If you’re looking for some of the best barbell exercises for quad development, you’ve come to the right place.
I’ve shared the five best barbell quad exercises in this article that will help you increase strength and size and build sturdy legs.
The quadriceps are one of the largest muscles of the lower body that are responsible for extending and straightening your legs as well as providing stability to your entire body so you can walk, run, sprint, jump, and squat efficiently.
You can strengthen your quads with various equipment, such as dumbbells, kettlebells, and machines, but this article is for barbell lovers.
Here, you’ll learn how you can develop your quads with various barbell exercises at home and gym. But before we move directly to the exercises, let’s understand a little about different quad muscles.
The Quadriceps Anatomy
The quadriceps muscle is a large, powerful thigh muscle that extends from the pelvis to the knee. It’s also known as the quads.
The quads are made of four muscles: vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, rectus femoris, and vastus intermedius.
- Vastus lateralis: It lies on the outside of your thigh and is often called the lateral quadriceps. It’s one of two muscles in your quads that help extend your knees.
- Vastus medialis: It is the inner muscle of your quads that provides stability to your hips and knees during various lower body exercises.
- Rectus femoris: It is located on the front of your thigh. It’s a large, powerful muscle that attaches to your hip bone and runs down your thigh. The rectus femoris is mainly responsible for straightening and bending the knees.
- Vastus intermedius: It is located inside your thigh muscles.
You can strengthen these muscles with the help of various barbell exercises, such as squats and lunges.
Pros and Cons of Doing Quad Workout with Barbell
Doing quad exercises with barbells has some pros and cons, and knowing them can help you train effectively.
- Barbell allows you to use more weight so you can perform heavy compound exercises for your quads.
- Barbells are great for progressive overload, meaning you can constantly increase the amount of load over time.
- The barbell quad exercises, such as squats and lunges, require you to hold the weight on your upper back without any support, and that helps improve your ability to control the momentum.
- Barbells are not as effective as dumbbells for gripping the weight.
- You can do a limited number of quad exercises with barbells. While with dumbbells, you can do numerous exercises to hit your quad muscles from different angles.
Best Barbell Exercises for Quads To Build Strength & Mass
Here’s a quick list of barbell quad workouts.
- Barbell Front Squat
- Barbell Back Squat
- Barbell Front Lunges
- Landmine Squat
- Barbell Zercher Squat
Let’s see how to do each one step by step.
1. Barbell Front Squat
|Intermediate||Strength, Balance, and Hypertrophy|
The front squat is one of the best barbell exercises for quad development. It places more emphasis on the quads muscles and helps increase strength and size.
A study has shown that front squats may be more beneficial than back squats for individuals with knee problems such as meniscus tears and for long-term joint health.1Gullett JC, Tillman MD, Gutierrez GM, Chow JW. A biomechanical comparison of back and front squats in healthy trained individuals. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Jan;23(1):284-92. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31818546bb. PMID: 19002072.
However, you won’t be able to use heavy weight during the front squat compared with the back squat. That is why you should combine both to grow your quads.
Steps to perform barbell front squat:
- Place a loaded barbell on the front of your shoulders with your hands gripping the bar, palms facing up, arms just outside your shoulder, and elbows pointing forward.
- Stand upright with your feet wider than hip-width apart and toes pointing slightly out (15-20 degrees).
- Maintain a neutral spine position, brace your core, inhale and lower into a deep squat.
- Pause for a second, and pressing through your heels, return to the standing position. This will be your one rep!
Suggested sets and reps: Perform three to four sets of eight to 12 reps.
Alternate exercises: You can try dumbbell goblet squats, DB step up, or narrow stance leg press if the front squat is challenging for you.
2. Barbell Back Squat
|Intermediate||Strength, Balance, and Hypertrophy|
The barbell back squat hits entire muscles of your lower body, particularly the quads, and helps increase strength, power, endurance, and muscle mass.
From improving athletic movements and strengthening bones to increasing muscle mass and enhancing life quality, the back squat has many scientifically proven advantages.2Myer GD, Kushner AM, Brent JL, Schoenfeld BJ, Hugentobler J, Lloyd RS, Vermeil A, Chu DA, Harbin J, McGill SM. The back squat: A proposed assessment of functional deficits and technical factors that limit performance. Strength Cond J. 2014 Dec 1;36(6):4-27. doi: 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000103. PMID: 25506270; PMCID: PMC4262933.
It is an intermediate-level exercise, so it’s best to do some warm-up exercises, such as jogging on the treadmill, bicycling, or bodyweight squats, before you do the weighted back squat.
Steps to perform barbell back squat:
- Put the appropriate weight into the barbell.
- Wear a gym belt and knee compressor (if needed).
- Get under the bar and place it on your traps.
- Unrack the bar and walk a few steps back.
- Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing slightly out (10-15 degrees)
- Keep your chest up, core tight, back straight, and look forward. That’s the start.
- Inhale! And bending at your hips and knees, lower into a squat position until your thigh is parallel to the floor.
- Pause for a moment, and pressing through your heels, return to the standing position.
- Your feet should be grounded at all times during the movement.
- Raise your shoulders and hips at the same.
- Your knees shouldn’t cross the front of the foot.
Suggested sets and reps: Perform three to five sets of six to 15 reps.
Alternate exercises: You can do machine leg press, hack squat, or smith machine back squat as alternatives to barbell back squat.
3. Barbell Front Lunges
|Intermediate||Strength, Mobility, and Gain|
The lunge is an excellent exercise for developing the lower body muscles, particularly the quads and hamstrings. It targets your quadriceps differently than the squats and helps add strength and definition to your legs.
Lunges also improve balance and muscle coordination and maximize your overall athletic and lifting performance.
Steps to perform barbell lunges:
- Place a loaded barbell on your trap and stand upright with feet shoulder-width apart.
- Step forward into a lunge position until your knees are bent, and your rear knee is close to the floor.
- Return to the starting position by pushing off from the floor with one foot and extending your knee until both legs are straight again.
- Keep your back straight, chest up, core tight, and head up throughout the entire movement.
Suggested sets and reps: Perform three sets of eight to 10 reps on each side.
Alternate exercises: You can do step-ups, front squats, or sumo squats as alternative front lunges.
4. Landmine Squat
|Intermediate||Strength and Muscle Mass|
The landmine squat is another excellent way to hit your quads, hams, and glutes muscles. It strengthens and tones lower body muscles and improves appearance.
It also helps improve your ability to perform various other leg exercises, such as squats and lunges.
The landmine squat is suitable for all fitness enthusiasts. Whether you’re a beginner or have been working out for a while, you can incorporate it into your workout routine to develop sturdy legs.
Steps to do it:
- Place one end of the bar in the corner of the wall and put the appropriate weight into another.
- Grab the bar and stand upright with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and toes pointing out.
- Bend your elbows and hold the bar at your chest height. This is your starting position.
- Lower into a squat as deep as you can go, pause for a moment, and then extend your knees to return to the standing position. This will be your first rep.
Suggested sets and reps: Perform three sets of eight to 10 reps.
Alternate exercises: You can do goblet squats as an alternative to this movement.
5. Barbell Zercher Squat
|Intermediate||Strength and Mobility|
The Zercher squat is one of the fancier squat variations you can do with a barbell. It works primarily on your quads and helps increase strength and mobility.
It also engages the core and other muscles of your body, such as the biceps and forearms, because of the placement of the barbell.
It is not as good as front or back squats, but it is worth including in your barbell quad workout for building solid legs.
You can do the Zercher squat as a warm-up exercise before you perform heavy back squats.
Steps to do it:
- Put the appropriate weight into the bar and place the middle of it in the crook of your elbows. You can use a thick pad under the bar for support.
- Stand straight in the shoulder-width stance and look forward. This is your starting position.
- Perform as many squats as you like.
The Last Words on Barbell Quad Exercises
From walking and running to jumping and squatting, quadriceps are responsible for various activities. That is why it is crucial to train your quad muscles frequently.
You can build up your quads through various workouts, including the above exercises: front squat, back squat, forward lunges, landmine squat, and Zercher squat.
You can also incorporate these quad exercises into your barbell home workout routine.
And you don’t need to perform all these workouts on the same day. The best way is to do two to three exercises on one day and two to three on another.
Related Barbell Exercises
- 1Gullett JC, Tillman MD, Gutierrez GM, Chow JW. A biomechanical comparison of back and front squats in healthy trained individuals. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Jan;23(1):284-92. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31818546bb. PMID: 19002072.
- 2Myer GD, Kushner AM, Brent JL, Schoenfeld BJ, Hugentobler J, Lloyd RS, Vermeil A, Chu DA, Harbin J, McGill SM. The back squat: A proposed assessment of functional deficits and technical factors that limit performance. Strength Cond J. 2014 Dec 1;36(6):4-27. doi: 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000103. PMID: 25506270; PMCID: PMC4262933.