The quadriceps femoris muscles, better known as the quads, are the large muscles that cover each one of your thighs. These muscles are extremely important to the mobility and usefulness of your legs, but they can sometimes be overlooked simply because people aren't doing the right leg exercises, or may not be doing enough leg exercises. This guide will give you information about the quads as well as some great exercises to target these thigh muscles.
Although the quads are usually referred to as one muscle in each leg, each one is actually made up of four different muscles. They are the:
The primary purpose of the quads is knee extension, or in other words, straightening your leg back out after you've bent your knee. The rectus femoris also connects to your hip joint and assists you with standing up straight after you've bent over.
These muscles also keep your kneecap in place. The quads are some of the most used muscles in your body. Having strong quads greatly contributes to overall body strength because they are the starting point of almost every lower body exercise.
Without your quads, your mobility would be severely affected. These muscles are strong and rightfully so--they need to generate a lot of force to keep you in motion. Unfortunately, this can be a reason for common injuries. For example, if your quads tear just below your knee, this can result in a dislocated knee cap.
While many injuries occur as a result of an accident, many of them can be avoided by keeping your quads strong. Below are a few great quad exercises to strengthen your quads.
Squats are one of the most popular exercises that people do because they can give you a total body workout. Begin a squat by standing with your feet shoulder width apart. Keep your head up by continuously focusing on one spot on the wall.
Bend your knees and lower yourself in a controlled manner as if you were about to sit in a chair. Stretch your arms out in front of you as you go down (unless you are holding weights, such as a barbell or dumbbells) and make sure your body weight is on your heels, not the balls of your feet. Squat down until your hips are slightly lower than your knees. Then push yourself back up with your leg muscles.
Here's a great video from Bowflex which shows you some good examples of using the proper form for squats:
This is a great exercise that will help you build really large, strong quads. As you sit on the leg press bench, your back and head should be flush with the seat. Place both feet flat on the press. Your knees should not be higher than your toes.
You ideally want your legs to be at a 90 degree angle. Hold on to the handle on each side of the seat and push through the heels of your feet not the balls of your feet. Stretch your legs out, but don't stretch until you lock your knees. You should have just the slightest curve in your legs at your furthest point. Bring your legs back to the original position in a controlled manner.
Of course, you're going to need some equipment to do this exercise properly, so you may want to think about a home gym if this is an exercise you definitely want to do. Scott Herman has a great video demonstrating the proper technique for this exercise:
Leg extensions are another great exercise to build large, toned quads. Sit in the chair and make sure your knees are flush with the edge of the chair and you back is flush with the back of the chair. If not, adjust the chair. Keep your head straight and hold the handles on the side of the chair.
The foot pad should rest right on the top of your foot. If it doesn't adjust it until it does. Extend your legs all the way out until they are straight. You don't have to lock your knees--stop extending right before they lock. Then bring them back down in a controlled manner.
To start the lunge off properly, begin with one foot in front of the other. Your stance should be wide, but you should still be balanced. Lower your body straight down by bending the knee in the back until your leg in the front is bent at a 90 degree angle. Your front knee should not go past your toes and your back knee should not touch the ground.
Your weight should be centered on the heel of your front foot. Stand back up. Your hands can either stay by your side, or you can swing them up as you go down. You can also add movement to your lunges by stepping back when you come back up. You can also start your lung with both feet together and step backward when you go down.
The folks at BuzzFeed show just how effective lunges can do after they did 100 of them everyday for 30 days:
You really need strong quads for most of your everyday activities like walking, running, stooping, bending over, and more. The exercises we've listed above are all fairly simple to perform but provide amazing results. Try incorporating a few of them into your exercise routine. Your quads will thank you for it.
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