The quadriceps often referred to as the quads, is one of the most essential and strongest muscle groups in the human anatomy.
Not training them would leave so much athletic performance on the table.
Not to mention the added quality to day-to-day life with bigger, stronger, more functional quads.
From the experience of neglecting my legs for years, I know the downsides of not training them all too well. So today, we will learn my mistakes and derail the need for squat racks, barbells, and smith machines and use nothing but our body weight to train our quads.
So we can be better athletes today and more functional injury-free humans tomorrow.
What Are The Muscles In quads?
Knowing the anatomy of the quadriceps is essential to grasp how to train them efficiently and effectively.
The quads consist of 4 muscles:
Vastus lateralis: This is the largest of the four quad muscles; this muscle runs outside your thigh. It connects your thighbone (femur) to your kneecap (patella). This muscle also plays a vital role in knee flexion and extension.
Vastus intermedius: Located on the front of your thigh, between the other two vastus muscles, this muscle is also responsible for extending your knee. Its insertion point is the deepest of the four muscles, so it falls right between the other vastus muscles.
Vastus medialis: Located on the front of your thigh, this muscle is responsible for extending your knee and stabilizing your kneecap. This muscle is often referred to as the “teardrop muscle,” also connecting your femur to your kneecap.
Rectus femoris: This muscle runs from your hip bone to your kneecap and is the primary muscle that helps flex your hip. It also covers the three vastus muscles partially.
These four muscles work together to ensure you stay stabilized and can perform basic activities like standing, walking, running, and even sitting down!
Even more reason to not take them for granted and start training them as they are the foundation of any robust, strong human being.
Bodyweight Quad Workout Exercises
This workout will require nothing more than your body weight and adequate space!
Like you, I wanted to build up my lagging legs fast, so through decades of trial and error and studying clinical test results, networking with some of the best in the business.
I have concluded the most effective quad/leg exercises to get functional, strong legs with all the added benefits mentioned above. Better yet, can be performed in the comfort of your home.
You will never have an excuse not to train your legs again!
#1 Bodyweight squats
The squat is considered the king of all exercises; it engages almost every muscle in your lower body while using the core as a stabilizing muscle.
- Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes facing slightly outward. You can keep your arms on your sides, place your hands on your hips, or interlock your hands in front of you.
- Keeping your core tight and chest up, slightly hinge forward at your hips. Bend at the knees until your legs are 90 degrees from the floor as if you were going to sit down.
- Push through your heels and return to the starting position while maintaining a straight back throughout this movement.
#2 Leg raises
Leg raises are an excellent movement. They work the muscles that are often forgotten but most vital for daily life, like the hip flexors and lower back muscles!
- Start laying down on the floor or on a mat.
- Lay flat with arms at your sides and legs straightened next to each other, then raise your legs until your feet face the ceiling at almost a 90-degree angle. Keep your legs as straight as possible throughout this whole movement.
- Once at the top of the movement, lower your legs until they’re hovering above the ground, around 6 inches from the floor, then proceed into the next rep.
#3 Glute bridges
Glute bridges are the best bodyweight exercise to strengthen your posterior chain; the quads act as a secondary muscle in this movement. Bringing up the muscles around the quads can prevent injury and tendonitis in the future.
- Start laying down on the floor or on a mat.
- Bend at your knees and place your feet flat on the floor around 6 inches from your glutes, hip-width apart.
- Stretch your arms out fully next to your body, keeping them firm to the ground.
- Using your glutes, push through your heels and raise your hips upwards towards the ceiling until your body is in a straight line.
- Pause at the top position and squeeze your glutes.
- Return down to the starting position, then proceed to the next rep.
Lunges are one of the best quad exercises to exist. They are a massive compound exercise that severely damages the muscle fibers in the quad’s glutes and calves, equating to severe size and strength gains.
- From the standing position, put your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Take a reasonable step forward while keeping your rear foot still and planted on the floor. Let your rear foot elevate.
- Bend your lead knee until you hit 90 degrees. Remember to keep your torso and core upright.
- Drive through your heel, return to the starting position, and proceed into the next rep.
#5 Pistol Squats / Assisted single leg squats.
The pistol squat is essentially a regular squat, but you isolate one leg. This is a great test and builder of balance and coordination with your lower body while developing mobility in your ankle and knee.
- Start by standing shoulder width apart, toes slightly pointed out. Lift your left leg and hold it straight and slightly in front of your torso.
- Bend your right knee and keep your left leg elevated. Your arms should be out in front of you for balance.
- Start to hinge backward at your hips as you lower into the bottom half of the squat position as if you were sitting down. Aim to get low enough that your knee reaches a 90-degree angle; if you can’t, try to get as low as your mobility allows. Keep your core engaged and braced while maintaining your torso upright throughout the movement.
- From the bottom position, drive through your heel and imagine pushing the floor away from you and stand back up. Try to keep your left leg elevated between reps. Swap legs and follow the same steps.
Tips & Tricks For Quad Workouts
Mobility is the ability to move your body without stiffness or tightness. Some people have poor and excellent mobility genetically. However, to maintain or get better mobility, you must expose your body to ranges of motion it’s not used to or is uncomfortable with; you can do this by stretching.
This will lead to better quad development as you can get a better range of motion out of your exercises while also improving the mind-muscle connection with your legs.
Some of the best stretches include:
Developing a stretching routine before and after your workouts is best for overall mobility/flexibility.
I was always a firm believer in the stereotype “you can eat whatever you want, as long as you workout” However it has come to fruition in my later years that you genuinely cannot workout a bad diet.
Here are some tricks of the trade when it comes to improving your diet.
- Eat 0.6-1g of protein for every 1lb of bodyweight (176 bw = 105-176g protein)
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals to increase metabolism
- Research “low-calorie dense foods” and implement ones you like.
- Drink 2-3.5L of water a day minimum.
- Staying away from added sugar.
- Staying away from saturated fats and processed foods.
Training legs has always been a daunting idea; however, studies and reports show that training legs alone can equate to longer life expectancy and better quality of life, prolonging or altogether preventing conditions like:
Especially with great exercises/workouts being regularly available to do from the comfort of your home, this stigma of leg day being skipped or daunting should be a thing of the past!
The first week
2 out of the 5 exercises at beginner level 1x a week.
In the second week
2 different exercises at beginner level 1x a week.
In the third week
3 exercises at beginner/intermediate level 2x a week.
Work your way up to 5 exercises 2-3x a week at an advanced level!