Those tree-trunk thighs you see on seasoned lifters? They don't come from endless sets on the leg presses or leg extensions: They come from squats, the gold standard for leg day-workouts. But there are definitely small changes you can make to even the "king of lifts" to further direct its benefits to the front of your legs.
Here are a couple ways to adjust your squats—and your leg workout as a whole—to get even more quad development with every squat you do.
Get to know the front squat
Front squats should be your top choice to work the quads hard. By shifting your center of gravity slightly forward as your body remains more upright, front squats force your quads to pick up more of the load (and your hams and glutes to pick up less). On the other hand, many lifters find they can go deeper in the front squat than the back squat, so your backside will still get plenty of love!
Yes, it's a bit trickier to get the hang of holding the bar on the front of your shoulders. If your shoulders or wrists don't like the textbook "clean" grip with elbows up and fingertips on the bar, try these other options:
- Crossed-arm grip: Perhaps the most comfortable alternative for most lifters
- Frankenstein grip: Hands straight out in front of you
- Strap grip: Wrap lifting straps around the bar and hold them instead of the bar
Even if you don't need the extra quad work, making the front squat part of your leg-day routine can provide new muscle stimulus and boost growth. And it'll break up the monotony of doing back squats all the time.
More Quad-Busting Tips
- After you've knocked out your squat working sets with a full range of motion, add extra weights and do half reps over just the top half of the range of motion. Your quads get the most activation over the top half of the ROM. And because you're above the "sticking point," you can really load up for these partial reps. For safety, do these in a power rack with the safeties set high, and use up to 120 percent of your 1RM for three sets of 6 reps.
- After you do heavy front or back squats, or at the very end of your leg day, perform lighter-weight goblet squats with a dumbbell or kettlebell for serious reps or a high-rep finisher. Just pick a number—say, 50 or 70 reps—and do as many sets as it takes to get there.