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Ranking of Quad Exercises from Best to Worst

by Gym Slacker
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Quad Exercises Ranked (BEST TO WORST!)

Building bigger quads and increasing strength

When it comes to building bigger quads and increasing strength, there are numerous quad exercises to choose from. But which ones should you be focusing your efforts on? Here, we have ranked the most popular quad exercises from worst to best, helping you determine which exercises to do and which ones to ditch.

Worst Quad Exercises

1. Sissy Squat: While the sissy squat can strengthen the tendons in your knees, it lacks the necessary overload to promote hypertrophy in your quads.
2. Smith Machine Squats: The fixed nature of the movement in this exercise limits your proper biomechanics. It’s better to avoid this version of the squat if possible.

Better Quad Exercises

3. Drop Squats: These are great for learning the proper mechanics of a squat, but they have limited ability to sufficiently load the exercise.
4. Goblet Squats: These are ideal for metabolic hypertrophy but are limited by available weight and thoracic mobility/strength.
5. Heavy Resistance Bike (Hill Riding): Cycler? Crank up the resistance and stay consistent with your efforts to see significant quad gains.
6. Leg Extensions: While leg extensions directly isolate the quads, they may worsen existing knee issues.

Better Still Quad Exercises

7. Leg Press (Feet Low): With the leg press, ensure you go through the full range of motion to maximize its benefits.
8. DB Step Ups: These are perfect for an eccentric focus on your quads, but they may challenge your balance and weight capacity.
9. Sled Push/Pull: If you have access to a sled and enough surface area, these exercises are excellent options for quad growth without emphasizing the eccentric.
10. DB Spanish Squats/TKE Split Squats: These exercises can replace leg extensions while engaging assistance muscles.

Almost Best Quad Exercises

11. Hack Squats: An improvement upon the Smith machine squat, hack squats allow for more natural body movement within a fixed path.
12. Bulgarian Split Squats: One of the favorites among quad exercises, Bulgarian split squats load one leg at a time and challenge muscle imbalances.
13. High Bar Back Squats: While high bar back squats are the king of all leg exercises and allow for significant overload, they may not provide optimal quad targeting.
14. DB/BB Reverse Lunge: The reverse lunge is great for overloading and is knee-friendly.

Best Quad Exercises

15. Front Squats: There’s no better quad exercise for building big quads than the front squat. It allows for overload and directly targets the quads.
16. Belt Squats: If you have access to them, don’t disregard belt squats. They belong in the best category alongside front squats.

In conclusion

For those looking to build bigger quads and increase strength, focusing on the best quad exercises is key. Remember to choose exercises that challenge your quads while considering your individual limitations and goals. Whether you opt for front squats, belt squats, or other exercises on the list, consistency and proper form will be crucial for results. So, get ready to ditch the worst, embrace the best, and unleash the potential of your quads!

For a complete step-by-step workout program backed by scientific research, head to athleanx.com and check out their workout programs designed to help you reach your goals. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to their YouTube channel for more informative videos on quad exercises and leg workouts!

Click here to subscribe to Athlean-X today!

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36 comments

ATHLEAN-X™ June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

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Amraj Gill June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

overall good video and I like the reasoning for each exercise, but you forgot some key exercises such as the plate loaded pendulum squat. Of course this machine isn't in many gyms but for the people that have do it is probably the king in ever aspect as it is safe, anyone can use it, you can get depth into the squats as it is a natural movement for your body and lastly it targets mostly your quads and barely incorporates stabilizing muscles
Forgot to mention that I consider it a 9/10 exercise as anyone with knee problems will find it next to impossible to do even a partial rep (I know I called it the king and I meant it for the people that can obviously be able to perform the exercise)

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Abraham Hands June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

What about Sissy Squats on a Sissy Squat machine, are those better?

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Unspeakable Horror June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

After weight train I usually finish my quads by flying lunge. They hit really good also to butt and inner quad muscles. Explosive jump with one foot till fatigue

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dee Haw June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

Hey Jeff, i spin and mountain bike quite a bit. im 60 but I think my lateral calateral ligament is going south on me. Anything or where should I be focusing my quad workouts? It really seems to be becoming an issue of late. Not sure what is going on in my aging… pretty decent on diet, excercise 5 days a week, but my knees are starting to become a issue…?

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Giuseppe Burini June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

Great breakdown of options, thank you! The pendulum squat is number one and second, the hack squat in my opinion…

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Ben Dover June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

I VEHEMENTLY disagree with Sissy squats being no good.. I build GREAT muscle with them on my quads… You just need to be creative Jeff… Use steps/ a box or platform to get deeper angles… flatten your back out like your doing limbo bar and get as low as you can go… This is also a killer ab workout!!! Jeff!!! Please don't do the sissy squats like this!

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Michael Lane June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

Wish I had a belt squat machine. Also, I choke myself out when doing front squat.

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n7 pako June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

Oh yeah sissy squats are the worst

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qewr4231 June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

I love hack squats. Hack squats allow me to get lower than regular barbell squats. I don't care for smith machine squats. Barbell squats are still important.

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Wade Wilson June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

Jeff, you're a mf fitness icon in my mind!! Right up there with Sly, Arnold, Bruce Lee, Michael Jai, and all my favorite childhood wrestling heroes. Thank you so much for the knowledge. A journey that started for me with a Christmas present of weights and a library book on fitness. I've come a long way, and you've been a strong reliable resource. Thank you sir.

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Benito Kamela June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

I got shoulder problems so the belt squat is a good transition since I didn't wanna
Quit s
Quats altogether

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Dean Henry June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

Great video Jeff, could you do a video of the belt squat with resistance bands?

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byron2521 June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

I used to watch your videos all the time. However, I cannot workout like I used to because I developed MS. I'm watching this to see what I can do for quads. I have been using the Smith machine. I know it is NOT ideal, but I don't have the balance with MS to do squats anymore. I can't do anything that requires freestanding balance (like any of the dumbbell exercises). So, as far as I know it is Smith machine that stabilizes me or nothing. However, I can do Leg Press. I'll look for your videos to see if you think Smith machine is O.k. for things like dead or partial dead, and military press. I may be able to give it up in favor of Leg Press. My gym doesn't have a Hack Squat machine.

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Daniel Paquet June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

Those shorts gotta go….not a pretty sight. 🤮

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Gabriela Iveth June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

One of the most expected videos!!!!!. 🥰

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Beautiful Brown Sugar Walls June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

1:14😂😂

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Dani Pernia June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

What about pistol squats?

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Sebastian Pereira June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

Where would the pistol squats be located? greetings from uruguay excellent channel

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Eric June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

Why not bringing a woman like the Black Widow (from Size) instead of a weird guy wearing a little girl's shorts with a childish tattoo?

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j0elsuf June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

I am SO glad that Jeff put front squats where he did.

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sothembela Mkumatela June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

I don't agree with you ranking step ups higher than leg press👎🏽

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Sean Sturrock June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

Smith machine is probably the best exercise from a bb stance. You can mechanically load the quads or the glutes by changing your stance. If it’s good enough for mr O it’s good enough for me 🤘🏻

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L Sisak June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

As always Jeff takes the mystery out of seeing those gains. Love this man. He got me from fat to fit to the point where people accuse me of being on steroids, but I'm all natural. I just follow Jeff's advise.

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Soto Soto June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

What is the best 3 lower back safe exercise for legs u can do with barbell or dumbbells?

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NICOLAS DIAZ SUAREZ June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

im sorry Jeff, but not even you can make me change my weekly 5 plate leg press for a squat (my shouldres always hurt after them)

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Sandy Region June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

Thanks for this.

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Mike More June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

10:45 we believed you. Having a band pulling my legs forward while squatting looks horrid.

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Randy Hogan June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

At the age of 38, after 14 years of powerlifting, I blew the l-4 l-5, l-5 s-1 discs in my back doing front squats to build my quads. Only had 205 on the bar. Prior to doing this I use to be able to do stiff leg dead lifts standing on a bench to get a full stretch with 275 on the bar. I was wearing a powerlifting belt doing the front squats and blew the discs below the belt. Maybe the belt contributed to it, I don't know. That ended squats for me. At age 62 still working out.

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schelain franklin June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

Thank you Jeff. I always do the front squats as it's one of my all time favorite leg exercises.

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German Rud June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

I don't think front squat is better than high bar, below parallel squat for quads. The tradeoff for increased exertion in the upperbody to maintain the front rack hold is simply not worth it.

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MOHAMMED ES-SABBANE June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm Reply
Alex June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

Need one for calves. Please

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GuardianDT June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

How about the Zercher Squat?

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MantisMan June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

no love for jefferson squats?

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beertricks June 16, 2023 - 9:13 pm

athlean-x says sissy squats are the worst quad exercise, mind pump says they're one of the best…confusion

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