Category Archives: Quads

My Favorite Exercises: Muscle by Muscle

by Ben Bruno – 9/12/2012

Several years back, T Nation contributor Chad Waterbury wrote a cool article about what he believed to be the best exercises for each major muscle group. I really liked the idea because I’m always interested in how different coaches think, so I thought I’d take a stab at it myself.
However, a small catch – I don’t believe there’s any such thing as a ubiquitous “best” exercise, so instead I’ll simply share my favorites for each group.
Narrowing it down to one exercise though is like trying to pick the hottest girl out of a Victoria’s Secret catalog. There are just so many good choices. In the end it boils down to basically my opinion, but I’ll also share the why behind my choices to give you a look into my rationale.
I’ve also shared a couple runner-ups in case you can’t do one due to injury, equipment limitations, etc.

Back

When it comes to back development, I could’ve picked any heavy deadlift variation and felt good about my choice – but since I had to narrow it down to one, I chose the snatch grip rack pull from mid-shin height.

The wider grip puts significantly more stress on the upper back, traps, and rear delts, while pulling from the pins with the bar elevated a few inches off the floor allows for heavier loading.
I’m generally a huge proponent of full range of motion lifting and usually advocate increasing the range of motion before increasing the load; however, I’ll make an exception in this case for two reasons:

To that end, a snatch grip deadlift from the floor is really more like a conventional deadlift from a deficit, and while there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, most people just don’t have the requisite hip mobility to do it safely without rounding their lower back something awful.
If you can, more power to you, but if I’m making a general recommendation for the majority, then elevating the bar a couple inches is a much better and safer option.

Deadlift variations aside, my runner-ups for back are chin-ups and inverted rows.

Chest

My Favorite Exercises: Muscle by Muscle

The overwhelming majority of my chest work comes from heavy pressing and push-ups, but if I had to single out the best exercise for chest development, it’d be ring flyes.
I thought long and hard about a good rationale. Sure, I could talk about how the scapulae is free to move, compared to where it’s pinned down during bench press variations, or the fact that it doubles as a hell of a core exercise, but we’re talking more about chest development here.
To that, I’d just ask that you try them for yourself – because I think after just one shot you’ll realize exactly where I’m coming from. These will fry your pecs like no other.
It’s a very advanced exercise though, so don’t just jump right into it without proper preparation or you’ll end up hurting and/or embarrassing yourself. Before you even attempt ring flyes, you should be able to do at least 25 ring push-ups first.
From there, begin with bent-arm flyes with your arms bent to approximately 90 degrees. That may seem easy, but it’s actually a big jump, so you may want to start on your knees. Don’t laugh; I’m dead serious.
Once you can manage those, progress to full flyes, making sure to keep a slight bend in your elbows to protect the shoulders and keep the tension on your chest.
The video below shows all three variations in reverse order: full flyes, bent-arm flyes, and push-ups. Each of these exercises is great in its own right, so take your time and don’t rush the progression. Once you can knock out full flyes though, this makes for one hell of a mechanical drop-set.

If you don’t have access to rings, you can do something similar using Valslides or furniture sliders. These may be even harder due to the increased friction.

My runner-ups for chest are low incline dumbbell presses (both single and double arm) and weighted push-ups.

Biceps

Let me preface this one by saying that I don’t do a whole lot of curls, and I have the results – or lack thereof – to show for it. Let’s just say that if I started selling tickets to the gun show, my water pistols would draw a smaller crowd than a WNBA game.
It’s not that I’m anti-curls by any means, it’s just that I have a borderline unhealthy obsession with chin-ups and find that when I try to add curls into the mix on top of all the chin-ups I do, my elbows quickly start to hate me.
That brings up an interesting point, though. Many people will tout chin-ups as the best biceps exercise going and tell you curls are a waste of time. To that I’d respectfully disagree. About two and a half years ago I ditched curls altogether and went on a steady diet consisting of approximately a shitload of chin-ups each week.
My lats grew a ton, as did my forearms, but my biceps stayed about the same size.
I’d even argue that if you’re feeling chin-ups a ton in your biceps, you probably aren’t doing them right. My goal is to feel them almost entirely in my upper back and lats – of course the biceps will be working, but I wouldn’t consider it to be a superior biceps exercise when done correctly.
Moral of the story:  The majority of your workout should obviously be based around heavy compound movements (such as chin-ups, for example), but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with tacking on a few sets of curls afterwards.
What type of curls you choose is up to you. In my mind, they’re all basically the same. I like barbell curls, incline dumbbell curls, and hammer curls.

Triceps

As mentioned, I’m not a huge fan of doing tons of direct arm work. It’s not that I’m opposed to it or think it’s detrimental by any means, I just don’t enjoy doing it very much so I look for any excuse I can to skip it. Just being honest.
With that in mind, I generally let all the heavy pressing I’m doing for chest and shoulders take care of the triceps as well, but if I’m looking to really smoke the triceps, my number one go-to exercise is bodyweight triceps extensions using suspension straps.

I like this exercise because it also serves as a great anti-extension core exercise, and since I’m also not a big fan of doing tons of core work either, it allows me to kill two birds with one stone.
If you don’t have suspension straps, it’s not the end of the world and you can get a similar training effect using a bar in a power rack or Smith machine. However, the straps add a nice dimension to the exercise if you’ve got them.
When using a bar, the range of motion is limited because you’re forced to bring your forehead to the bar, much like traditional skullcrushers. With the straps though, you can extend your arms out further away from your body, which increases the demand on the core while also enhancing the stretch on the long head of the triceps and taking stress off the elbows.
It also allows you to rotate your hands as you move through the rep, which I find feels better on the elbows and increases the contraction in the triceps.
Be sure to keep your body straight and avoid piking at the hips. While this is ostensibly a triceps exercise, from a core standpoint, it should feel similar to an ab wheel rollout.
This one also lends itself very well to burnout sets at the end of the workout. Start with the straps adjusted lower and step forward as you start to fatigue. You’ll probably be cursing my name after that.
My runner-ups for triceps are close-grip bench presses and chain bench presses.

Shoulders

I love the overhead press and think it’s the best exercise going for building big shoulders, but it can be tricky for folks with shoulder and/or lower back issues.
If the overhead press doesn’t bother you, definitely do that.
If it does, the staggered stance landmine press can be a great joint-friendly alternative since it allows you to press on an angle and use a neutral grip.

I also really like this band pullapart variation that I picked up from Joe Defranco. It’s much harder than it looks, so don’t knock it until you try it.

Quads

This one was a toss-up between Bulgarian split squats and front squats, but in the end, Bulgarian split squats get the nod.
I know this won’t sit well with some of you – and I myself would’ve considered it blasphemy a few years ago before I really tried them – but the more I do them and use them with my athletes, the more I’m convinced that it’s a better way to load the legs for most people.
We’re consistently seeing athletes do Bulgarian split squats with 70-90% of the loads they can front squat, and sometimes more. Here’s a video of a college hockey player doing Bulgarian split squats with 235 pounds for 5 reps like it’s an empty bar.

As a point of reference, he back squats 300 for 5. I think it’s clear the legs are getting more loading in the Bulgarian split squat.
Furthermore, with the front squat, the limiting factor is usually the upper back, whereas with Bulgarian split squats you’re able to hone in more directly on the legs. What’s more, since you aren’t loading the spine as heavily, it doesn’t take as long to recover, meaning you can do them more frequently, which could potentially lead to greater gains.
The big caveat is that you have to take the time up front to get good at Bulgarian split squats before they’re a viable size and strength builder, but that’s true of any exercise. Truth be told, most people get good at Bulgarian split squats much faster than they become good squatters.
If you have a good build for squatting and can squat well, it’s an absolutely phenomenal quad exercise, but if you aren’t built for it, well, you’ll always be fighting an uphill battle. It’s easier to target the quads in a Bulgarian split squat regardless of your anthropometry, making it a good choice when I have to choose one exercise to fit everyone.
I’m often asked if I think you could build absolutely massive quads using Bulgarian split squats; the kind of size you see from elite bodybuilders and Olympic lifters. I’m honestly not sure because I’ve never known anyone to do it, so at this point it’s mere conjecture.
My hunch though is that huge guys may not do as well with it – at least initially – because they tend to struggle more with balance and coordination, so the transition may take longer and it may not end up being the best choice. Again, I’m not sure though because I don’t know many huge guys that use them.
As for Olympic lifters, I think their massive legs are more a result of their loading parameters than their exercise selection. If they did Bulgarian split squats extremely heavy on a daily basis like they do their squats, I bet their legs would be just as big, if not bigger.
For the average-sized guy reading this article though, I think Bulgarian split squats are an awesome choice for building up the quads. Even if you think I’m completely off base, at least give them an honest try before calling for my head. I think you might be singing a different tune once you do.
My runner-ups are front squats and reverse sled drags.

Hamstrings

My Favorite Exercises: Muscle by Muscle

While quads were my toughest choice, hamstrings may be my easiest. It’s hard to argue against RDLs.
The biggest drawback of RDLs is that they can be tough on the lower back. If that’s the case, try doing them with a trap bar, or if that’s not possible, from a dead stop in the power rack.

You can also try doing them for higher reps at the end of your workout so you don’t need as much weight, which even with lighter loads serves as one hell of a brutal finishing exercise.

If back issues prevent you from doing them in any capacity, my runner-ups are single-leg RDLs, glute-ham raises, and sliding leg curls.

Glutes

I make no bones about it; glutes are my favorite body part. As such, I feel they warrant their own section.
You may feel the glutes get more than enough work from your quad and hamstring exercises like squats, deadlifts, and lunges, but I believe that if you aren’t doing specific glute exercises like bridges and hip thrusts, you’re leaving a lot on the table as far as glute development is concerned.
My personal favorite is single-leg barbell hip thrusts.

I like the single-leg version because even though the loads pale in comparison to what you can handle in the bilateral version, I feel an even bigger contraction in my glutes when I do them, all without feeling any stress in the lower back.
Moreover, because the loads are lighter, it’s more comfortable on the hips and you don’t have to bother with loading and unloading such a heavy bar.
The bodyweight-only version is a great exercise in its own right, so start there and add weight slowly as you improve.
My runner-up is the single-leg shoulder and foot elevated hip lift. It can be tricky to add weight to these, so if you’re looking for a way to make them tougher, try using “1.5” reps, like this:

If these two exercises don’t have your booty begging for mercy, I don’t know what to tell you.

Calves

I’ve never been able to crack the code to get my calves to grow much. I’ve tried a slew of different exercises and techniques, but to no avail.
I think the next thing I’ll try is getting some new parents.
(Don’t worry mom, I’m totally kidding.)
Seriously though, don’t go to a guy with puny calves for advice on how to get huge calves.
That rules me out.

And I’m Done

These are some of my favorites. Give some of them a try if you aren’t already and see how you like them.
I believe in rotating exercises from time to time though, so I’m always on the market for new choices to keep in the ol’ toolbox. So I now turn it over to you. What are some of your favorites?

Knee-Friendly Quad Builders

Knee-Friendly Quad Builders
As much as a beastly set of quads can really set you apart from the chest and arms crowd, training the quads hard and heavy can be problematic. Many of the best quad exercises put a lot of stress on the knees, hence their “knee dominant” classification.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing if you’ve got healthy knees, but if you don’t, well, your quest to build tree trunks for quads will be an uphill battle.
You essentially have three choices:
Option 1: Ignore your knee pain and train through it. Better yet, just get some knee wraps and wrap em’ up as tight as possible. Buy your ibuprofen in bulk from Costco. You won’t feel a thing. Woot!
I’m kidding. Having gone this route many times before, I can tell you it’s a losing proposition.  It may seem cool at the time, and some of your lifting buddies might say you’re “hardcore,” but when you’re hobbling around and struggling to go up and down stairs, it’s not so cool.
Option 2: Stop training your quads altogether and resign yourself to a lifetime of sweatpants and chicken legs. I mean, let’s be honest, by the time someone of the opposite sex sees your quads, you should have already sealed the deal.
Again, I’m kidding.
Option 3: Get creative and find ways to blast your quads without hurting your knees.
That sounds best to me, so let’s roll with that. Here are some exercises to help.

1. Landmine Reverse Lunges

Landmine reverse lunges are a great knee-friendly alternative to regular lunges, or even regular reverse lunges.
Start by putting one end of a barbell in the landmine unit and holding the other end in your left hand, 1-2 inches in front of your thigh. Keeping your chest up, take a big step back with your left leg while simultaneously reaching your left arm slightly forward.
In the bottom position, your left hand should be approximately in line with your right shin. From there, push through the heel of the right foot and return to the start position.
Repeat with your other leg.
It should look like this:

The barbell functions as a counterbalance, allowing you to take a much bigger step back than what would normally be possible with traditional loading methods, thereby encouraging you to maintain a completely vertical tibia, which in turn helps take stress off the knee joint.
If you try keeping a vertical shin in a standard lunge or reverse lunge using standard loading methods, it’s extremely difficult to execute. Using the landmine, it’s no problem at all.
Moreover, this variation provides offset contralateral loading, which increases glute recruitment and helps to build hip, core, and pelvic stability while also developing grip strength (since you’re forced to hold the thick part of the barbell).
I don’t recommend loading the bar up with too much weight because it can be tricky to handle heavy loads so far out in front of your body, and you don’t want to risk a lower back injury. This is a tough exercise to begin with so you probably won’t need a lot of external resistance anyway, but if you do, try adding a weighted vest.

2. Valslide Landmine Reverse Lunges

Knee-Friendly Quad Builders
To make landmine reverse lunges even more knee-friendly, try adding in Valslides or a slideboard for the reverse lunges.
Do the reps in a slow and controlled fashion and focus on keeping your weight on the heel of the working leg as you slide back as far as you can go, all without losing your balance or having your chest collapse forward.
When you reach the bottom position, think about pulling through the glute of the front leg rather than pushing with the quad. Don’t worry, your quads will still get plenty of work.
Here’s what it looks like in action:

If you watch the video, you’ll notice that the shin of the front leg hardly moves at all during the set and the tibia stays completely vertical throughout. Being that our goal is to deload the knee, that’s a good thing.
If you continue watching, you’ll also notice that I’m able to slide  back; much farther back than you can step in a regular reverse lunge and even a little farther back than you can go in a landmine reverse lunge without the slide pad.
Along with making for one hell of a hip flexor stretch, this encourages a posterior weight shift to take pressure off the knee of the front working leg. Better still, it also limits knee flexion in the rear leg, which again is great for folks suffering from knee pain – sometimes the rear leg experiences pain during lunges when forced to bend excessively and absorb the impact of stepping backwards.

3. Rear Foot (Slightly) Elevated Split Squats

Rear foot elevated split squats (RFESS), a.k.a. Bulgarian split squats, are one of my absolute favorite exercises for building the quads. That said, they aren’t always tolerated well by those suffering from knee pain.
Sometimes the pain is in the front leg, which can usually be cleared up by taking a longer stride and focusing on keeping as much of a vertical tibia as possible.
Interestingly enough, most complaints of knee pain during this exercise are usually related to pain in the rear leg. If that’s the case, the issue can often be ameliorated simply by not elevating the rear leg quite so high.
Most of the time you’ll see RFESS done using a standard weight bench, which depending on the manufacturer is typically somewhere between 17-19 inches. While that height is fine for most people, those experiencing knee pain in the rear leg should try using a 9-12 inch box instead and see if that helps.
Make sure to plantarflex the rear ankle and set up “laces down” on the box to avoid pushing through your toes. Do the reps in a slow and controlled fashion and focus on keeping your weight on the heel of the front foot, like so:

With the shorter box you can clearly see that knee flexion of the rear leg is dramatically reduced as compared to doing them on a full-sized bench. In that regard, it’s very similar to doing a regular split squat with the back leg on the floor.
I like split squats too as a teaching tool, but I don’t like loading them heavy because there’s a strong tendency to cheat and use the back leg too much as the weights get heavier.
I’d much prefer to progress to a RFESS with laces down and just limit the height of the box if need be, focusing on keeping the majority of the weight on the front leg.
Make sure you’re stretching and foam rolling your quads and hip flexors too, as that should also help a lot. In time you should be able to go back to using a full size bench, but until you can do so completely pain-free, don’t push it.

4. Eccentric One-Leg Squats

Knee-Friendly Quad Builders
I’d always thought of eccentric single-leg squats as an effective learning progression to work towards full single-leg squats (which it is), but I learned from Mike Boyle that it can also be a fantastic alternative exercise for individuals dealing with knee pain. After trying it out extensively, I think it works well in both scenarios.
To do them, simply lower down to a parallel box on one leg and come back up on two legs:

The key here is to control the eccentric portion of the rep and not just free-fall down to the box. If you’re unable to control it, raise the height of the box until you can and then slowly increase the depth over time.
If you’re new to single-leg squats and just can’t seem to get the hang of them, try doing these to a standard bench using 5-pound dumbbells in your hands to serve as a counterbalance.
[Insert Pic Ben Single Leg]
Once you can do five reps with 4-5 second eccentrics, you should be all set to do full single-leg squats.
If you’re more advanced and can already do single-leg squats but find they irritate your knees, the eccentric-only version may allow you to do them pain-free. Using a box allows you to sit back farther and keep a more vertical tibia than doing them without the box.
I’m using a front squat grip in the video above because I’ve done these for a long time and have progressed quite a bit in weight, but I recommend starting by holding 5-10 pound dumbbells in your hands and raising them straight-out to shoulder level as you descend. Having your arms out in front helps tremendously with balance so do it that way first until you’re completely comfortable and need to add more load.

5. Deadlifts

Knee-Friendly Quad Builders
You know those people that say a deadlift is just a squat with the weight in your hands and cue you to get your butt way down low before you pull? As someone who loves to deadlift – and deadlift heavy – that advice always used to annoy me because it’s clearly not the best way to pull heavy weights.
I also think it can be dangerous to pull in this manner because almost every time I see someone set up for a near-maximal deadlift with their hips too low, they almost invariably shoot up before the bar breaks the floor and the person ends up rounding his lower back something awful.
So if your goal is to move as much weight as possible, a low hip position isn’t the best way to go.
But this article isn’t about the best way to deadlift as much weight as possible. We’re talking about working the quads here, and if that’s the goal, a lower hip position deadlift where you try to visualize squatting the weight up can be a pretty damn good exercise that’s much more knee-friendly than squatting.
Start by getting your butt down and your chest up with your weight on your heels. As you break the bar off the floor, it’s imperative that the hips and shoulders stay in sync in order to protect your back and keep the stress on your legs.
You’re going to have to drop the weights significantly to do this correctly. I’d even start with 30-40% of what you think you can deadlift normally as you adjust to the new technique. It’s important to be strict with these, both for the health of your back, and to make sure the stress stays on the quads.
I know that seems extremely light, but if you’re doing it right, your quads will feel it. You don’t have to stay super light forever and your numbers should climb quickly, but don’t add weight at the expense of form. The devil is in the details with these.
From time to time I also like to do them from a slight deficit to increase the range of motion. If doing so causes you knee pain, or you don’t have the requisite mobility to get that low with a flat back, avoid pulling from a deficit and just pull from the floor.
My favorite stance is what I’d call “semi-sumo” with my feet slightly wider than shoulder width. If you remove the bar from the equation and just look at the movement, this really looks more like a parallel squat.

You can also pull conventional, but I think the low hip conventional deadlift can be a bit riskier on the lower back, and I don’t feel it quite as much in my quads. Interestingly, I actually pull weight more conventional style than I do sumo, but sumo just feels better. If you choose to pull conventional, be extra careful not to let the hips shoot up as you initiate the pull.

If you’re lucky enough to have a trap bar at your gym, that’s another option too. I like the trap bar a lot, but I find that when my knees are bothering me it can be problematic, so keep that in mind.

Experiment with all the different variations and find what you like best.

6. Reverse Sled Drags

Reverse sled drags have been my biggest staple quad exercise for the past eight months and I’ve managed to add some muscle to my legs, despite not doing a ton of other heavy “quad” work. I’m certainly not advocating ditching all heavy lifting in favor of sled drags, but I do think it’s a great way to finish your lower body workouts, or even as a standalone on days when your knees just aren’t up for the task.
I’m not talking about taking a leisurely stroll at the end of the workout, though. In order for the sled drags to be a viable way to build muscle, you’ve got to push them (or pull them, rather) hard, just like you would any strength exercise. If you aren’t hating life while you’re pulling, you ain’t doing it right.
I’m hesitant to give specific recommendations on how to implement sled work because so much of it depends on the surface you’re pulling on and the space you have available.
As a point of reference, I’ve pulled up to 1,100 pounds on one indoor turf surface I use. On another outdoor turf surface, I top out around 650 pounds, and when I pull on rubber I struggle with 300 pounds. Don’t worry about the amount of weight you use – just worry about increasing that number over time.
Distance will vary depending on your space limitations. If possible, start with heavy drags of about 25-30 yards each. Start with four trips and gradually work up to 6-8 trips.
If that’s not specific enough for you, here’s a good general rule: go as heavy as you think you can go – plus a little bit – for as far as you think you can go (plus a little bit).
I’m not saying to get reckless, and you obviously need to exercise a certain degree of caution, but too many people wuss out at the slightest sign of a quad burn. Sorry, there’s no way to get around that – but the cool thing about sleds is that while they burn like hell while you’re doing them, they won’t leave you too sore the next day, so remind yourself of that while you’re pulling.
You need to push past your comfort zone to get results, but that goes for just about anything worth doing in life.

Closing Words

If knee pain has kept you from training your quads like you know you should, or the current exercises you’re doing are making your knees bark at the moon, give some of this stuff a shot and see how it goes.
And it should go without saying, but if any exercise hurts, stop doing it. Don’t try to be a hero.
Lastly, these exercises aren’t just for those of us with bad knees, nor do you have to wait until you have bad knees to start doing knee-friendly training. Even if your knees are feeling good at the moment, it might still be wise to sprinkle some of these exercises into your program to give your knees a little break so they stay healthy for the long haul.
It may require a little bit of imagination to find exercises that don’t hurt, but one way or another, almost anyone can build a set of wheels they can be proud of if you’re willing to put in the work.
Remember, friends don’t let friends skip leg day.

Best of Quads

“Leg workouts simply have to be brutal to be effective,” said Arnold Schwarzenegger. “Normal workouts are hard enough, but if thighs happen to be a weak point in your physique, you have to be prepared to push yourself even more.”

“Expect to get quite nauseated,” says Charles Poliquin dryly about his own leg specialization programs.

From famous bodybuilders to famous strength coaches, there’s one permeating truth when it comes to leg training: it’s gonna suck. And perhaps that’s why big muscular legs in your gym are as rare as small breasts in Los Angeles.

But if you’ve got the gonads, we’ve got the methods to change that. Here are some of the most effective quad-building exercises and routines we’ve discovered.

#1: The Ultimate Quad Squat

Powerlifters know a whole lot about squatting. And their knowledge has carried over into sports performance training and bodybuilding.

But that’s a double-edged sword, because powerlifters are all about maximal efforts, wide stances, a shortened range of motion, and low bar positions. Great for moving a mountain of plates, not so great for targeting quadriceps development.

No, the “quad squat” is a whole different beast compared to the powerlifting squat. We surveyed our stable of coaches and hypertrophy experts and came up with what we call “The Ultimate Quad Squat.” Check it out:

In review: Front squat, narrow stance, no lock-out, lighter weight, heals elevated.

Note:

#2: The Ultimate Quad Lunge

The lunge is often overlooked by many bodybuilders, and that’s too bad. It’s great for overall leg and glute development, plus it can be a brutal conditioning exercise. The lunging movement is also classified as a “primal movement pattern” just like the squat. So why neglect it?

To make the lunge into a quad killer, keep these rules in mind:

Variation:

#3: The Two-Minute Leg Press

Sports performance coaches often poo-poo the leg press because it doesn’t transfer well to sport, plus squats are more effective anyway at building overall strength, something that’s obviously important to coaches who work mainly with performance athletes. But what about the leg press for bodybuilding?

“The leg press is a great exercise for hypertrophy,” says Poliquin, “especially for the quadriceps.” So what’s the best way to use the leg press for quad size? We’ll tell ya: medium to narrow foot position, placed low on the foot plate, and performed with high reps.

High reps? What about “Go heavy or go home!” There’s a time and a place for that, but if your quads are only a little bigger than your calves, then it may be time to strip off some plates and go for some nauseating TUT.

Most lifters have a high percentage of slow-twitch fibers in their quadriceps. “With quads, you can go as high as 50 reps per set. There’s been some pro-bodybuilders who’ve grown on 30 reps per set,” notes Poliquin.

While not everyone’s fiber-make-up is the same — and while varied rep ranges are usually best — we’d say that if you lack quad size, then high reps may be the cure you’ve been looking for. Here’s a routine from Poliquin that puts all this info to work.

Using a much lighter weight than normal, a full range of motion, and the narrow and low foot positions, do leg presses for two straight minutes, no rest. Remember, full-range means you go down until your quadriceps cover your chest.

For each rep, extend your legs to 95% of lockout. Again, the key is to keep the tension on the muscle at all times.

“By the time you finish this exercise, you may want to cough up a lung or two,” notes Poliquin. We believe that’s his idea of encouragement.

#4: Deadman Quad Raises

“This drill is the equivalent of the natural glute-ham raise for the quadriceps,” says Thibaudeau. “While it seems deceptively easy at first glance, it can really burn those quads of yours when performed properly, leaving you limping for quite some time!”

After a ringing endorsement like that, we bet you’re just dying to try it, right? (Ya sick bastard.) Here’s how to do it:

Start on your knees, with the trunk upright and in line with the upper legs. During the whole movement the trunk and upper thighs must be kept on the same line; this is the key to the effectiveness of this drill.

Lower yourself backward under control — bringing your back toward your feet — while remembering to keep your trunk tight and in line with the upper legs during the whole movement. Lower yourself as low as you can, then come back up to the starting position by tensing your quads hard.

At first you won’t need to add any weight to make this exercise hard. As you progress, you can hold a weight plate on your chest to increase the difficulty.

#5: Quadriceps Finishers

A finisher is any movement you add to the end of your regular training session to “finish off” the muscles and further stimulate hypertrophy. It’s totally old-school and masochistic… and brutally effective for quad growth.

Just perform your regular heavy compound movements first, then finish off with one of these torture methods:

1. Iso One-leg Squat

“This exercise is a lesson in pain tolerance,” says Christian Thibaudeau. “It can leave the bravest gym rat begging for mercy!”

With your front leg forward, place your back leg on a bench. Bend your front leg so that the upper leg is parallel to the floor with the knee in line with the front foot. The trunk should be kept upright with hands on your hips.

Hold that position for 60 seconds per leg. If you can handle that length of time, you can hold dumbbells in your hands or a plate across your chest.

2. Ski Squat

We learned this from strength coach Ian King. The ski squat sneaks up on you like a ninja. You’ll think it’s easy at first, but you’ll think again by the end of it!

Place your feet shoulder-width apart, about two feet out from the wall, and lean your back against the wall. Bend your knees to a partial-squat position. This is position one.

After 10 seconds, lower down to position two, about two inches lower. After 10 more seconds, lower another two inches down to position three. You should be about thigh parallel by now. Use another two lower positions, with position five being about as far as you can bend at the knees.

Most people are quivering lumps of Jell-O by this point. If you’re not: Extend each static position to 20 seconds, do it one leg at a time, or come back up after you work your way down the wall.

Can you smell that? That’s lactic acid seeping from your pours.

3. Single-Leg Partial Squats

Another killer body weight finisher from Ian King:

Stand on the edge of a low block (1/3 to 1/2 the height of normal bench height). Have the weak leg on the box and the strong leg off the edge of the box. With your hands on your hips, bend at the knee of the weak side, lowering down (two to three seconds) until the sole of your foot almost brushes the floor.

Keep the sole parallel to the ground. Pause for one second and return to full extension in about one to two seconds. At the tenth rep, pause at the bottom position for ten seconds. You must not rest the non-supporting leg on the ground at any stage during the set! Then continue reps until you get to 20. Repeat the ten-second pause.

“Can you go on? If yes, remember that you have to finish what you start!” notes King. “This exercise must be done in multiples of ten, with a ten-second pause in the bottom position at the completion of every ten reps. If you get to 50 reps, look to raise the height of the block.”

If possible, don’t hold onto anything during the set — the challenge of having to balance yourself will add to the fatigue. However, you may wish to do this near a wall or squat stand, just in case. And be careful when you get off the block at the end of the set!

Wrap-Up

Arnold also said that leg training “…involves a mental effort almost as much as a physical one. This means forcing yourself to break down any inhibition or barrier.”

Knowing the exercises and routines is one thing. Putting them to work, with intense mental focus and eyeball-popping effort, is quite another. Are you ready?

Model: Beau Myrick
Location: Gold’s Gym, Abilene, Texas

<!–Best of Quads–>

Ultimate Quad Squat

Best of Quads

Ultimate Quad Lunge

Best of Quads

Two Minute Leg Press

Best of Quads

Deadman Raise

Best of Quads

Iso One Leg Squat

Best of Quads

Ski Squat

Best of Quads

Single Leg Partial Squat

Best of Quads

© 1998 — 2009 Testosterone, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Wikio

>Best of Quads

>

“Leg workouts simply have to be brutal to be effective,” said Arnold Schwarzenegger. “Normal workouts are hard enough, but if thighs happen to be a weak point in your physique, you have to be prepared to push yourself even more.”

“Expect to get quite nauseated,” says Charles Poliquin dryly about his own leg specialization programs.

From famous bodybuilders to famous strength coaches, there’s one permeating truth when it comes to leg training: it’s gonna suck. And perhaps that’s why big muscular legs in your gym are as rare as small breasts in Los Angeles.

But if you’ve got the gonads, we’ve got the methods to change that. Here are some of the most effective quad-building exercises and routines we’ve discovered.

#1: The Ultimate Quad Squat

Powerlifters know a whole lot about squatting. And their knowledge has carried over into sports performance training and bodybuilding.

But that’s a double-edged sword, because powerlifters are all about maximal efforts, wide stances, a shortened range of motion, and low bar positions. Great for moving a mountain of plates, not so great for targeting quadriceps development.

No, the “quad squat” is a whole different beast compared to the powerlifting squat. We surveyed our stable of coaches and hypertrophy experts and came up with what we call “The Ultimate Quad Squat.” Check it out:

In review: Front squat, narrow stance, no lock-out, lighter weight, heals elevated.

Note:

#2: The Ultimate Quad Lunge

The lunge is often overlooked by many bodybuilders, and that’s too bad. It’s great for overall leg and glute development, plus it can be a brutal conditioning exercise. The lunging movement is also classified as a “primal movement pattern” just like the squat. So why neglect it?

To make the lunge into a quad killer, keep these rules in mind:

Variation:

#3: The Two-Minute Leg Press

Sports performance coaches often poo-poo the leg press because it doesn’t transfer well to sport, plus squats are more effective anyway at building overall strength, something that’s obviously important to coaches who work mainly with performance athletes. But what about the leg press for bodybuilding?

“The leg press is a great exercise for hypertrophy,” says Poliquin, “especially for the quadriceps.” So what’s the best way to use the leg press for quad size? We’ll tell ya: medium to narrow foot position, placed low on the foot plate, and performed with high reps.

High reps? What about “Go heavy or go home!” There’s a time and a place for that, but if your quads are only a little bigger than your calves, then it may be time to strip off some plates and go for some nauseating TUT.

Most lifters have a high percentage of slow-twitch fibers in their quadriceps. “With quads, you can go as high as 50 reps per set. There’s been some pro-bodybuilders who’ve grown on 30 reps per set,” notes Poliquin.

While not everyone’s fiber-make-up is the same — and while varied rep ranges are usually best — we’d say that if you lack quad size, then high reps may be the cure you’ve been looking for. Here’s a routine from Poliquin that puts all this info to work.

Using a much lighter weight than normal, a full range of motion, and the narrow and low foot positions, do leg presses for two straight minutes, no rest. Remember, full-range means you go down until your quadriceps cover your chest.

For each rep, extend your legs to 95% of lockout. Again, the key is to keep the tension on the muscle at all times.

“By the time you finish this exercise, you may want to cough up a lung or two,” notes Poliquin. We believe that’s his idea of encouragement.

#4: Deadman Quad Raises

“This drill is the equivalent of the natural glute-ham raise for the quadriceps,” says Thibaudeau. “While it seems deceptively easy at first glance, it can really burn those quads of yours when performed properly, leaving you limping for quite some time!”

After a ringing endorsement like that, we bet you’re just dying to try it, right? (Ya sick bastard.) Here’s how to do it:

Start on your knees, with the trunk upright and in line with the upper legs. During the whole movement the trunk and upper thighs must be kept on the same line; this is the key to the effectiveness of this drill.

Lower yourself backward under control — bringing your back toward your feet — while remembering to keep your trunk tight and in line with the upper legs during the whole movement. Lower yourself as low as you can, then come back up to the starting position by tensing your quads hard.

At first you won’t need to add any weight to make this exercise hard. As you progress, you can hold a weight plate on your chest to increase the difficulty.

#5: Quadriceps Finishers

A finisher is any movement you add to the end of your regular training session to “finish off” the muscles and further stimulate hypertrophy. It’s totally old-school and masochistic… and brutally effective for quad growth.

Just perform your regular heavy compound movements first, then finish off with one of these torture methods:

1. Iso One-leg Squat

“This exercise is a lesson in pain tolerance,” says Christian Thibaudeau. “It can leave the bravest gym rat begging for mercy!”

With your front leg forward, place your back leg on a bench. Bend your front leg so that the upper leg is parallel to the floor with the knee in line with the front foot. The trunk should be kept upright with hands on your hips.

Hold that position for 60 seconds per leg. If you can handle that length of time, you can hold dumbbells in your hands or a plate across your chest.

2. Ski Squat

We learned this from strength coach Ian King. The ski squat sneaks up on you like a ninja. You’ll think it’s easy at first, but you’ll think again by the end of it!

Place your feet shoulder-width apart, about two feet out from the wall, and lean your back against the wall. Bend your knees to a partial-squat position. This is position one.

After 10 seconds, lower down to position two, about two inches lower. After 10 more seconds, lower another two inches down to position three. You should be about thigh parallel by now. Use another two lower positions, with position five being about as far as you can bend at the knees.

Most people are quivering lumps of Jell-O by this point. If you’re not: Extend each static position to 20 seconds, do it one leg at a time, or come back up after you work your way down the wall.

Can you smell that? That’s lactic acid seeping from your pours.

3. Single-Leg Partial Squats

Another killer body weight finisher from Ian King:

Stand on the edge of a low block (1/3 to 1/2 the height of normal bench height). Have the weak leg on the box and the strong leg off the edge of the box. With your hands on your hips, bend at the knee of the weak side, lowering down (two to three seconds) until the sole of your foot almost brushes the floor.

Keep the sole parallel to the ground. Pause for one second and return to full extension in about one to two seconds. At the tenth rep, pause at the bottom position for ten seconds. You must not rest the non-supporting leg on the ground at any stage during the set! Then continue reps until you get to 20. Repeat the ten-second pause.

“Can you go on? If yes, remember that you have to finish what you start!” notes King. “This exercise must be done in multiples of ten, with a ten-second pause in the bottom position at the completion of every ten reps. If you get to 50 reps, look to raise the height of the block.”

If possible, don’t hold onto anything during the set — the challenge of having to balance yourself will add to the fatigue. However, you may wish to do this near a wall or squat stand, just in case. And be careful when you get off the block at the end of the set!

Wrap-Up

Arnold also said that leg training “…involves a mental effort almost as much as a physical one. This means forcing yourself to break down any inhibition or barrier.”

Knowing the exercises and routines is one thing. Putting them to work, with intense mental focus and eyeball-popping effort, is quite another. Are you ready?

Model: Beau Myrick
Location: Gold’s Gym, Abilene, Texas

<!–Best of Quads–>

Ultimate Quad Squat

Best of Quads

Ultimate Quad Lunge

Best of Quads

Two Minute Leg Press

Best of Quads

Deadman Raise

Best of Quads

Iso One Leg Squat

Best of Quads

Ski Squat

Best of Quads

Single Leg Partial Squat

Best of Quads

© 1998 — 2009 Testosterone, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Wikio

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