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Today I would like to talk about the quadriceps muscles.
Fun Fact #3: the term quadriceps is both singular and plural. A singular muscle is referred to as quadriceps, not quadricep.
This is because quadriceps comes from the Latin quadriceps which means four-headed muscle of the leg. When you are referring to the quadriceps muscle, you are referring to four muscles: the vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, and the rectus femoris. I will be referring to them as quadriceps hence forth!
The quadriceps are one of several muscles in the leg. The others, which I will deal with in upcoming articles are: the hamstrings, and the calf muscles. Together, the leg muscles are the strongest and the longest muscles in the body.
For today, we will talk about the quadriceps muscles: where they attach at both ends, what they do for us, and how to exercise them properly.
Let’s get started!
The Quadriceps Muscle
The muscles that make up the quadriceps – quads for short – are the leanest and strongest muscles in the body. There are four muscles that make up the quads (hence the name) and they are in the front of the thigh and run from your hip to your knee.
The largest of the four muscles in the quads is the Vastus lateralis. It is on the outside of the thigh and extends from the top of the femur to the kneecap.
The next muscle in the quads is the Vastus medialis and it is a teardrop shaped muscle on the inner thigh that attaches along the femur and extends down to the inner border of the kneecap.
Next is the Vastus intermedius. It is between the other two Vastus muscles at the front of the femur. It is also the deepest of the four quad muscles.
Lastly, there is the Rectus femoris muscle. It also attaches to the kneecap and starts at the hip.
So there you have it. The four muscles that make up the quadriceps. They are considered to be the longest muscles in the body and deserve to be exercised and strengthened, as they have a massive amount of work to do every minute of every day. All you need to do is injure a muscle in your leg and you realize its importance.
And remember, friends don’t let friends skip leg day!
What It Does
Due to the fact that all four quad muscles attach at the kneecap, we know that there main purpose is going to be flexion of the leg. All of these muscles are responsible for extending the leg. They work together to accomplish this task. This is their only job, except for the rectus femoris. Since it originates on the hip, it serves a small function in flexing the hip. The other muscles originate on the femur, so they are limited to extending the leg.
This is good to know, so we can choose appropriate exercises to strengthen and grow these muscles.
Best Quadriceps Exercises
Bulgarian Split Squat – stand about a foot in front of a bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Put one foot on the bench (the laces of your shoe should be on the bench) and lower your hips (lunge). Stand up and repeat. Switch legs and repeat
Bodyweight Squat – stand with your feet shoulder width apart, link your fingers behind your neck or hold your arms out in front of you for balance, and squat as low as you can. Stand and repeat.
Barbell Squat – Put the barbell on the squat rack, load it with some weight, lift it with your shoulders (upper back), hold it steady, and squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Stand and repeat.
Barbell Front Squat – very similar to the squat above, except you will hold the barbell in front of you, on your upper chest.
Goblet Squat – grab a kettle bell or a heavy dumbbell, hold it in front of your chest, and squat as low as you can go. Stand and repeat.
Deadlift – this is an overall great exercise for all the leg muscles. Be sure to engage the mind-muscle link to the quads when performing this exercise. Load a barbell with some weight, stand with your shoe laces under the bar, grab the bar with both hands (grip is your choice: both over the top or one supinated), look forward, and stand up, pulling the bar as close to your legs on the way up as possible. Pause and lower the bar. Again as close to your legs as possible. Repeat.
Barbell Box Squat – this is similar to other squats, except you will sit on a box or bench on the way down. This relives all the pressure from your legs, allowing you to explode up, working the fast twitch fibers in the muscles. Be careful with this one. You will feel it the next day.
Leg Press – if you have access to a leg press machine, this is a great exercise to add massive size to your quads.
Leg Extension – Again, if you have access to the proper equipment, this is a great exercise to isolate the quads.
Box Jump or Weighted Squat Jumps – just jumping up onto a stable surface will grow your quads. Again, this is good for the fast twitch fibers. Same with weighted Squat Jumps (hold a dumbbell in each hand, squat and then jump off the ground. Land as softly as possible, squat, jump, and repeat.
A Sample Quadriceps Workout
Well, that was a lot of exercises to choose from. As a rule of thumb, there really is no need to do more than three exercises for each muscle group. For each exercise perform three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions.
You should choose a weight that makes you say to yourself, “I don’t think I could do another rep!” when you get to the end of the set. Since the quadriceps are such a large muscle, you should be resting for 60 – 90 seconds between sets and a few minutes between exercises.
Remember, you will be working all leg muscle groups on leg day, so you will be performing nine exercises, three sets of each, 12 -15 reps. That’s a lot of work! You need to set aside a good chunk of time to get this workout done. The good news is, unless you are planning on entering a bodybuilding competition, once a week is enough for the leg workout.
So, for the quads, it would be good to start with the body weight squats, just to get them warmed up. Then, switch to the deadlift, or the barbell squat to get a really good burn going. Then finish off with an isolation exercise, either the leg extensions or the leg press.
If you are working out at home, and don’t have that equipment, then do the Bulgarian Split squat, as this will also isolate the quads nicely.
Lastly, if you are young and still have good knees, then do some box jumps or some weighted jump squats to work on the explosiveness of the muscles.
After these three (or four) exercises, you will switch to hamstring exercises, which I will get to in the next post.
Your legs will be sore for a couple of days after this workout. Remember to keep a diary of the exercises and weights used, including sets and reps, so you can always aim to improve (ie lift more weight!).
So there you have it.
My suggestions are just that – my suggestions. There are many ways to put together a quadricep routine, and you should change it up once in a while to keep your muscles guessing.
Skipping leg day is not an option. Use these suggestions, along with the suggestions in the following two articles to put together a leg workout that works for you!
Thanks for listening. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.
Also, if you are a father (or mother) (or anyone for that matter) who would like an easy to follow program that includes a menu and work out information, check out this article from a few months ago.
See you in the next post.
Have a great day!