Well-defined quads can be one of the most rewarding things for the ultimate gym-goers. This is not an easy feat and requires an incredible amount of consistency, hard work and strategy.
Getting that quad separation, or the cut lines on your thighs showing each individual section of the muscles, begins with the right exercises and proper movements.
In this article, we will show you tips on how to get defined quads. We will also discuss the exercises you can do to achieve quads that you can confidently show off, and how to do them with proper form.
How to Get Defined Quads
1. Activate the right muscles by understanding the anatomy of the quads.
Before doing any training or exercise, it is important to establish a good mind-muscle connection by getting a good understanding of the muscle group that you want to build and strengthen. This will allow you to activate the correct muscles and see actual results.
The quad muscle group consists of four muscles that work together in helping you extend your knees and flex your hips easier.
- Vastus lateralis - the largest muscle in the quads, beginning at the outer side of the knee and running alongside the outer part of the thigh to the hip.
- Vastus medialis - is the innermost part of the quad muscle group running from the inner side of the knees to the inner part of the thighs.
- Rectus Femoris - the center and front section of the quad muscles and is easily targeted by all quad-focused exercises.
- Vastus intermedius - between the vastus lateralis and vastus medialis and is mostly covered by the rectus femoris.
2. Do the right quad-focused exercises.
While isolation exercises are generally fantastic additions to any workout or training programs, compound quad-focused exercises are the better choice for getting chiseled quads.
A good recipe for achieving that defined quad you're aiming for is to perform a heavy dose of compound exercises, like squats and lunges, and take the remaining time to do a side of isolation exercises such as leg extensions.
Compound exercises allow you to move heavier load in a much shorter period of time, which results in faster strength and muscle gains in your quads. Since these movements work several muscle groups simultaneously, they tend to be more efficient and functional.
3. Try to train your quads with 10 to 20 sets every week.
This is one of the best practices for developing not just the quads but any major muscle group in the body. Depending on your fitness level, you should try to aim for 10 to 20 sets per week, spread across 2-6 training sessions to achieve maximum muscle growth and definition.
4. Aim to add weight or reps to every exercise in every workout.
Progressive overload is a key factor to maximize the muscle-building effects of any training program. It means that the more you train, the better the results. If you stop getting stronger, your quads will also stop growing. This is because as your body adapts to training stimuli, it will require more of something to keep growing.
In order to achieve this, you must increase the intensity of your workouts over time. This can be done by increasing the weight you use, the frequency with which you perform each rep, or both. This could even be the amount of rest between sets, and all of these will help you grow.
However, keep in mind that adding too much weight before you are ready is one of the most common ways one gets injured. If you are just starting out, it is best to start with lighter weights and fewer reps, then gradually increase as you become stronger.
The Best Exercises to Get Defined Quads
An old favorite but is still one of the most effective exercises for quad growth. The position this exercise requires allows you to put much more focus on the quads than other exercises.
To do a front squat, walk yourself under the bar such that it rests on your collarbone while standing in front of the barbell. Put your thumbs under the bar while bending your elbows forward. Take the weight of the bar by easing up and pushing up with your legs. Back away from the rack far enough.
Then, unhinge your hips, bend your knees, and lower yourself toward the floor until your knees are about 90 degrees bent. Drive up till you are standing up with both legs and repeat.
Dumbbell Walking Lunges
Walking lunges are an exercise that many people use to target their quads. Not only do they help tone the quad muscles, but they also work the glutes and hamstrings.
To do this exercise, hold your arms by your side, a dumbbell of the same weight in each hand.
Step forward with one foot as far as you can without falling. Bend at your knees and lower your body towards the ground. Keep your back straight and your chest facing forwards. Try to distribute most of your weight onto the heel of your front foot and keep your knees behind or in line with your toes.
Push upwards and lunge forwards with your other leg. Start with lighter weights and gradually increase them as you become more confident with the motion.
Bulgarian Split Squats
Bulgarian split squats are an easy but effective exercise to add to your routine. All you need are an elevated platform, like a bench, and a dumbbell of the appropriate weight.
To do Bulgarian squats, position yourself in a forward lunge. Keep your torso upright, your core braced, and your hips square with your body. Elevate your back foot on the platform, keeping your front leg about half a meter in front of said platform.
Position your foot close to the elevated surface to ensure that your quads will be the muscle groups worked on instead of your glutes.
Lower yourself until the thigh of your front leg is nearly horizontal, keeping your foot in line with your knee. Then rise up through your front heel until you’ve returned to the starting position. Repeat.
The hack squat is a gym machine for squats that has been gaining popularity in the fitness community recently. This machine-based compound movement helps improve your quadriceps strength and function while also increasing flexibility in these muscles.
To do a hack squat, step into the machine's footprint. Lean back and press the shoulder pads with your shoulders and position your feet into a regular squat stance (feet outside the knees). When you feel ready and confident, stand up and then disengage the stoppers. Bend your knees and descend slowly.
Once you reach parallel or a little below this mark, stop. Now, push the platform by your feet away to stand up, then re-engage the machine’s stoppers when you finish your set.
Be patient with this exercise - it will take time, but the results are definitely worth it.
The leg press is one of the exercises people rely on to develop muscle strength and mass in the legs, mainly the quads. Correct form and position are keys to getting the best results with this exercise.
To do this, simply sit on the machine with both your back and head resting against the padded support, and your feet positioned roughly hip-width apart on the footplate.
Your bottom should be placed flat against the seat, with your legs at an angle of 90 degrees at the knees. If your feet are positioned too high on the plate, it’ll place too much stress on your glutes, whereas if your feet are too low, it’ll put an unnecessary amount of pressure on your knees.
As you press, make sure to keep this alignment for the perfect form. Take a firm grip on the handles for support and keep both your spine and head in position.
As simple as they may look, bodyweight squats are a great exercise for strengthening and developing multiple muscle groups, including the quads. Since they do not require any equipment or additional weights, they can be done anywhere at any time of day.
Simply stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and your toes turned slightly outward. Brace your abdominal muscles to activate the core.
Inhale and begin by hunching your hips and bending your knees to squat until your thighs are parallel or almost parallel to the floor or your body begins to curve or flex forward. In the lowest position, the torso and shin bone should be parallel to each other.
Exhale and force your mid-foot into the ground to straighten your legs and rise up, with your hips and body rising at the same time.
Sissy squats are another great exercise to get defined quads. They are a quad-killer move that involves leaning back on tiptoes and shifting your body weight onto your quads.
To do a sissy squat, bend your knees while leaning back, balancing all your weight on tiptoes. It’s another balance-intensive exercise, so make sure to keep your arms extended in front of your body to stay stabilized.
Go as low as you can and hold the position for as long as possible, before activating all your quad power to return back up.
If it is your first time, perform an assisted sissy squat by holding on to a table or chair to maintain balance. The exercise also becomes more doable by reducing the range of motion.
Achieving muscular quads can feel as good as it looks, but it is not easy and definitely takes a lot of work and patience. By consistently following these tips on how to get defined quads and performing the correct exercises, you will surely get optimal muscle growth and development. So, take your time and enjoy the journey.