This program can help you build bigger legs without taking a big toll on the knees. Incorporate this workout into your existing training plan once a week for massive gains.
Workout Summary
  • Main Goal
    Build Muscle
  • Workout Type
    Single Muscle Group
  • Training Level
  • Program Duration8 weeks
  • Days Per Week
  • Equipment Required
    Barbell, Dumbbells, Machines, Other
  • Target Gender Male & Female
  • Workout PDF Download Workout

Workout Description

Let’s be honest for a minute. Leg training isn’t necessarily the most popular conversation to have when it comes to working out. However, it is important and should be had because a complete physique includes having strong and muscular legs.

One reason for some people’s reluctance to take on leg day is they have knee issues, and the dread of feeling knee pain for days after the session ends makes some trainees feel the effort isn’t worth it.

Here’s the good news. As long as a doctor supports your overall training efforts, then there are ways to make the most out of lower body training while minimizing the toll that it takes on the knees.

It’s impossible to guarantee that knee pain will go away completely, but implementing these tips, along with the workout that is included, can help you make the most out of your quadriceps training, which is usually the hardest part of the leg workout.

Fit female doing lower body stretches in the gym.

Extra Time Warming Up

The only other phrase that may be as annoying for some people as leg day is “warming-up,” but it’s worth it overall, especially for lower body training. Having a proper strategy for preparing will make the workout more beneficial and less painful.

The first thing you need to do is move, but in a way that won’t bother your knees. Running or walking on a treadmill will create an impact that may bother the joints.

Instead, opt for an elliptical or rowing machine. You shouldn’t be going all out, either. Take five to ten minutes to gradually increase your effort from low to moderate. After no more than ten minutes, get off the machine and perform stretches that will prepare the legs for the work to come.

Related: The Best 15-Minute Warm-Ups 

Bodyweight Squats with Support to Start

I know, I know. You just yelled at your screen about squats, which most people feel are the worst movement for the knees. We could have a full discussion about why they actually are not, but that can be for another article.

My suggestion here is simply bodyweight squats that can be performed while you’re holding onto a barbell in a rack or solid rail for support. This allows you to perform the movement in a way that works the joints without feeling the load of your body weight. The goal here is to perform ten to fifteen reps for a couple of sets in order to warm up the legs. On the last rep, hold the bottom position for ten seconds. Since you’re holding onto something, it shouldn’t be a big deal to come back up after this hold.

Wear Knee Sleeves

Training accessories can be a game-changer when it comes to training. Knee sleeves can serve multiple purposes for those of us that are dealing with various knee ailments. They can help keep the knee area warm, which can allow you to make the most out of the sets you perform.

They also provide stabilization for the joint and tendons. So, the only thing you need to concern yourself with is contracting the muscles. Sleeves should be snug, but you shouldn’t feel numbness while wearing them.

The normal follow-up question here is about knee wraps. Knee wraps can help you work with more weight, but if they are wrapped the wrong way, then wraps could cause more damage than help. Sleeves are easier to put on and take off, and they provide support while keeping the focus on the working muscles.

Train Hamstrings Before Quads

Training quads are far more popular than hamstrings because you can see them working on certain movements like the leg press or leg extensions. However, from a functional and overall development standpoint, training hamstrings is actually the better call to make.

Focusing on the hamstrings first will help you transfer more blood to the lower body, which can be supportive for the knees before doing hamstrings. Furthermore, the hamstrings are often neglected. Doing them first will help the back of the thighs catch up with the front. The result is better-developed legs that can also be beneficial for the knees.

Related: Top 3 Exercises for Hamstring Muscle Development

Form Check

Last but not least, we need to talk about the form. Exploding up, on the positive portion of the rep, followed by letting the weight drop at world record speed isn’t going to help, and it can very well make matters much worse.

The execution of your reps always matters. When training quads, slow the reps down both ways. This keeps tension on the muscle and minimizes the role that the knees have to play.

The Quad Workout

This is a workout that can be performed in most gyms, but there will be alternatives for the home gym folks. Perform this workout every five to seven days, and train hamstrings with quads every single time. If you follow the tips above while doing this workout, then your effort will be rewarded.

Blonde woman using a hack squat machine in the gym

Hack Squat

A hack squat is a great machine that targets the quads and doesn’t require much stability on your part. You can also position your feet on the machine where you feel would be best, and you can go down as deep as you need to in order to feel a good stretch.

Don’t focus on going super-heavy. Moderate weight with moderate speed will help the quads without bothering the knees. Get up and move around between sets so the knees don’t get stiff before you have to go again.

Home Gym Alternative: Box Squat – You can squat down to the box, which should allow you to squat down close to parallel, and come back up while minimizing the knee strain. Allow your butt to connect to the box, but don’t sit completely. You can do these with a bar or dumbbells.

Single-Leg Press

The single-leg press focuses on one leg at a time which helps promote true strength as well as balance. Lower the sled down until you feel a stretch in the quad. You may be tempted to stop short, but don’t do it. If you warmed up properly and executed the other movements accordingly, you should be good to go all the way down. Again, don’t power up. Take the time to flex the quad.

Home Gym Alternative: Sled Pull – Take a speed sled, hook yourself to it, and walk forward with the sled dragging behind you. If you don’t have a sled, a tire connected to a rope and your workout belt would work as well.

Leg Extensions

This exercise is a hot button topic for those will knee ailments. However, doing them at the end after you’ve used all the other strategies should make this an acceptable finisher. The key is to flex the quads instead of pushing the pad with the legs. If you shift your focus in this manner, then you can make the movement more effective. As with the other movements, don’t try to set a speed record. Slow and steady wins the race.

Home Gym Alternative: Dumbbell Leg Extension – Hold a dumbbell between your legs, and perform the lift in the same way that you would in a gym. You should sit on a high seat so your feet don’t touch the floor. Keep the feet together so the dumbbell doesn’t fall to the floor.

8-Week Quad Workout - Full Gym Option

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Hack Squat 3-4 10-15 90 sec
Single-Leg Press 3 15 per leg 60 sec
Leg Extension 3 15 60 sec

8-Week Quad Workout - Home Gym Option

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Box Squat 3-4 10-15 90 sec
Sled Pull 3 15 per leg 60 sec
Dumbbell Leg Extension 3 15 60 sec
1 Comment
old geezer
Posted on: Wed, 01/26/2022 - 15:40

High rep Hatfield squats would be comparable to hack squats for those with a safety squat bar. And weighted Bulgarian split squats are a good unilateral move alternative. I wish I had tried the Hatfield squat sooner.