Your quadriceps are one of the most powerful muscles in your lower body that extend your knee to perform various movements, such as accelerating during a sprint or kicking a soccer ball. You don't need bulky, gym machines or heavy weights to train your quads. With just your body weight and a few portable, low-tech pieces of equipment at home, you can create your own workout based on your goals and fitness level.
Your quadriceps rarely work in isolation in daily activities and sports. Therefore, you should perform full-body exercises that work your quads with other muscles, such as your hips, hamstrings and abs. With your body weight, you can perform three basic lower-body exercises that work on basic movement patterns common in most court and field sports, suggests physical therapist Gray Cook. These are the squat, lunge and stepup. For the squat, stand with your feet about hip-distance apart with your arms relaxed by your sides. Inhale as you squat down until your thighs are slightly below your knees' height, and exhale as you stand straight up.
To do a basic lunge, stand with your feet together and step forward with one leg. Inhale as you bend both legs to lower your body. Exhale as you step back to the standing position. Repeat for the other leg.
Use a sturdy platform with a height between 1.5 to 3 feet for the stepup. Step on top of it with one leg, and extend the opposite slightly behind you when you're on top.
Get Powerful Quads
Power training helps you produce more force in your legs and hips to help you perform better in sports that require quick reflexes and power, such as volleyball and football. With a plyometric box or a similar platform and ample space in your backyard or living room, you can perform various power exercises, such as box jumps, box jump marches, power lunges and lateral hops. It doesn't really matter which exercises you pick to work your quads. In a study performed at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, researchers found that the quadriceps are constantly recruited in all power exercises with the exception of the depth jump, which elicited the lowest power output. In a sample box jump, jump on top of the platform with both feet and immediately hop back down to the floor behind you. Repeat the movement as quickly as you can.
Dynamic stretching involves repetitively moving your quadriceps and nearby muscles and joints over their normal ranges of motion. This method of stretching helps you prepare for the upcoming activity or sport. In fact, dynamic stretching can improve strength and performance better than traditional static stretching, which involves holding a steady stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. A study performed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill showed that dynamic stretching for the quads and hamstrings improved the subjects' vertical jump test while static stretching yielded no change or improvement in the test. A typical dynamic stretch for your quads includes the running butt kick in which you run in place while kicking your heels toward your butt. In the leg swing, bend the swinging leg as you swing it back and extend it as you kick in front of you.
Stretch to Relax
Static stretching may not help you improve strength and power much, but it can help you relax and alleviate tension in your quads. A simple standing quadriceps stretch involves grabbing and holding one ankle behind you with one hand. If you are a yoga enthusiast, the Bow Pose, the Fixed Firm Pose and Camel Pose will stretch your quads along with other muscles, such as your abs and shoulders. Always breathe deeply into your belly as you stretch. Never hold your breath or force your muscles to stretch just to gain an extra inch of movement.
- Fitness-Science.org: Isolation Versus Compound Exercises: Benefits and Drawbacks
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: A Dynamic Warm-Up Model Increases Quadriceps Strength and Hamstring Flexibility
- Athletic Body in Balance; Gray Cook
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Evaluation of Plyometric Intensity Using Electromyography
- NSCA’s Performance Training Journal: Introduction to Plyometrics