Most lifters are aware of the importance of having a V taper, where the lats flair up from the waist to the shoulders. But that's not the only sweep that matters when it comes to bodybuilding aesthetics. Equally important is quad sweep, where those muscles flare out below the waist before narrowing again closer to the knees.
Mom and dad (aka, genetics) certainly play a large role in dictating the extent of anyone's quad sweep. Training, however, plays a major role as well. Here are the five best techniques for maximizing that sweep.
Technique 1: Targeted Leg Extension
The first exercise to get those outer quads burning is the leg extension. However, rather than doing a standard leg extension, you'll turn your toes in—to a comfortable degree, of course—to laser-target your outer quads. From this position, your outer quads do more of the contracting to lift the weight.
Of note, this variation can be a little more strenuous on the knee joint than the more straightforward approach. So, if you tend to suffer knee pain, consider moving the pin higher up the stack. Either that, or skip this exercise entirely.
As this is an isolation exercise, higher rep training is the route to go. Don't go too heavy.
Technique 2: Front Squat
Squats reign supreme at developing a strong, muscular lower body. Indeed, when the squat is performed properly, it does an exceptional job of increasing strength and power and building muscle mass.
There are three main types of squats: high-bar squats, low-bar squats, and front squats. If quad sweep is your primary goal, favor front squats when possible in your workout routine. Shifting the weight forward to the front of your body places more stress on the quad muscles versus the hamstrings and glutes.
Mastering the front squat can take some practice, so use a lighter weight at first while you perfect your form. Don't expect to ever squat as heavy with front squats as you do back squats—most people see a significant drop when they shift the bar to the front.
Technique 3: Narrow-Stance Leg Press
The leg press is a great alternative if you're limited on your squat for whatever reason, or if you simply want a second compound exercise to include in your lower-body routine. You'll work all the muscles in your lower body without applying much strain on your lower back—assuming you perform the exercise correctly.
The other nice thing about the leg press is that it allows you to target specific muscles in your quads from different angles, based on the position of your feet. For example, place your feet higher on the pad, and the emphasis is on your glute muscles; place them lower, and you bring more quadriceps into the lift.
To work on your quad sweep, position your feet lower on the foot pad, but also bring them closer together than usual. Use a lighter weight and focus on feeling it in the outer quads as you do each rep.
Keep in mind that the lighter the weight, the better muscle activation you get in a target area. When you start adding plates to the bar, especially on major compound movements like the leg press, it's easy for the strong glutes to come into play. That's not the goal here.
Technique 4: Hack Squat
Another good compound move to target your outer quad and develop that sweep is the hack squat. Again, this exercise mimics the movement pattern of the squat or leg press, so you don't need to add all three of these moves to a single workout. Instead, incorporate all three into your leg program at various junctures.
As with the leg press, where you place your feet on the pad influences how the muscle fibers get worked. Here, you want greater emphasis on the outer quad, so place your feet lower and closer together on the foot pad.
Technique 5: Dumbbell Split Squat
One last exercise to help you build a strong quad sweep is the dumbbell split squat. This is a great exercise for working all the main lower-body muscles. You also work your core with this exercise, since it must work to keep your body balanced.
When doing dumbbell split squats, take a slightly shorter step in front of you than usual. This will favor engagement of your quads versus your glutes. Holding a set of dumbbells also shifts the weight toward the front of your body, further emphasizing your quads. Don't lean forward, as that may place excessive strain on your lower back.
Add any one of these exercises to your next lower-body workout. Remember, along with your training program, it's also essential to be in a caloric surplus to build muscle. Without that extra energy, you aren't likely to see any size improvements.