighten legs and jump up off the floor. (Swing extended arms behind body as feet leave the floor.) Land in a squat position, with thighs parallel to floor. That’s one rep. Perform 10 to 12 reps, then rest for 15 seconds and continue to the next move.

How to: Start standing tall with right foot forward and the left back (as if standing on railroad tracks), top of left foot resting on a box and hands on hips. Shift weight into front right foot, engage core, keep torso upright, and bend at both knees to lower body until back knee hovers just above floor or gently taps down. Press through right foot to straighten legs and return to start position. That’s one rep. Perform 10 to 12 reps per side, then rest for 15 seconds and continue to the next move.

Pro tip: Press front knee outward throughout the movement and keep hips as square as possible.

READ MORE: This Superset Butt Workout From Tone It Up Will Set Your Glutes On Fire

7. Bulgarian Split Squat Jump

How to: Start standing tall with right foot forward and the left back (as if standing on railroad tracks), top of left foot resting on a box and hands clasped in front of chest. Shift weight into front right foot, engage core, lean torso slightly, and bend at both knees to lower body until back knee hovers just above floor. Press through front foot to explode up into air. Land with right knee bent. That’s one rep. Perform up to 10 reps per side, then rest for 15 seconds and continue to the next move.

Pro tip: Keep torso tilted forward and right knee pressed outward when landing from jump. Make sure you can perform regular Bulgarian split squats with proper form before conquering this move.

8. Goblet Squat

9. Reverse Lunge

How to: Start standing tall with feet directly beneath hips and arms at sides. Engage core and take a big step back with right foot. Bend both legs until back knee taps floor directly beneath hip (keep right heel high), while simultaneously bending arms and bringing hands together at chest height. Push through feet to reverse the movement and return to start. That’s one rep. Perform 10 to 12 reps per side, then rest for 15 seconds and continue to the next move.

Pro tip: You can perform this move with weights to up the challenge. Keep core tight to avoid putting stress on low back.

10. Curtsy Lunge

How to: Start standing tall with feet under hips and arms clasped in front of chest. Engage core, lift right foot off the floor and take a big step back and to the outside of left foot. Then, bend at knees until right knee taps floor behind left foot. Drive through feet to reverse the movement and return to start position. That’s one rep. Perform 10 to 12 reps per side, then rest for 15 seconds and continue to the next move.

Pro tip: Keep shoulders and hips square throughout movement.

11. 1 + 1/2 Squat

 How to: Start standing with feet parallel and shoulder-width apart, arms at sides. Engage core and push hips back as if lowering into a chair while simultaneously reaching arms forward until clasped at chest height. Keep chest upright and spine straight, push knees outward, and distribute weight evenly through feet. When thighs are parallel with the floor, press through feet to reverse the movement and rise up halfway. Then, drop down again until thighs are parallel with the floor, and drive through feet to return to start. That’s one rep. Perform 10 to 12 reps, then rest for 15 seconds and continue to the next move.

Pro tip: Avoid the temptation to bounce in and out of the bottom position of the squat. Keep the movement slow and controlled.

READ MORE: Try These Exercises To Build A Stronger, Bigger Butt

12. Alternating See-Saw Lunge

How to: Start standing with feet directly below hips and hands at sides. Engage core and take a big step back with left foot. Bend both legs until left knee taps floor. Push through feet to reverse the movement and return to standing, stepping left foot forward instead of stopping at center. Plant left foot in front of body and bend both legs until right knee now taps floor directly beneath right hip. Drive through left foot to return to start. That’s one rep. Perform up to 10 reps per side, then rest for 15 seconds and continue to the next move.

Pro tip: Keep core engaged and torso upright and press knee of front foot outward when in lunge position.

13. Squat To Alternating Curtsy Lunge

How to: Start standing with feet parallel and shoulder-width apart, arms at sides. Engage core and push hips back as if lowering into a chair while simultaneously reaching arms forward until clasped at chest height. Keep chest upright and spine straight, push knees outward, and distribute weight evenly through feet. When thighs are parallel with the floor, press through feet to reverse the movement. When halfway up, take a big step back and over to the left with right foot. Then, bend at knees until right knee taps floor behind left foot. Drive through feet to reverse the movement and return to standing position. That’s one rep. Perform up to 10 reps per side, then rest for 15 seconds and continue to the next move.

14. Assisted Shrimp Squat

How to: Stand facing the back of a chair or table and rest hands there for support. Bend right knee to 90 degrees to lift right foot off floor behind body. This is your start position. Keep right foot lifted, bend left knee, and push hips back and down as far as possible without rounding spine, while lowering right knee toward floor close to left foot. Drive through left heel to reverse the movement and return to start. That’s one rep. Perform up to 10 reps per side, then rest for 15 seconds and continue to the next move.

Pro tip: Keep weight as centered and core as tight as possible.

15. Tempo Squat

How to: Start standing with feet parallel and shoulder-width apart, arms at sides. Engage core push hips back, and bring arms forward to clasp at chest height. Begin to lower down slowly to the count of five, stopping when thighs are parallel with the floor. Press through feet to reverse the movement in one count and return to start. That’s one rep. Perform 10 to 12 reps, then rest for 15 seconds and continue to the next move.

This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com 

READ MORE ON: Fitness Lower Body Workouts Workouts