The Rectus Femoris, which is located in the middle of the thigh, and is the only quad muscle involved in hip flexion.
The Vastus Medialis, or teardrop muscle, which is located on the inside of the leg by the knee.
The Vastus Lateralis, located on the outside part of the upper leg.
The Vastus Intermedius, which is located between the vastus lateralis and vastus medialis on the front of the upper leg.
A lot of guys think that if they do a little bit of running, or some bike, there is no need to do legs. There is nothing that could be further away from the truth. From a symmetry standpoint a big upper body with no legs just does not look right; and if you ever plan on doing bodybuilding competitions, forget it! Even if competing is not on your mind, a big upper body supported by pencil looking legs is not very aesthetically pleasing.
From a growth standpoint, the free bar squats provide the most stimuli not only to the legs but the upper body as well since all muscles need to be activated in order to perform the lift. Even the upper body muscles need to perform a hard static contraction just to keep the bar on the back. The stress created by the free bar squat is so great on the system that one gets the most hormonal stimulation from it. So it could be argued that a hard quad training session that includes squats can help to accelerate your bodybuilding gains in all parts of your body.
How To Achieve Great Looking Quads
In order for your quads to look awesome, you need to train all four heads. This is accomplished by using a variety of the right exercises and by understanding how foot placing contributes to the stimulus of each individual head. The following discussion talks about the different foot stances and their role in quadriceps development.
Foot Stances and Quadriceps Development
There are three main stances that we need to be concerned with when performing multi jointed exercises for the quads:
- Shoulder Width Stance with toes pointed slightly out: This stance works best for stimulating overall thigh development.
- Close Stance with toes pointed straight ahead: This stance works best for stimulating growth of the outer quad, better known as the vastus lateralis. Note: Next time you watch the Olympics check out the vastus lateralis development of speed skaters; due to the nature of their sport, they have these muscles well developed.
- Wide Stance with toes pointed out at least 45 degrees out: This stance targets both the vastus medialis (which is the inside head of the quadriceps near the knee) and the inner thigh or adductor muscles.
It is important to mention also that every time a quadriceps exercise is performed, it is imperative to push with the toes mainly as that will emphasize quadriceps recruitment.
For leg extension type movements there are also three foot positions that can be used:
- Toes Straight: Good for overall development.
- Toes In: Good for maximizing outer quad (vastus lateralis) stimulation.
- Toes Out: Good for maximizing inner quad (vastus medialis) stimulation.
Good Quad Exercises
Like any other list of bodybuilding exercises, quadriceps exercises are divided in compound, multi-jointed movements and isolation movements. The compound movements will activate all heads of the muscle emphasizing a particular head depending on the foot stance. As I mention in my article Choosing The Right Exercises for Maximum Results, compound movements performed with the free barbell (squats) will give you the most stimulation than compound movements performed on a machine (like the smith machine squats or leg press). Isolation movements like the leg extensions then come in 3rd place in regards to stimulation.
Compound Basic Free Weight Quadriceps Exercises
Compound Basic Machine Quadriceps Exercises
- Leg Press
- Hack Squats
- Smith Machine Squats
- Front Squat Machine
- Leg Extensions
- Sissy Squats *
- Inner Thigh Machine
- Outer Thigh Machine
(Note: though Sissy Squats are considered an isolation movement as only one joint is involved, it provides as much stimulation as the compound basic machine quadriceps exercises since you have to move your body through space as you perform the movement).
Now that we have presented several exercises for the quadriceps, let’s take a look at some effective bodybuilding quadriceps routines.