The 3 most effective thigh-burning exercises if you want stronger quads

Effective strength training targets the front of your body when building muscle. Up the ante of your next leg day and burn your thighs with these strengthening quad exercises.

’Leg days’ are becoming more and more popular for people who workout. Not only can it be enjoyable to split your workouts to focus on legs – admit it, you sometimes like the hurts-so-bad-it’s-good burn while squatting – but there are so many different parts of the lower-body to target, meaning there’s always new things to learn and new areas to make progress in.

We talk a lot about strengthening our glutes and hitting our hamstrings in our lower body workouts. While a strong posterior chain is important, we can’t neglect the front of our bodies or else we risk imbalances and injuries. That’s where quad exercises come in. 

The quadriceps are the front of your thighs, and are crucial for maintaining knee stability and helping you walk, run, jump and stand. A lot of lower body training, such as squats and lunges, will target your quads, and there are also certain adaptations we can make to these exercises to keep the weight in the front of the body. 

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At the gym, you can use the leg press and the leg extension machines to target your quads. But you might be bored of using the same old machines or simply don’t fancy queuing for the equipment. Or maybe you’re partial to a home workout and are looking for some exercises to try with minimal or no equipment. Either way, here are three moves for a quad-burning workout. 

Strength training: your usual squats can be adapted to target your quads.

Front Squat

“Racking the barbell or dumbbells at the front will engage your quads more than in a back squat,” explains Emma Obayuvana, fitness trainer at Strong Women. “Place the weight near your collarbone and, as you lower down, consciously drive the elbows up, keeping your chest and head tall.”

You can do this movement with a dumbbell or a barbell, gradually increasing your load with time. You probably won’t be able to lift as much when front squatting as you can with back squats however, because carrying the load at the front of your body requires upper-body and core strength, as well as good balance, which can make this movement more difficult than conventional squats.

Bulgarian split squat

“Elevate the rear foot on a bench, or if you’re at home use a stool, a chair, a sofa, a bed or whatever you can find,” says Obayuvana. “Then keep your torso upright as you bend the front knee and drive back up through the heel.” 

Work the quad further by holding dumbbells at your side or playing with tempo: “For example, go down for three counts and up for one, or add a pause at the bottom of the movement.”

Bulgarian split squats might feel tricky at first, as they require a lot of balance and technique. But they’re one of the most popular lower-body exercises for a reason and if you can nail your form, they’re definitely worth adding into your routine.

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Lean backs

“This works the core, but I feel it in my quads so much when I go at a slow and controlled tempo,” says Obayuvana. “Come onto your knees and sit upright. Place your arms in front of you as you slowly lean back as far as you can go, then drive yourself up through the legs.”

The mind-muscle connection is important in an exercise like this, where there is the potential to target various body parts. Make sure to focus on engaging your quads while moving, as opposed to your glutes.

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Images: Getty

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