If you clicked this article then I already know one of two things. You either already make it a goal to tackle leg day or you’ve realized the error of your ways and are looking to start focusing on your lower body.
If you fall in the former category, respect. If you fall in the latter, you still deserve respect. Not everyone works to correct their flaws so hopefully this will help you make things right and help you out.
When it comes to legs, the quads are the muscle that people pay the most attention to. If you have large quads then people think you’re a bodybuilder or you squat a lot of weight – maybe both. Sure, the hamstrings, glutes, and calves also need attention, but let’s start with the front of the thighs for now.
If you are one of those people who want to take their quads to the next level, then you should work these hacks into your plan as soon as possible. We’ll even share a workout that can help you make those quad building dreams you’re new reality.
1. Pause Squats
Of course we’re going to start this by talking about squats. It’s the king of the exercises for a reason, right? Outside of going as deep as you can in the hole, there is another way that you can make sure those quads are working harder.
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When you lower yourself with the bar down “into the hole”, pause for a count of “one thousand one” and then explode up out of the hole so you can return to the standing position. That pause eliminates any momentum and forces the fibers in the quads to fire a little more. That little more over time can lead to a lot of results you want.
2. Swap Stances
Now when you get set up for the squat, you either walk it out of the rack or maybe you have the luxury of using a monolift so your feet are already in position when you take the bar off the rack. Either way, ultimately your feet are likely at shoulder-width or a little wider.
There’s nothing wrong with that but there is a way you can work different portions of the quads and that is by slightly altering your stance. Going a little closer with your feet will work more of the outer portion of the quad (vastus lateralis) while taking the stance even wider than you already do will hit more of the inner quad (vastus medialis).
Don’t try to do these with your feet together. It won’t end well and can take a toll on your back. You shouldn’t go more than an inch within shoulder-width and make sure you sit back when squatting down.
You’re not isolating these areas – the entire quad is still working but these tweaks will help you develop the entire quad area. Simply change the stance each set so you know you’ve worked the entire quad.
3. Front Squat
The traditional squat with the bar on your back is a classic for a reason; because it works. That said, it does also work the hamstring and glutes. If you want to do more direct quad work, then you should take the barbell to the front.
One way to do this is to cross your arms and hold the bar with your hands in the middle while it rests on your upper arms with the elbows up. You can also hold it at shoulder height with the bar resting on your fingers and your wrists bent back. There is no wrong way as long as the way you choose helps you keep the bar stable.
Also, you won’t be able to front squat as much weight so start light and work your way up.
4. Goblet Squat/Walking Lunge Superset
This superset is one that is certain to torch the quads. You start by holding a dumbbell at shoulder height with the inside of the top side resting on your palms and your fingers holding on to the sides. You can also choose to use a kettlebell and hold the horns (sides of the handle).
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Squat as deep as you can and power back up to a standing position. Repeat for 20 reps. As soon as you finish, drop the weight and start doing walking lunges. Don’t even worry about weight because the quads will already be fatigued. Yes, the hamstrings are involved with lunges but that’s ok. The quads will still feel this.
Perform 10 steps per leg (20 steps total), turn around, and lunge back for the same amount of reps. Each leg will have performed 20 reps. If you reach failure at any point, take a few seconds to recover (also known as a rest-pause) and continue until you make it back to where you started. Three sets of these will be all you need. Rest for two minutes between completed sets.
5. 100 Rep Sets
If you have been reading M&S for a while then you know what this is already. “The 100” is a great way to fatigue a muscle without using a crazy amount of weight. It will challenge your muscular strength, endurance, and also help get blood to the quads quickly.
Get on the leg press. Load up a light weight that you can do for around 20 reps. Go until failure. Take the number of completed reps and subtract that number from 100. That is your rest period. So if you did 30 reps, that is 70 seconds of rest. 100-30=70.
When your rest period is over, pick up where you left off and continue until failure again. Let’s say you reach failure at 50. That’s your new number to subtract from 100. So now you would rest for 50 seconds. Keep going until you finally achieve 100 total reps. So, at the end you might only get 5-10 seconds of rest and it will be burning but continue to push yourself. It will be worth it in the long run.
This one is best when done on the leg press but you can also do it on the hack squat. Just make sure you can easily rack the weight upon failure.
6. 21’s but Not with Curls
You might have heard of 21’s. Seven reps with the bottom half of the rep, seven with the top half, and seven full reps. They are normally associated with barbell curls. Believe it or not, you can do it with other exercises too.
Let’s use the hack squat as the exercise of choice here. Perform seven reps from the hole to halfway up, then do seven half reps at the top, and finally knock out seven full reps. Be warned: those last seven are going to be tough.
If you want an alternative for this method, you can also do it with leg extensions. If you want to make sure the legs are balanced, do them one leg at a time. Start with your weaker leg so you can devote more attention to it and help bring it up over time.
Bonus tip for this one. At the top of each full rep, squeeze the quads and flex them hard. Bodybuilders do this to help them improve density of the muscle and improve separation.
Sample Quad Workout A
|Hack Squat*||3||7/7/7 Reps|
|Leg Press+||1||The 100|
Sample Quad Workout B
|Leg Extension*||3||7/7/7 Reps|
|Barbell Squat*||3||10-12 (vary feet)|
|A1. Goblet Squat^||3||20|
|A2. Walking Lunge||3||20|
*Rest two minutes between sets.
+See instructions above for rest period protocol.
^Rest two minutes between completed supersets.