Training your quadriceps, commonly known as quads, is essential for achieving a balanced and strong lower body. These powerful muscles, located on the front of your thighs, play a crucial role in various daily movements as well as athletic activities. Specific exercises help target outer quads, inner quads and front quads.
Incorporating effective quad-focused exercises into your fitness routine can lead to improved strength, stability, and overall functional performance. Exercises like squats, lunges, leg presses, and step-ups engage the quads along with other lower body muscles. These exercises help muscle development and enhance your physique.
Progressive overload and proper form are key principles to keep in mind while training your quads, allowing you to challenge your muscles and stimulate growth over time. Whether you’re aiming to enhance athletic performance or simply want to cultivate well-rounded lower body strength, dedicated quad training can help you reach your fitness goals and enjoy a more dynamic and capable body.
Understanding the Quad Anatomy
The quadriceps, often referred to as the “quads,” are a group of four distinct muscles located at the front of the thigh. These muscles collectively play a vital role in various leg movements. In addition, they provide essential support during activities such as walking, running, jumping, and squatting. Here’s a breakdown of the anatomy of the quads:
- Rectus Femoris: This is the largest and most superficial muscle of the quadriceps group. It runs down the center of the thigh and originates at the anterior inferior iliac spine (a point on the hip bone) and the acetabulum (the socket of the hip joint).
- Vastus Lateralis (The outer quad): Positioned on the outer side of the thigh, the vastus lateralis originates along the femur’s shaft, extending from just above the greater trochanter (a bony prominence on the thigh bone) down to the knee joint. It primarily contributes to knee extension and adds volume to the lateral aspect of the thigh. Specific exercises to to target outer quads.
- Vastus Medialis: This muscle lies on the inner side of the thigh and originates along the femur’s shaft, from just above the greater trochanter to the knee joint. It’s particularly important for knee stability and plays a role in tracking the patella (kneecap) during leg movements.
- Vastus Intermedius: Situated beneath the rectus femoris, the vastus intermedius originates on the anterior and lateral surfaces of the femur’s shaft. It runs down to blend with the other quadriceps muscles to form the quadriceps tendon. Like the other quadriceps muscles, it contributes to knee extension.
Now, How Do We Target Outer Quads?
To target outer quads, specifically known as the Vastus Lateralis, you must carry out a specific number of lower body exercises. Remember, the outer quads can not be isolated but they can be targeted and emphasised through specific movements.
There are a number of different exercises you can do to target the outer quads. Below I will discuss these 5 effective exercises to help you grow your Vastus Lateralis: Front Squat, Leg Extensions, Leg Press, Hack Squat, Split Squat.
1. Barbell Front Squat
The barbell front squat is a compound lower body exercise that targets your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and core muscles. It also places less stress on your lower back compared to the traditional back squat. Here’s how to perform the barbell front squat correctly:
- Setup: Load the barbell with your desired weight. Stand facing the bar, grip it slightly wider than shoulder-width with elbows raised.
- Positioning: Create a shelf by bringing your elbows forward and up. Lift your chest, engage your core, and stand upright.
- Unrack: Lift the barbell off the rack and step back.
- Squat: Keep feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly outward. Push hips back and bend knees, lowering into a squat. To raise back up Push through midfoot and heels to stand up
2. Leg Extensions (feet pointed inwards)
Performing leg extensions with your feet facing inwards can help target the outer quads (vastus lateralis) to a greater extent. This variation places emphasis on a specific part of your quadriceps muscles. Here’s how to do leg extensions with inward-facing feet:
- Setup: a. Adjust the leg extension machine for your height. Sit with back against the machine’s backrest, knees aligned with the axis.
- Foot Positioning: Place feet on the machine with toes facing inward at a slight angle.
- Execution: Grasp handles for stability. Extend legs by pushing through outer part of feet. Emphasize pushing knees outward at the top for outer quad engagement.
- Peak Contraction: Squeeze quads at fully extended position, holding briefly.
- Lowering Phase: Lower weight slowly by bending knees, maintaining control.
3. Leg Press (Close stance)
Performing a leg press with a close stance can help target the outer quads (vastus lateralis) to a greater extent. This variation emphasizes the outer part of your quadriceps muscles. Here’s how to do a leg press with a close stance to target the outer quads:
- Setup: Adjust the leg press machine for your body. Sit with back against the machine’s backrest, feet on the footplate.
- Foot Positioning: Place feet lower on the foot pad, and with a close stance.
- Execution: Push feet to extend legs. Contract outer quads at the top of the movement.
- Lowering Phase: Bend knees to lower weight, controlling the descent.
4. Hack Squat Machine
Performing the hack squat machine exercise with proper form and foot positioning can effectively target outer quads (vastus lateralis). Here’s a step by step on how to do hack squats to focus on the outer quads:
- Setup: Adjust the machine for your body. Stand inside, back against the backrest, under shoulder pads.
- Foot Positioning: Place feet lower on the platform, and bring feet at a closer stance
- Execution: Unlock safety handles, release weight. Bend knees and hips to lower, keeping back on backrest. Extend legs, emphasizing outer part of feet for outer quads.
- Lowering Phase: Bend knees to lower weight, control the descent.
5. Bulgarian Split Squat
Performing Bulgarian split squats with the right form and adjustments can effectively target the outer quads (vastus lateralis). This variation emphasizes the outer part of your quadriceps muscles. Here’s a step by step on how to do Bulgarian split squats to focus on the outer quads:
- Setup: Stand facing away from a bench. Place one foot in front and the other on the bench behind you.
- Foot Positioning: Front foot forward, toes facing forward. Back foot on bench, laces down, toes pointing down.
- Execution: Lower into a lunge by bending your front knee. Push through front heel as you rise, engaging outer quads.
- Lowering Phase: Bend front knee, lower into lunge position.
These 5 exercises are great to help you target outer quads! Stick to this workout plan or a similar one for a specific number of weeks combined with the right nutrition and observe your outer quad growth. Let me know below how it works for you!