The quadriceps is one of the most powerful and important muscle groups in your legs. Not only do these four muscles make standing and walking possible, but they are influential in our ability to run, jump and workout. Strengthening and toning the quads requires a well-rounded and comprehensive routine, so try the exercises below to target this muscle group.
For a targeted quadriceps workout, adults should perform two to four sets of eight to twelve repetitions of each exercise (See reference 2). Ideally, this should be done two to three times weekly and should be used in combination with a well-rounded leg strengthening routine. Be sure to address any questions you have with your doctor prior to starting a new fitness regimen.
Squat with Side Step
Using a resistance band, this exercise challenges your quads to maintain a squat while you simultaneously work your hip muscles.
How-to: Secure a resistance band around both ankles and place your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and sticking your buttocks backward to assume the squat position. Then, step to your right side while keeping your toes pointing forward. After 10 steps, reverse and step to your left while still holding the squat.
Lateral Step Down
This exercise works the quad muscles by making them control the weight of your body as you lower down from a step.
How-to: Stand sideways on a step with your left leg in the air. Slowly bend your right knee and lower your left leg until the heel touches the ground below. Do not allow your left hip to drop as you do this. When you feel this contact, straighten the right knee and return to the initial position. Make sure your right knee does not go beyond the end of your toe. Following a set, repeat the step downs with your left leg.
Wall squats tone the muscles in your quads and can be easily modified to challenge people at any fitness level.
How-to: With your back to a wall, stand with your feet 8 to 12 inches away from it and shoulder-width apart. Lean against the surface and slowly slide your body down it. When your knees flex to a 60-degree angle, hold this position for 10 seconds before sliding back up again. The exercise can be performed at deeper angles to add to the challenge. When this becomes easy, you can also attempt it with only one leg on the ground.
Weighted Knee Extension
This exercise isolates the quads by forcing you to straighten your leg against resistance.
How-to: Sit in a chair with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Secure a cuff weight around one of your ankles or use a resistance band that is secured in a door. Extend your knee until your leg is completely straight. Hold this position as you squeeze your thigh muscle for 5 to 10 seconds. Then, slowly lower the leg back down again. Complete the exercise on each of your legs.
Split squats are a challenging way to isolate the quadriceps muscle group using a chair
How-to: Get into a staggered stance with your right leg forward and your left leg propped on a chair behind you. Let your right knee bend as you lower your body down until your right thigh is parallel with the ground. Maintain this position for a second or two and then rise up again. Repeat the exercise on the other leg when you finish a set. Weights can be held in each hand to increase the exercise’s intensity when needed.
Sit to Stand
This exercise is a convenient way to strengthen your quadriceps muscle around the house.
How-to: Sit in a knee-level chair with your feet on the floor. Without using your hands, rise to a standing position. Try not to use your arms to gain momentum. Then, slowly return to the sitting position without plopping down. If this is too easy, you can attempt it from a lower surface or using only one of your legs.