Best Quad Exercises for Bigger & Stronger Thighs

Barbell Medicine
March 19, 2024
Reading Time: 25 minutes
Table of Contents

    When it comes to developing a lifting program for an individual, it’s important to train all of the major muscle groups of the body, which of course includes the legs. While the gluteus maximus is the largest single muscle in the body, the quadriceps are the largest muscle group, making them a very important part of any workout program. Despite many people having their favorite pet exercises for training the quadriceps, there are plenty of exercises that you can select based on your preferences to get the results you want.

    We’ll go through our favorite quad exercises for bigger and stronger thighs: back squats, pendulum squats, leg presses, hack squats, split squats, step-ups, and leg extensions. We’ll also share information about quadriceps anatomy, the benefits of working on your quads, and tips on how you can make the most of these exercises.

    Quadriceps Anatomy

    The quadriceps femoris muscle, also referred to as the quadriceps extensor, quadriceps, or just quads, is a large muscle group made up of four muscles located in the front of the thigh:

    • The rectus femoris muscle, which occupies the middle of the thigh and covers most of the other three quads.
    • The vastus lateralis muscle, located on the outer or “lateral” aspect of the thigh;
    • The vastus medialis muscle, situated on the inner thigh or “medial” part;
    • The vastus intermedius muscle, found in the center of the thigh, underneath the rectus femoris. [45]

    The quadriceps are key to daily activities like walking, climbing, or getting up from a chair. [43] The functions of the quads include knee extension, hip flexion, posture maintenance, proper stage of step/gait cycle, and patellar stability maintenance. [43] They also play a very active role in activities such as jumping, running, cycling, and kicking. [44]

    Quad Exercises

    • Squats
    • Pendulum squats
    • Leg presses
    • Hack squats
    • Split squats
    • Step-ups
    • Leg extensions

    Improvements in “quad strength” are related to both how the muscles are trained and how strength is being tested. Strength can be defined as the ability to produce maximum force in a specific context, e.g. a particular movement pattern, range of motion, velocity, and so on. Broadly speaking, strength improves through both neurological (e.g. motor unit firing rate and synchronization) and morphological (e.g. pennation angle, size, and fiber type) adaptations, which are specific to training.

    We’d expect training the squat to improve quadriceps strength as measured within the context of the squat than another, non-squat exercise. As an example, one study on young women showed that body weight and barbell back squats increase quadriceps strength a similar amount, as measured by a max-effort leg extension. [6] In short, strength is specific.

    The principles of training your quads are no different than any other muscle. You need appropriate volume — that is, sets and reps — intensity — that is weight and proximity to failure — and exercises that load the muscle through the correct range of motion.

    The recommendations for exercise order are similar for most lifters, whether novice or advanced — train your larger muscles first, begin with compound lifts, and move to isolation later. Note that one of the biggest differences lies in the volume, as more experienced lifters tend to need more volume (sets) to drive hypertrophy and strength.

    To use these exercises in your existing program, we recommend that beginners select a single primary, secondary, and tertiary exercise to train the quadriceps. For more advanced lifters, we’d suggest doubling that. Whether these are organized together in a body part split or as part of a full-body program is mostly up to personal preference, as either can work well. We recommend newer lifters do 6 to 10 sets per week across all three exercises, whereas a more advanced lifter should target 12 to 20 sets per week. Total volume and exercise selection should be tailored to the individual over time based on response.

    Here are our favorite ways to train the quadriceps:

    1) Squats


    Movement category: Primary or Secondary

    Programming: 3 to 4 sets of 3 to 5 repetitions (Primary) or 2 to 4 sets of 6-10 repetitions (Secondary)

    Weight: Use a weight that leaves you 2 to 4 reps short of failure, e.g. RPE 6 to 8

    Squats are a really popular compound (multi-joint) exercise that involves lowering your hips from a standing position and then standing back up again. The squat is a fine exercise for beginners and veteran lifers alike to train the muscles of the lower body, including the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and trunk, alongside the muscles of the upper body to some degree as they help bear the weight.

    There are many variations and they can be performed using your body weight or additional weights, with the weight being held in different positions, different stances, and through various ranges of motion. Different stance widths and bar positions tend to change the movement of the lifter. [7] Similarly, training to different depths can generate different effects specific to the range of motion trained. [8]

    We will focus on a below parallel high bar squat here, done to a below parallel depth. In terms of equipment, get a barbell to do squats with weights.

    How to perform the barbell squat:

    • The correct squat stance varies significantly between individuals and over time. To start, place your feet about shoulder-width apart, with your toes turned out about 15 to 30 degrees.
    • Using a barbell in a squat rack that’s set at approximately mid-sternum height, grab the bar with an overhand grip, with your index finger around the score or “power” rings on each side of the barbell.
    • Move under the bar and place it on your upper back on your trapezius, the thick part of the muscle just below your neck. To locate this position by hand, feel on your neck for the bony anatomical landmark called the vertebra prominens, which is the spinous process of the 7th cervical vertebrae. The bar should sit just under that.
    • With the bar in the correct position, lift the bar up off the J-hooks, bearing the load mostly on your back with your chest up. Keep your elbows down, tucked into your sides.
    • Take 1-step back from the hooks with each leg, adjusting each foot into the stance described in the first step of this series.
    • Take a big breath in and hold it, squeezing your midsection tight. Now you can start your descent by pushing your hips back and knees both forward and out. Your torso will bend forward a little bit and become a bit more horizontal. This is fine.
    • Keep descending lower into the squat until the crease of your hip is below the top of your knee. This is a below-parallel squat.
    • Once below parallel, you should reverse the motion by pushing up with your legs and hips, while keeping your torso tight (and breath held).
    • Stand up straight at the top to complete the rep. Repeat the process for each repetition.

    Note that any squat variant is likely going to train your quadriceps in a similar way despite the different amounts of knee and hip flexion. If you want to learn more about the different bar placements in the squat, check out our article on the subject, which goes into more detail.

    Choose a squat variant depending on your preferences, current equipment availability, and goals (strength-wise).

    2) Pendulum Squat

    Movement category: Primary or Secondary

    Programming: 3 to 4 sets of 4 to 6 repetitions (Primary) or 2 to 4 sets of 6-10 repetitions (Secondary)

    Weight: Use a weight that leaves you 1 to 3 reps short of failure, e.g. RPE 7 to 9

    A pendulum squat is a machine-based variation of the squat done on specialized equipment, e.g. a pendulum squat machine. While the mechanics are overall similar to a free-weight squat, the footplate is at an angle, which changes the angle the body moves through as a result.  Similar to other types of squats, the pendulum squat loads your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, adductors, and calves.

    Here’s how to perform the pendulum squat:

    • Load the machine with plates at the appropriate weight for the programmed rep scheme. We recommend starting relatively light, as most will lift less weight on this variation of the squat compared to the barbell back squat.
    • Step into the machine with your back against the support pad and your shoulders in contact squarely with the shoulder pads.
    • On the footplate, place your feet about shoulder-width apart, with your toes turned out about 15 to 30 degrees. The correct squat stance varies significantly between individuals and over time, so some adjustment may be necessary.
    • Stretch your arms to get the handles in front of you to unlock the machine. Machines vary in the locking mechanism, but generally speaking, standing up with the weight removes tension from the mechanism, allowing you to move the handle out of the way.
    • Take a big breath and hold it.
    • Simultaneously unlock your hips and knees to initiate the descent. It may be helpful to feel like you’re pushing your hips back while pushing your knees forward and out.
    • Squat down below parallel, e.g. when the crease of your hip is below the top of the knee. Keep your feet flat on the floor throughout.
    • Drive up through the pads using your legs to return to the start position.

    Not all gyms have a pendulum squat machine, though they are becoming more popular as of late. Unfortunately, there isn’t a convenient way to imitate this movement with other equipment, though this isn’t a huge deal in the grand scheme of things. We do like the pendulum squat machine quite a bit, but it’s not some top-secret exercise that’s going to change your life. If you can’t find one, we recommend doing barbell back squats or hack squats.

    3) Leg Press or Hack Squat

    Leg Press or Hack Squat

    Movement category: Primary or Secondary

    Programming: 3 to 4 sets of 4 to 6 repetitions (Primary) or 2 to 4 sets of 6-10 repetitions (Secondary)

    Weight: Use a weight that leaves you 1 to 2 reps short of failure, e.g. RPE 8 to 9

    The leg press, also referred to as the seated leg press, machine squat press, or machine leg press, is a compound (multi-joint) training exercise where the trainee pushes the weight-loaded sled away from them using their legs while the back and upper body are supported against a pad. The exercise loads your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and adductors. [42]

    It’s worth noting that using a different position on the footplate can change the loading on different muscle groups. In general, adopting a lower foot position increases the amount of knee flexion during the movement, potentially increasing the loading on the quadriceps relative to other positioning. Similarly, placing the feet up higher may increase the loading on the glutes maximus. [41] Whether or not adopting these different styles leads to different outcomes in strength and size is mostly speculation, but it’s reasonable to adopt a specific stance if trying to prioritize a specific training effect. For most, we recommend using a relatively low, shoulder-width, toe-out foot position that produces similar movement mechanics to the squat.

    To do a leg press, you need a leg press machine.

    To do the leg press:

    • Load the machine with plates at the appropriate weight for the programmed rep scheme. We recommend starting with a moderate weight, as most will lift more weight on this variation compared to the barbell back squat.
    • Sit on the seat and put both feet up against the sled plate in a hip-width stance.
    • Using the handles, unrack the weight sled. Then, bring your legs down into your chest and stomach so that your thighs break parallel and are brought as close to your body as possible.
    • Once you achieve full depth in the exercise, press both feet through the footplate and lift the sled upward.
    • Don’t lose tension in your hips and core, and keep your hips and lower back on the seat.

    The hack squat is a machine-based variation of the standard squat exercise. Similar to the leg press and pendulum squat, your upper body transmits force from the legs through back- and shoulder-support pads. Most hack squats are at about a 45-degree angle. Although the exercise primarily targets the quads, it also works your adductors, calves, glutes, hamstrings, and trunk (core).

    Many trainees wonder why they should go with a machine-based squat like the hack squat or leg press as opposed to free-weight squat exercises. Research suggests that machine-based squat training produces similar improvements in strength and size, provided the test for strength is in the movement variation being trained. For high-velocity strength or power, free weights may perform better than machine-based training. [40]

    To do hack squats, you need a hack squat machine.

    In general, there are similarities between the two exercises, as both require you to place your back in a reclining position and isolate your leg muscles during the movement. That said, the hack squat does seem to load the core/trunk more than the leg press.

    To do the hack squat:

    • Load the machine with plates at the appropriate weight for the programmed rep scheme. We recommend starting relatively light, as most will lift less weight on this variation compared to the leg press barbell back squat.
    • Position yourself into the machine — place your feet shoulder-width apart and make sure your shoulders and back are against the pads.
    • Take a deep breath and hold it, stand up straight to unrack the weight. 
    • Release the safety handles, and start the movement by unlocking your hips and knees to initiate the descent. It may be helpful to feel like you’re pushing your hips back while pushing your knees forward and out.
    • Squat down below parallel, e.g. when the crease of your hip is below the top of the knee. Keep your feet flat on the floor throughout.
    • Drive up through the pads using your legs to return to the start position.

    The more similar the foot position is to the squat, the more quad-focused it will be. On most 45-degree leg presses and hack squats, the foot position is low on the plate, so that the knees travel forward over the toes at the bottom. A wider and higher foot placement tends to load the adductors and hamstrings more.

    4) Split Squat

    Split Squats

    Movement category: Tertiary

    Programming: 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions each side

    Weight: Use a weight that leaves you 2 to 3 reps short of failure, e.g. RPE 7 to 8.

    Split squats are a compound (multi-joint), unilateral (single-side) exercise for the lower body. They load pretty much all of the muscles of the lower body, e.g. quadriceps, glutes, adductors, calves, and hamstrings, but they also require your trunk (core) muscles to do some work to make sure you stay balanced. [9]

    You can think of the split squat as a stationary lunge with lead (front) and trail (rear) legs. As the stride length increases, there’s a tendency to bend over more at the hips and lean forward, potentially shifting some more of the focus to the glutes and hamstrings. [10] With a shorter stride length, the torso tends to be more vertical and the quadriceps are loaded a bit more. Again, it’s not clear that different styles lead to different outcomes in strength and size, but it’s reasonable to adopt a specific stance if trying to prioritize a specific training effect.

    For most, we recommend using a relatively modest stride length, where the torso is fairly vertical, the lead foot stays flat on the floor throughout the movement, and the lead knee moves forward over or possibly in front of the lead foot’s toes.

    You can use dumbbells if you want to add weights to the exercise.

    How to do a split squat:

    • Begin by standing up straight with feet hip-width apart. If you’re using dumbbells, let them hang straight down at your sides.
    • Take a step forward about your normal stride length as though doing a lunge. Your lead foot should be flat on the floor, whereas your trail foot should be on the toe/ball of the foot.
    • Ensure both feet remain positioned hip-width apart. This is your beginning position.
    • Initiate the movement downwards by pushing your front knee forward and lowering your trail knee downward. Try and keep your torso fairly upright.
    • Lower yourself gradually to the floor until your trail knee gently touches the floor.
    • Push straight up to the beginning position using both legs. That’s one rep.

    5) Step-ups


    Movement category: Tertiary

    Programming: 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions each side

    Weight: Use a weight that leaves you 2 to 3 reps short of failure, e.g. RPE 7 to 8.

    Step-ups are another compound, unilateral exercise that mainly works your quads, glutes, and hamstrings. Based on available research, step-ups seem to require a higher amount of glute activity compared to squats and deadlifts, as measured by surface EMG (electrical activity in the muscle). [12] As with all surface EMG studies, however, it’s not clear that higher levels necessarily produce greater gains in strength or size in the muscles being studied.

    Step-ups are a great unilateral option for training with free weights. We think most trainees should be doing some unilateral work for the lower and upper body, save for maybe those preparing for a powerlifting meet. Outside of that, step-ups are one of many available exercises one can use to train the muscles of the lower body

    To do step-ups, you can either use your body weight or opt for loading them with dumbbells, kettlebells, or barbells. We’ll focus on the dumbbell step. You also need a step, plyo box, or a weightlifting bench that’s just a little lower than knee height.

    How to do the step-up:

    • Grab the dumbbells and hold them down at your sides. Stand in front of your chosen raised surface (a step, a bench, or a box). Keep your eyes focused forward and have your knees slightly bent. This is your beginning position.
    • Lift your left knee and step on the surface with your left foot.
    • Once your foot is firm on the surface, lean forward slightly to load the majority of the weight on your lead foot.
    • Drive up with your lead foot to stand up tall on top of the raised surface, putting your right foot on the surface, too.
    • Stop for a moment, step back with your right leg, and go back to the beginning position.
    • Repeat the same movement, leading with your other leg.

    We suggest that you maintain a pretty vertical torso angle (relative to the floor) to target the quadriceps during this exercise. Leaning forward will shift the emphasis to the glutes and hamstrings. To remain vertical, we recommend that you use a box just under knee height and minimize push-off of the trail foot. When loading the movement with dumbbells or kettlebells, you may use straps to help with grip fatigue.

    6) Leg Extensions

    Leg Extensions

    Movement category: Tertiary

    Programming: 2 to 4 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.

    Weight: Use a weight that leaves you 0 to 2 reps short of failure, e.g. RPE 8 to 10.

    Leg extensions, also known as knee extensions, are an isolation (single joint) exercise in which you sit on a padded seat against a back support and lift a padded bar placed across your ankles to fully extend your knees. [16]  The leg extension primarily loads the quadriceps, albeit through a relatively short range of motion compared to the compound exercises discussed previously. While the reduced amount of range of motion about the knee might concern some looking for maximum hypertrophy gains, the leg extension seems to be relatively low fatigue, perhaps making it possible to train with higher volume and a closer proximity to failure.

    Leg extensions are also known as an open chain exercise, which means the distal part of the limb moves freely and the proximal part is fixed. In this case, the feet move the weight, whereas the hip and trunk are fixed in place.

    It has sometimes been said that open chain exercises for the lower body that involve the knee can cause pain due to greater “shear” forces on the joint. These claims stem mostly from mechanistic research on surgical anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) repair, suggesting open-chain exercises might harm the repaired ligament. Historical research notwithstanding, the current evidence does not suggest leg extensions “hurt the knees” or are otherwise harmful. If you have previous knee injuries, feel free to contact us to help you with your programming.

    To perform leg extensions, you’ll need a leg extension machine, which features a seat and a padded bar pressing against your legs. Variations may include ankle weights or a resistance band.

    How to perform the leg extension:

    • Set up the leg extension machine in a way where your knees are just at the end of the thigh pad, your back is against the back support pad, and the padded bar is at the level of your ankles. Your knees should be bent greater than ~ 90 degrees.
    • Pick your preferred weight. We recommend starting with a light weight to perform the entire range of motion in a smooth, controlled manner.
    • Put your hands on the hand bars at the side of the machine.
    • Extend your knees by trying to lift your shins and ankles up, towards the ceiling. Go to full extension and squeeze your quadriceps.
    • Lower the weight back to the beginning position.

    Maintain a controlled tempo up and down to target the quads.

    Benefits of Exercising Your Quads

    Muscle Hypertrophy

    All types of resistance training have the potential to boost muscle growth. That said, each person reacts differently to exercises, so each workout should be based on their individual training goals and needs.

    To understand the concept of muscle hypertrophy, we need to begin with the basics — that is, the definition. In most studies, muscle hypertrophy is defined as an increase in the total mass of a muscle, whereas a decrease in the total mass of a muscle is referred to as atrophy. [1] Each muscle is made up of thousands to hundreds of thousands (or more) of muscle fibers and, in general, it is thought that the number of skeletal muscle fibers in humans is more or less fixed by the first year of life.

    While there’s active debate around the idea that humans can increase the number of muscle fibers (hyperplasia), research suggests the overwhelming majority of increased muscle mass leads to an increase in muscle fiber size. [2,3]

    An increase in muscle fiber size occurs when muscle protein synthesis exceeds muscle protein breakdown for sustained periods. While this may sound like muscle damage is needed for muscle growth, hypertrophy seems to lag until muscle protein breakdown is minimized and muscle protein synthesis predominates. In other words, hypertrophy lags until the individual adapts to it. If the training dose is far too high, that may not happen at all. [4,5]

    Increase in Muscle Force (Strength)

    As mentioned above, strength is defined as the amount of force produced measured in a specific context. Training the quadriceps with exercises like the squat, split squat, step-up, and so on increase muscle strength in a manner that is relatively specific to the muscle lengths involved in the range of motion, movement velocity, contraction type, and so on. [11] The more similar two movements are, the more transference or carry-over there is likely to be. The more different two movements are, the less benefit we’d likely see from one to the other.

    Rehabilitation Purposes

    Open-chain kinetic exercises are frequently used in physical therapy clinics and athletic training facilities in the late rehabilitation stages after major reconstructive surgery of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and to tackle patellar malalignment, which might cause patellofemoral pain and dysfunction. [13] Numerous studies have illustrated the efficacy of using exercises like leg extensions in the rehabilitation process, such as ACL reconstruction. [14,15]

    Reduced Risk of Illnesses

    Regular training has been linked with reduced risk of many illnesses like type II diabetes, cancer, and heart-related issues. [20]

    Working out in a manner that boosts muscle size and strength also reduces resting blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, thus lowering the chances of developing cardiovascular diseases.

    Improved Mental Health

    Regular training has been shown to reduce one’s risk of developing the symptoms of some mental health conditions, like anxiety and depression. The effects seem to take place through a distinct, though as of yet unidentified, process regardless of whether the trainee gets stronger. [17,18]

    Additionally, it has been demonstrated that strength training enhances one’s quality of sleep, which is beneficial because adequate sleep is essential for maintaining mental well-being. [19]

    Improved Aesthetics

    Many people get into exercising simply because they like the way exercise changes or maintains the appearance of their bodies. If you’re one of those trainees, exercising your quads could make those muscles more defined and can significantly change the appearance of your lower body.

    Improved Physical Strength

    Most of the above-mentioned exercises lead to improvements in both muscle size and strength. Let’s explore the mechanics behind it.

    Theoretically speaking, more growth is expected to yield more strength. That said, in reality, things aren’t that straightforward. The force a muscle may generate depends on the number of cross bridges the myofibrils (the primary aspect of the muscle that grows with hypertrophy)  have. The more myofibrillar growth, the more cross bridges may be created. Research suggests that hypertrophied muscle fibers create more force compared to smaller ones. [21, 22, 23]

    Since muscular strength can only be evaluated in particular contexts, performance improvement requires the development of a certain skill set. Therefore, if muscle growth takes place from exercise that doesn’t improve skills of the exercise being used to test strength, strength might not correspond with size increases.

    Put simply, growth is linked to more strength, but in practice, there are other factors at play — for example, in certain situations, you can only achieve muscle strength by performing specific exercises — you may get stronger in one exercise, but this strength doesn’t necessarily translate into an increase in performance for other exercises.

    On the other hand, if strength is evaluated before hypertrophy has increased in a noticeable way, it might look as though strength increases without an actual growth in muscle size. Additionally, hypertrophy and strength don’t necessarily develop at the same rate, which may bring about different results.

    Finally, it could be that strength and size result from overlapping processes that stem from sufficient mechanical loading of the muscles. Using shared machinery to repair, remodel, and improve the muscle leads to simultaneous strength and size improvements, but the increase in size isn’t really the cause of the increased strength. [24]

    All things considered, we believe that muscle hypertrophy is probably a prerequisite for strength growth. Doing a hypertrophy-focused program that doesn’t develop or maintain the specific skills and adaptations required for maximum strength performance isn’t a great way to build strength, but in order to get stronger in the long term, most people will have to gain muscular mass.

    Improved Endurance

    Doing resistance training and conditioning as part of the same program is referred to as concurrent training. Many have claimed that mixing these two training options will likely lead to interference between them. In essence, this means that muscular hypertrophy and strength improvements are lowered when these two types of exercises are performed concurrently. [35]

    Thankfully, new research indicates that combining resistance and aerobic training does not negate gains in maximal strength development and muscle hypertrophy. Additionally, it appears that age, the kind of aerobic training, and current fitness level have little impact on these results. [36]

    It’s interesting to note that resistance training appears to enhance endurance performance. According to one study, after 7 weeks, endurance athletes who also engaged in resistance training and endurance exercise saw a 12.9% increase in VO2 max, compared to those who only engaged in endurance exercise, who saw a 6.8% increase. [37]

    Weight Management

    By reducing so-called belly fat, e.g. abdominal or visceral fat,  weight lifting has been shown to minimize waist circumference. [25] Exercising has also proven to boost people’s sensitivity to feelings of fullness when eating, thereby potentially assisting the weight loss/management process. [26]

    Resistance training is said to “raise” our daily energy expenditure through two distinct physiological mechanisms, which is often said to be a very effective weight management strategy.  One mechanism that you probably have heard of is that increased muscle mass burns calories. People with higher levels of muscle mass and those who gain muscle mass both tend to have higher resting metabolic rates, which is thought to increase overall daily energy consumption.

    Despite how often you hear this, in reality, increasing your muscle mass is probably not going to make a huge difference in total daily energy expenditure, thereby making it easier to gain weight.

    For one, it takes years to gain a lot of muscle mass. A kilogram of muscle ~ 13 Calories per day and gaining ten kilos usually takes years, all for just over 100 calories more per day. [32] That small bump seems unlikely to help much with weight management.

    Next, if a person loses weight, their daily energy expenditure will tend to go down in proportion to the amount of weight being lost. In addition, it’s unlikely that resistance training is going to add a metabolism-changing amount of muscle during periods of active weight loss anyway. People are far more likely to gain more muscle mass when in a calorie surplus than when they’re in a deficit.

    Overall, changes in metabolic rate due to increases in muscle mass probably have little to do with the reduced rate of weight regain and improved body composition seen in those lifting weights.

    Another mechanism frequently linked with improved weight management with resistance training relates to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or EPOC. The term is used to describe the increased oxygen consumption demanded by the rise in energy needs. Increased EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) from lifting programs is one mechanism frequently used to lower abdominal adipose tissue or belly fat. EPOC denotes the extra energy used after training to aid the recuperation processes, such as remodeling and muscle repair. [27] It has been hypothesized that rises in muscle protein synthesis ratios during the recovery phase after exercise indicate a notable increase in resting energy expenditure. [28]

    In general, when resistance training increases in volume, intensity, and amount of muscle mass employed, so does the energy expenditure during EPOC. In addition, EPOC is said to be higher in untrained than in trained individuals.

    The reason is that a lot of the high-cost metabolic processes are modified within trained people so they become more effective. [29,30] It’s unclear that EPOC significantly increases the amount of calories used in a day, that is, the total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). Existing research suggests the overall impact of EPOC on TDEE is rather small, if any. [31]

    On the whole, the mechanisms underlying weightlifting are significantly more intricate, involving modifications to the brain, endocrine system, muscles, and more. These changes typically lead to an improved body composition for folks who lift weights.

    Reduced Risk of Injuries

    Engaging in resistance training has been linked with injury prevention. [38] Sports injuries can also be avoided by building and strengthening your muscles. Strength training is essential for people who are at risk of osteoporosis, such as menopausal women, as it helps strengthen bones and encourages bone growth, which brings us to the next point. [39]

    Healthy Aging

    Exercising can support the aging process because it aids in the prevention of chronic illnesses. Aside from that, resistance training can help with osteoarthritis, one of the most prevalent debilitating illnesses associated with joint pain. In middle-aged and older people, it usually affects the hands, hips, and knees.

    Even in patients with advanced stages of this disease, strength training frequently results in clinically significant increases in muscle strength, functional capacity, and pain scores. [33] Furthermore, it appears that beginning to lift sooner not only lessens the strength loss brought on by osteoarthritis but also slows or even reverses the disease’s progression. [34]

    Common Questions

    Can you strengthen quads without squats?

    Yes, you can strengthen your quads without adding squats to your routine. Other exercises that can help you achieve the same result include the lunge, leg extension, leg press, and step-up.

    What exercise targets all quads?

    Exercises such as squats, leg presses, split squats, and lunges are said to target all quads as they entail knee extension and hip flexion.

    Final Thoughts

    To sum up, the best quad exercises for bigger and stronger thighs are:

    • Squats
    • Pendulum squats
    • Leg presses
    • Hack squats
    • Split squats
    • Step-ups
    • Leg extensions

    You’ll start seeing changes in your legs if you program them into your workout with the appropriate amount of sets and reps and if you perform the exercises correctly.

    That’s something that we here at Barbell Medicine can help you achieve. We encourage you to take a look at some of our pre-made training templates or get in touch with us if you want a custom-made training program.

    At Barbell Medicine, we’re committed to bringing the best of modern medicine, nutrition, and strength to our clients. We’re a team of trained medical professionals, performance coaches, registered dietitians, and physical therapists, always looking after our clients, but also keeping up with the latest developments in sports science.

    If this resonates, but you aren’t sure where to start, feel free to browse through the informational content on our blog


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    The Barbell Medicine Website Editorial Team consists of Fitness, Health, Nutrition, and Strength Training experts. Our Team is led by Jordan Feigenbaum, MD, an elite competitive powerlifter, health educator, and fitness & strength coach.

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