Quadriceps Training For Natural Bodybuilders Which are the best exercises for your quadriceps?

When selecting exercises for your workouts always ask the following questions:

What is this exercises giving me? How hard is it on my joints?

Those are the two most import questions when evaluating a weightlifting movement. You will find out that a lot of the exercises you’re doing won’t make it through this filter.


When it comes to quadriceps or front leg training there are a lot of movements that are pure nonsense and usually give nothing back in the long run besides knee pain.

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HACK SQUATS

Hack squats are supposed to be quad dominant. The machine allows you to be in a fairly straight position and most of the work is done by the quadriceps and the glutes. The biggest problem with hack squats is that they can be damn hard on the patellar tendon and the knees as a whole.

In order to avoid similar problems always do hack squats with light weight and for high reps. One of the best ways to hurt your knees is to put all the plates you can lift on the hack squat machine and show the whole world how fast the ambulance in your town can reach your gym.

Hack squats are not meant to be a powerlifting exercise. They are only a movement that allows you to add a bit more volume to your leg workout. If you feel plain during hack squats, stop doing them. They are nothing special.

LEG PRESS

The leg press is a good leg exercise. It allows you to focus on your lower body without being limited by the strength of your back. This is great for lifters who have poor lifting mechanics for the squat and cannot feel their quads working.

The leg press allows you to lift a lot of weight but maxing out and doing sets below 6-8 is not needed. What’s the point of testing how much weight you can lift on the leg press? It makes no sense. Who cares?

The main problem with the leg press is that most people either have a really small range of motion or allow the slide to come too close to their chest, which can cause rounding of the lower back. The right choice portion is somewhere in the middle. This will save you a lot of time and pain.

Another good thing about the leg press is that it allows you to train one leg at a time. This is good for those suffering from imbalances or injuries. When you’re doing singe leg presses the non-working side can serve as a safety measure – whenever you can’t continue simply use your the other leg to finish the movement.

To avoid knee pain don’t use too much weight and don’t place your feet too low on the leg press plate. If you do so, your knees will travel way further than your toes causing too much shear force on the kneecap and ligaments. It’s better to move your feet closer to the top in order to shift more of the stress to the glutes and hamstrings. This will also diminish the stress on your knees.

When you are doing the leg press make sure to use a spotter or at least a machine that has safety pins. You don’t want to be squashed by hundreds of pounds. It ain’t fun.

HIGH BAR BARBELL BACK SQUATS

The squat is a good quadriceps exercise for short guys with long torsos and short femurs. These individuals can perform squats with fairly straight backs which keeps the stress on the front leg. For taller guys with long legs and short torsos, the squat could be a poor choice.

Similar structure makes the squat a major hip exercise and usually those people end up with big glutes and small legs. Most bodybuilders are not looking for similar physique. If that’s your case, you can stick with front squats with barbells or kettlebells.

To increase the stimulation of the quadriceps muscle you can use weightlifting shoes. However, sometimes weightlifting shoes cause knee pain because the knees travel a little too much forward at the bottom. To reduce the stress look for squat shoes with smaller heels.

LOW BAR BARBELL BACK SQUATS

Low bar squats are not the best choice for a quadriceps exercises. The movement is even more hip dominant than the high bar squat. If you want to get big glutes, this is one of the best exercises you can do, but for quads – there are better choice.

Having the bar low on the back requires the lifter to lean further even more and this shifts the stress to the so-called posterior chain composed of the hamstrings and glutes.

Related articles: Hamstring Training For Natural Bodybuilders

ROMAN CHAIR SQUATS

The Roman chair squat is a squat variation popularized by Vince Gironda. The exercise is supposed to place most of the stress on the quadriceps and that’s why the lifter cannot use a lot of weight. While it’s a somewhat fine exercise most people would just experience knee pain from it. There are much better options.

The same is true for the so-called sissy squat which was also popularized by Gironda. It’s one of the most knee unfriendly exercises ever. The stress on the knee cap is a lot and most people would do just fine, if they skip on this movement too.

Related article: Vince Gironda’s Sissy Squats – Quad Builder Or Knee Killer?

PISTOLS

The body weight pistol is a fine quad exercise. It’s only downside is that some people’s knees may not be able to handle it. There are lifters who can squat really heavy weights without knee pain while feeling joint discomfort from leg pistols.

One of the reasons is that the leg pistol is usually done with a tucked in lower back. This shortens the hamstrings and places more stress on the knees. Whenever the hamstring is shorten during a squat the knees are less protected. {more}

LUNGES

The only lunge that NattyOrNot.com likes is the Bulgarian split squat. However, never do this or any other lunge variation with a barbell. It’s one of the best ways to hurt yourself. Stick to higher reps and if you need to add more weight, use a a weight vest or dumbbells.

REPS AND SETS

The different heads of the quadriceps muscle have different slow to fast twitch fiber ratio. The so-called tear drop or the Vastus medialis is slow twitch dominant while the Vastus lateralis and the Rectus femoris are fast twitch dominant.

This means that the quadriceps loves both – high reps and low reps. That’s why it’s recommended to do both depending on the exercise. The most common way is to use the squat as a lower rep exercise – 5-7 reps and the leg press as a high rep exercise – 8-12 reps. You can also do the opposite – use the leg press as a main exercise and rely on something like the hack squat for high rep work in order to target the Vastus medialis.

You can simplify it one step further and simply perform a few high rep sets of the same exercise. This means that if your strength exercise of choice is the squat, you can end your heavy session with a couple of high rep back off sets for complete quad workout.

Related article: Why Do Track Cyclists Have Such Big Legs?

HOW OFTEN?

The legs can take a lot of pain. If you are focusing specifically on lower body, you can train three times a week – heavy, light medium or even more. If you don’t want to focus on the quadriceps, you can train less frequently and skip the light or medium days. You also have to keep in mind that since the lower body is composed of big muscles, the exercises also stress the central nervous system quite a bit.

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