Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

Leg day is a big one. You need to fuel properly to make sure you can push through those hard sets and rest up beforehand so you can effectively pour yourself into the iron…. There are no other workouts for which we plan ahead so diligently. Part of the reason that training legs take so much out of us is that it’s not just one muscle.  The quadriceps alone is made up of four different muscle groupings.  So when we have an epic leg workout, it’s pretty demanding, both physiologically and psychologically. Make the most of your leg day by hitting all four heads of the quads, and hitting them hard.

The quadriceps femoris is a large muscle group that includes four muscles on the front of the thigh (quads). The four muscles work together to extend at the knee, and they cover the front and sides of the thigh bone, or femur. The four heads of this muscle group include:

Rectus femoris 
This is the biggie. It is right in the middle of the thigh, and it covers the majority of the other three quadriceps muscles.  Its origin is the ilium (hip bone). Because of this attachment point, this muscle also assists in hip flexion.

The other three quad muscles lie deep to the rectus femoris (think ‘underneath’) and have their origins directly on the body of the femur:
Vastus lateralis is on the lateral side of the femur (outside of the thigh).
Vastus medialis is on the medial side of the femur (inside of the thigh).
Vastus intermedius lies between the lateralis and medialis muscles, also on the front of the femur.

All components of the quadriceps muscle insert into the tibial tuberosity of the lower leg (just below the kneecap).

Now that you have an understanding of where the muscles are and what they do, let’s have a look at four popular and effective quad exercises that you can implement into your training routine today!


There are several variations of this exercise, depending upon the particular machine that you have at your disposal.  But most variations follow the same process:

The Set-up:

  • Get into position by ensuring that your back is securely against the pad, your bottom is in the seat, and your feet are firmly planted on the foot plate.  Again, placing your feet in different positions and at different angles will activate the muscle fibres differently, so switch it up to really hit the quads.

The Movement:

  • Push the weight off the sled and un-latch the safeties.
  • Lower the sled toward you in a slow and controlled manner.
  • Ensure that your knees remain aligned with the middle of your feet at all times; don’t let the knees fall in.
  • Bring the weight down as far as you comfortably can, ensuring that your bottom remains on the seat and your back remains against the pad.
  • Pause for a moment before returning to the start position in a controlled fashion.
  • Avoid locking out the knees at the top of the movement.

The most common variation of the hack squat is the actual machine hack – and even within that, there are several different options. This is the exercise I will discuss here.

The Set-up:

  • Secure your back against the pad of the machine; maneuver yourself so that your shoulders rest underneath the machine’s shoulder pads.
  • Place your feet on the platform using a shoulder-width stance with the toes very slightly turned out.
  • Keeping your head up at all times will ensure that your back remains in a neutral (safe) position.

The Movement:

  • Holding the handles, shift your weight so that you can un-latch the safeties (depending upon the machine you use, you may need to move either up or down).
  • Start with straight legs (ensure knees are not locked out).
  • Keeping your back and glutes against the pad, begin by slowly bending your knees until your upper legs are just below parallel.
  • Ensure that your knees remain aligned with the middle of your feet at all times; don’t let the knees fall in.
  • Ensure that your knees do not fall forward over your toes, which can cause knee strain.
  • Pause for a moment before returning to the start position in a controlled fashion.
  • Avoid locking out the knees at the top of the movement.


The Set-up:

  • Adjust the back pad, ensuring that when you sit in the seat, it just touches the back of your knees, and your back and buttocks are touching the back of the seat.
  • Adjust the foot roller so that it is just above the ankle joint.
  • Adjust the thigh pad so it’s locking your legs in, without pain, and above the knee joint.

The Movement:

  • Holding the handles, bring your feet and lower legs straight up, as if to kick the ceiling.
  • Aim for straight legs without locking out the knees at the top.
  • Pause for a moment in the contraction; return slowly to the starting position, while keeping tension throughout the movement (do not drop the weight stack).

There are several variations to the Dumbbell lunge: Stationary, Reverse, Alternating and Walking.

We will discuss the Alternating lunge for the purpose of this article, but the exercise form itself is applicable to all variations.

The Set-up:
Stand straight with a dumbbell in each hand, hanging by your sides.

The Movement:

  • Step forward with your right foot. You want to take a big enough forward step so that you are able to go up on the toes of your back foot.
  • Ensure that your toes (both feet) are pointing directly forward.
  • Once you’ve stepped forward, lower the back leg so that the back knee nearly touches the floor.
  • You want to move DOWN in this exercise, not FORWARD.  You can ensure that you are doing this by tucking your pelvis in slightly before descending into the lunge.
  • Ascend so that your legs are again straight. Step back to the starting position. Repeat with the Left leg.
  • You will know that you are performing this exercise correctly if you can see the toes of your front foot when you are in the ‘down’ phase of the lunge.

If you’re looking to build strong, powerful legs, it’s essential to keep the basics in your routine. Loading the quadriceps muscles, both in open and closed chain fashions, will help to build your wheels while also adding stability and strength to your knee and hip joints, allowing you to power through even the most difficult of challenges. Throw the above exercises into your leg workouts and you’ll be screaming ‘Oh my Quads!’ in no time!

Write A Comment