The muscles on the front of your leg, your quadriceps, are long and powerful. They help you in movements like the squat and lunge. Sometimes they can weaken and get tight from underuse, injuries or surgery. Get them back in shape with knee-dominant exercises that target the quad.
Choose the Right Exercises
There are four quadricep muscles total and they all attach to the knee. They help straighten out your knee or extend it. Knee-dominant exercises require you to notably bend your knee so most of the power comes from your quads. That means the quads power movements like the squat or lunge.
When your quad muscles get really weak or tight, add exercises to your workout that specifically target them to grow stronger and more flexible. If you never challenge them, they'll never recover or get stronger.
To fix tightness, you'll do exercises that require a big range of motion at the knee. Not only will you be stretching your quad muscles, you'll be strengthening them. The best exercises to lengthen your quads are single-leg exercises because they require a lot of range of motion at the knee.
Double-leg exercises, like the squat, also help you get stronger quads. You can lift more weight in these exercises, which stimulates your quad to grow bigger and get stronger. Combine single-leg and double-leg quad exercises to lengthen and strengthen this big group of muscles.
Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat
Stand with your back to a bench or chair. Put your left foot on the top and step forward with your right. Drop your left knee down towards the floor and bend at your right knee until your left knee is almost touching the ground. You'll feel a stretch in your quads at the bottom of the movement. Stand back up to complete the rep. Do the same number of reps on each leg.
This is one of the best machine exercises to isolate your quad muscles. Sit on the leg extension machine with your shins behind the pads and knees bent as much as possible. Extend both legs until your knees are straight, then slowly lower them back to the start position.
Practice bodyweight squats to improve the strength of your quads while using two legs at the same time. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and squat down as low as you can. Once you're as low as you feel comfortable going, stand back up to complete the rep.
Put a pad or soft surface on the floor. Step over the pad with your front foot and plant it. Keep your back foot behind the pad with your toes dug into the ground. Drop your back knee down to the pad slowly. Lightly tap the pad and then come back up to the top. Complete 10 reps on one leg and then switch legs.
Find a clear space of wall to sit against. Put your back to the wall and lean against it. Slide down and walk your feet out until your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Hold this position for as long as possible. Try to keep your toes in the air and heels on the ground. When you can't hold it anymore, stand back up.
Find a flat surface, like a box, bench or chair, that's at least knee-high. Put one foot up onto the surface near the edge. Lean forward and drive up using the muscles of this lead leg. Step all the way up and tap the surface with your other foot before you come back down to the ground on that foot. Keep the foot on the elevated surface there until you've done 10 reps, then switch feet and repeat on the other side.
- Journal of Morphological Sciences: Reviewing morphology of Quadriceps femoris muscle
- American Kinesiology: Changes in Muscle Activation During Wall Slides and Squat-Machine Exercise
- Robertson Training Systems: The Case for Big Quads
- Strength and Conditioning Research: Can you "just squat" for maximal leg development?