CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dear Cindy,
What do you think the best exercises are for great quads? I am at a standstill with my results. I train hard but am bored out of my skull with squats. I know you say to mix it up, so can you suggest some alternative exercises to add some mass to my legs? -- Ron
While squats are one of the best leg and glute exercises out there and a personal favorite, I agree you need to ramp it up and add some variety to see results. We all inevitably plateau if our training isn't changing. Our muscles are masters of adaptation. Try something new, the difficulty goes up. But eventually your muscles get a little stronger and smarter (which is great), but the exercise no longer works the magic it once did. Because your muscles have figured out the most efficient way to do the same old exercise, it's time to throw something new at them and watch them squirm.
Whether you want to add mass or just sculpt a great set of legs, the idea is to always challenge the muscle. You want to add mass, which requires hypertrophy of the muscle. Hypertrophy is described as an increase in size of a muscle due to the enlargement of the cells as a response to strength training.
A quick opinion survey of great trainers like Charles Poliquin, Christian Thibaudeau, Mike Robertson and Ian King will tell you that adding mass to your legs is no picnic, so prepare to push through the uncomfortable work. Collectively they have coached Olympic medalists and world-record holders. So, if you are sick of squats and ready to add on some muscle building moves, here are some of their favorites.
The exercises I have outlined here are for not for beginners. These are for those who are conditioned, healthy and are looking to move to the next level in their leg training. Also, remember that muscle development relies on this type of work combined with a nutritious diet with ample lean protein, fresh vegetables and fruit.
Lunges often are ignored but they are great for developing both the leg and glute area. Because they are a natural movement, they should definitely be included in your training program. Form and technique is essential so start with weight you can easily control and progress as your strength allows. This is key if you want results without risk of injury.
1. Take a short step forward.
2. Stay tall and upright without forward flexion from the waist.
3. Your effort or push should originate from your mid-foot rather than your knee for optimum quad challenge.
4. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with doable weight in the beginning.
5. Progress to a barbell when you can use more weight for greater balance and control.
The leg press rates high because it can be manipulated easily in terms of variety, and it is one of the best exercises to induce hypertrophy.
1. Place feet low in the plate narrow width apart.
2. Perform higher reps and much lighter weight than you normally would with this exercise. This is not the exercise to see how many plates you can manhandle.
3. Go through a full range of motion (95 percent of lockout) with each rep -- and go down until your quads come to your chest.
4. Do these for two minutes with no rest; you may do as many as 50 reps per set.
Observe the quad raise and it will seem easy -- quite deceiving, however, because it will zone in on your quads like a GPS system. You'll feel it for days.
1. Begin on your knees with posture tall and straight.
2. Be sure to keep your trunk in alignment with your quads during the entire movement. There should be a straight line from your knees to your nose.