Do not neglect your knees if you want to achieve better health and fitness. The quadriceps are an important group of muscles around your knee that are vital to movement. Strengthening your quads with a healthy regimen of exercise and nutrition, including getting enough protein from energy bars and snacks, can help you improve athletic performance, and avoid knee injury and pain.
What Are Quads, Anyway?
Your quadriceps, or quads, are a group of muscles located on the front of your thighs. The quads consist of the vastus intermedius, vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, and rectus femoris muscles. Pretty much any motion you do with your legs involves the quads, as they work to bend and straighten the knee. Maintaining strong quads can help prevent knee pain and injury, particularly among women. Strong quads can help stave off knee osteoarthritis and reduce pain associated with the condition for those that already have it. Women with strong quads are less likely to develop knee osteoarthritis. Men can also benefit from strong quads, but the benefits are more pronounced among women. Strengthening quads is particularly important to athletes who put a lot of wear and tear on these muscles. By strengthening the quadriceps, athletes not only reduce the risk of injuries to those muscles, they also reduce the risk of injury to other muscles, such as the hamstrings.
Four Quad Strengthening Exercises
For athletes and fitness enthusiasts trying to build bigger quads, the following exercises can put you on the right track:
- Squats – No other exercise is as effective as squats in building up thigh muscles. Although you can't isolate your quads when doing squats, the exercise does greatly benefit a large area of your legs, including your quads. Squatting on a heel board can increase the workload for your quads somewhat, so it's worth trying. Be sure not to overdo it, however.
- Dumbbell and Barbell Lunges – Dumbbell and barbell lunges are highly effective exercises for building the quads. These lunges increase strength and muscle size, and can also help improve your balance. For newbies, dumbbell lunges are a good starting point. You can eventually work your way up to the more demanding barbell lunges.
- Leg Presses – This form of exercise is highly effective for building strength. It requires less technical skill than a squat, making it great for people new to exercise. Also, leg press machines help stabilize muscles, allowing you to work with heavier weights.
- Step-ups – Steps ups allow you to build muscle stability and strength. Steps ups are unilateral movements that require you to develop balance. They strengthen each leg individually and are a good departure from the squat. Placing a barbell loaded with weight on your back or holding barbells while doing step-ups will increase their efficacy.