There are so many quad exercises, but which ones should you be focusing your efforts on if you want to build bigger quads and increase your strength? In this video, I’m going to give you the most popular quad exercises ranked from worst to best and help you to determine which you should be doing and which you can probably ditch.

With that said, we have to lay out the criteria for the quad exercise selections. These are in the video.

Furthermore, if there is a steep learning curve to the movement or it is too equipment reliant then it may mot rank as high as some other options that are better and also don’t require as many resources.

With that being said, we start laying out the list and work our way up the rankings from the worst chest exercise to the best chest exercise.

WORST
1. Sissy Squat
2. Smith Machine Squats

The sissy squat is one of the better exercises you can do to strengthen the tendons in your knees given the proper progression, but it is a weak exercise choice for trying to build to quads. The lack of overload in this exercise is one of the biggest drawbacks for creating hypertrophy.

The smith machine squat is probably the worst version of a squat you can do. The fixed nature of the movement does not allow for an individual’s proper biomechanics to come into play. Angled or straight, you’re better off avoiding this version of the squat if you can

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BETTER
3. Drop Squats
4. Goblet Squats
5. Heavy Resistance Bike (Hill Riding)
6. Leg Extensions

Drop squats are great for learning the proper mechanics of a squat, but do are limited in the ability to sufficiently load the exercise.

Goblet squats are great for a more metabolic pursuit of hypertrophy but the limit in load based on available weight as well as your thoracic mobility / strength will play a limiting factor into the exercise as well.

You’d be hard pressed to find a serious cycler without large quads. Make sure to crank up the resistance and keep consistent with your efforts to see the most gains.

Leg extensions have the ability to directly isolate the quads, but if you have existing knee issues, this exercise could simply make them worse.

BETTER STILL
7. Leg Press (Feet Low)
8. DB Step Ups
9. Sled Push / Pull
10. DB Spanish Squats / TKE Split Squats

The leg press allows you to use some heavy weight, but you have to make sure that you are going through the full range of motion to get the most benefits out of the exercise.

DB step ups are a great choice for an eccentric focus on the quads, but you might be challenged on the amount of weight you can use as well as your balance.

The sled push and pull are excellent options for athletes looking to grow their quads without a focus on the eccentric, but you’ll have to have to access to a sled and enough surface area to use it.

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The Spanish squat and TKE split squat are the perfect replacement for the leg extensions but allow assistance muscles to work in concert as well.

ALMOST BEST
11. Hack Squats
12. Bulgarian Split Squats
13. High Bar Back Squats
14. DB / BB Reverse Lunge

The hack squat takes the smith machine squat and makes it better by allowing for the body to move naturally even within a fixed path.

Bulgarian split squats are one of my favorite quad exercises that can be loaded heavy and challenges one leg at a time to combat muscle imbalances.

The high bar back squat is the king of all leg exercises and allows for significant overload, but believe it or not, you can better target the quads.

I love the reverse lunge for the ability to overload as well as how it feels for someone with knee problems.

BEST
15. Front Squats
16. Belt Squats

There simply is no better quad exercise for building big quads than the front squat. The ability to overload the exercise and it’s direct targeting of the quads makes it a top choice for building the quads.

The belt squat is one option that I put directly with the front squat in the best category and shouldn’t be ignored if you have access to it.

For a complete step by step workout program that was created with the same level of science behind the selection of every exercise in the plans, be sure to head to athleanx.com via the link below and check out our workout programs designed to get you to reach your goals.

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For more videos on exercises for a bigger quads and the leg workouts / quad exercises be sure to remember to subscribe to our channel here on youtube via the link below and remember to turn on your notifications so you never miss a new video when it’s published.

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41 thoughts on “Quad Exercises Ranked (BEST TO WORST!)”
  1. *THE GIVEAWAY IS BACK* – I’m giving away my brand new complete 90 Day Beaxst PPL program to 40 lucky clickers within the first hour this video is published! Remember, this is NOT THE FIRST 40, but those randomly selected within the first hour the video is published. Click the link to see if you’ve won. No strings attached! Clicking twice does nothing. Only one entry per video. Remember to watch to the end for more workouts.
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    1. Would do Landmine attachment squats using a belt like u would for Weighted dips or pull ups but instead harness the barbell between your legs be as good as a belt squat?

    1. It’s not unlike any of the anteriorly loaded exercises here. I’d consider it the barbell version of a goblet squat.

    2. If you can comprehend anything in this video you’d realise that the Zercher squat will fall into the better category because your arm is sure to fatigue first long before the quad does !

  2. I love these exercise ranking videos. Keep ranking more specific muscles exercises as well as compounds

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  3. Thanks! I am wrecking my lower back with front squat without much going on in my glutes and quads. From video footage back looks straight, but something is defo wrong there.

    I’m gonna do the reverse lunges and Bulgarian splitsquats instead.

    1. Thanks for watching and commenting Send a direct message right away I got some special package for you✅…

    2. Thank you for that warning about front squats, I have some worries about the DB Spanish squats, he seems more focused stretching the band that lifting the weights

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  4. Great teaching vid and learning is what YouTube is all about. This is the reason why you have over 13mil subscribers. Keep it going my man….

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  5. Thank you for these tips man! I will use it my workouts. By the way thanks to you I found my passion in making workout videos

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  6. Jeff has done it again, science, strength and keeping the body undamaged. I’m 66, and making great gains on the Jacked program, just home adjustable dumbbells for now. Will graduate to the gym and another of his programs.
    35 years ago my max hack squat was 1,075 lbs for three reps. That’s when the roid boys started asking to do leg workouts with me, many would get physically sick trying keep up in the beginning. Told them roids would eventually kill them , just do the work in a smart way, no shortcuts. That’s why I follow Jeff, I instinctively performed similar Jeff workouts 35 years ago, but Jeff is so much smarter, backed by science.Who knows how strong I could have been if Jeff was born sooner! Thanks Jeff for what you do!

  7. Been training 4 decades hit a brick wall discovered this channel got renewed vigour and the RAGE is back thanks man!!!

  8. My mom thanks you Jeff! Shes 62 and crushing it. Shes my gym buddy, and shes making HUGE strength gains. Went from 3lbs to 12lbs db…and were about to go more. Im really proud of her for sticking with things!

    1. @jovan Mijailovic You stated in one of your other comments that “it was just a joke.” Do you care that this is the fallback defense of serial abusers, and that when someone is repeatedly subjected to these kinds of “jokes” that it take years to undo the damage? You also stated that it wasn’t your intention to bring him down. So what exactly was your intention? Yeah. I already know my name is Karen so don’t go there. But, try some other tactic next time instead of making someone else your target with your words. “Way to go!” is a good place to start. I may be a little heavy-handed here in this forum, but, please stop with these kinds of jokes. No one is elevated, not even you.

    2. @Karen S Yeah Karen you are right.My joke was immensely evil and abusive.I will try to behave better in the future.Thank you for your kind advice.

    3. @jovan Mijailovic Its ok man. Jokes online dont always land right. I didnt take it bad either. No hard feelings on my end!

      I have read all the other comments, and man…a lot of motivating stories. Keep it up guys and gals out there. Especially some of you with osteopenia and bone issues! Rock on!

    4. @Rip Roaring Garage I understood it from your reply, but it seems to me that all these Karen’s are hurt by that evil comment.l wish your mom many great workouts, although l wouldnt go to the gym with my parents to be honest.I support them, but working out together?No, thanks.Of course, thats just me.I am glad that you didnt take that joke badly, because there really wasnt bad intention behind it.

    5. @jovan Mijailovic No harm no foul man! I dont blame the others either. Most were awesome comments too, which in a way, was great. I dont go to a gym by the way. I have a bench, and free weights at home, and a barbell…nothing fancy.

      I just dont want to go to the gym these days…we’ve all seen the videos of some influencer and all the tik tok. At home, its easier, and mom feels more comfortable.

  9. So glad my gym got a belt squat! I know it’s deceiving how much weight I can do versus a back squat but the work is showing on my quads for sure

  10. I think a red X for the sissy squat might be harsh. Seems like a lot of people with well trained knees can take a couple sets as a finisher exercise for example. I’ve been doing a finisher superset of slick floor bridge curls and sissy squats that hits good.

    1. Thanks for watching and commenting Send a direct message right away I got some special package for you✅

    2. I agree. I actually rate the sissy squat for targeting the ‘tear drop’ of the quad. Personally works great for me.

  11. I love your channel!!! Just came across it about a month now and I’ve been binge watching your content! Superb

  12. Been following your vids and incorporating some of your works outs and I have to say thank you. My gains have been skyrocketing. My coworkers always calling me the strong guy now, and my gf is always telling me about my muscles looking great. Really changing my life

  13. It’s like Jeff knows exactly what I’m looking for! I was stagnating on my quad growth and needed some guidance. Thanks, as always.
    Also: Jesse needs to re-assess his wardrobe choice…he’s deep in perv-country with that abomination.
    ❤❤

  14. I’ve been doing Hindu Squats and they’ve been lighting my quads up real quick all the way to the top of the quad where normally I only get some burn action in the bottom portion of it near the knee.

  15. Bulgarian split squat is perfect if you’re like me and have always struggled with back issues from regular squatting. It’s my main leg workout nowadays and has been a life saver.

    It may feel awkward at first but after a few weeks of practice it’s easy

  16. Thank you so much for going over the variety of quad exercises!! You are a wealth of information!, and have helped me so much to expand my variety of leg exercises!!!

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