5 of the Best Weight Lifting Moves for Maximum Quad Gains

woman doing a dumbbell squat

Having strong legs is super important. | iStock.com/Lunamarina

It can’t be stressed enough — don’t skimp on your leg lifts.

Though there are a number of important muscles that comprise your legs, the quads may be the most prominent. And nothing really says “yeah, I work out” like quads that are seemingly ready to burst through your Levi’s. The quadricep, as it is typically known, is actually four separate muscles that make up the meat of your thighs. Along with your glutes, your quads really are the engine of your body — almost all motion, from walking to standing up, starts with these muscles.

That’s why it’s so important to keep them strong and toned.

There are a myriad of exercises and lifts you can incorporate into your workout routine to get your quads to full-blown “swole” status. Simply walking into any gym or fitness center will present you with dozens of possible machines and isolation exercises, which can be a bit overwhelming, particularly if you have some specific goals in mind, like targeting the quads.

That’s why we’re here to give you the veritable cheat sheet, allowing you to skip the trial and error and focus your time and energy on the exercises that will lead to quad gains.

1. Leg extensions

The leg extension is a fairly simple exercise, and you can get the basic rundown in the video above from Muscle & Strength. As trainer and four-time Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler explains, the leg extension specifically targets your upper quads — an area that may be a little tricky with other lifts. You will need access to the extension machine, and for a lot of people, that means access to a gym. But getting this exercise into your routine is paramount to seeing your quads swell.

Many trainers suggest you complete compound lifts in order to really see results, but for quads specifically, the leg extension is one isolation exercise that’s worth it.

2. Barbell lunges

Another relatively simple yet incredibly effective exercise, the barbell lunge will have your quads aching after just a few reps. Scott Herman of Scott Herman Fitness goes through a basic tutorial in the video above, which shows the lift’s effectiveness. You’ll really feel the lift in your quads, but you’ll also be hitting your other major leg muscle groups, making this a fantastic exercise to add to your routine. The only tricky part may be getting your balance and form down, but once you do, throwing barbell lunges into the mix should lead to solid quad gains with time.

3. Leg press

Another exercise that requires access to some equipment, the leg press is designed specifically to target your quads. Your first time on the leg press machine may be a little awkward, but after a few reps, you’ll see exactly what makes the machine so popular. The video above, from Instructional Fitness, explains how you should be situated and how to actually perform the exercise. One thing you should never do? Lock your knees.

And make sure you’re getting the proper amount of depth when you bring the weight toward you. Too short, and you’ll be shortchanging yourself. Too deep, and you could get injured.

4. Wall sits

Woman doing squats

You can do wall sits just about anywhere. | LarsZahnerPhotography/iStock/Getty Images

This simple, yet extremely effective exercise is your ticket to your strongest quads yet. You don’t need any equipment to perform this move, but Men’s Fitness suggests placing a stability ball between your back and the wall for an added balance challenge. From here, you simply sick down into a squat until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Hold this position for a minute to complete one set. And if you want an even bigger challenge for your wall sits, feel free to stack weight plates on your legs during the move.

5. Squats

man performs barbell squats

Don’t forget about the classic squat. | iStock.com

We continue to harp on the importance of the squat. It may just be the most important and essential lift in the entire fitness world, and you need to learn it, master it, and love it. If you want to see your quads swell like redwood trees, then you really need to step up your squat game.

We’ve written about squats many times before, so check out some of our previous articles for a rundown and some pointers.

Additional reporting by Lauren Weiler.

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