Tempting as it may be to do all booty work during lower-body workouts, no leg day would be complete without quad exercises in the mix. Your quad muscles, which are located on the front of your legs between your knees and your hips, are responsible for everything from keeping your knees in proper alignment to helping you walk, run, and jump like a boss.

Not only does incorporating quads exercises into your routine help you move better in many ways, but it also means you'll ramp up your overall calorie-burn. Win-win!

Ready to fire up those legs and build a strong, balanced lower body? Look no further than the following quads exercises. They're easy to level up in a few ways: You can play with your tempo (or speed), add jumping, or advance them with dumbbells or a kettlebell so that you can keep seeing results as you get stronger.

For a full leg workout that really hits the fronts of your thighs hard, mix and match a few of the following quad exercises and get ready to burn.


Time: 20 minutes

Equipment: box or step, kettlebell or dumbbells, resistance band

Good for: quads, lower body

Instructions: Select four or five of the exercises below. Complete the indicated reps for each, rest for 15 seconds, then continue on to the next. Once you've performed all of your moves, recover for one minute. Then, repeat twice more for a total of three rounds.


1. Squat

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Why it rocks: This quintessential lower-body exercise mimics all sorts of everyday movements and challenges all of your major leg muscles.

How to:

  1. Stand with feet parallel and shoulder-width distance apart, arms at sides.
  2. Engage core and push hips back as if lowering into a chair while simultaneously reaching arms forward until clasped at chest height. Keep torso upright and spine straight, press knees outward, and distribute weight evenly between both feet.
  3. When thighs are parallel with the floor, press through heels to reverse the movement and return to start.
  4. That's one rep. Perform 10.

Pro tip: For an extra challenge, slow the lowering portion of your squat to a count of three.


2. Single-Leg Box Squat

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Why it rocks: Not quite ready for pistol (a.k.a. full single-leg) squats? The single-leg box squat is a great place to start, and challenges your single-leg strength and balance.

How to:

  1. Start standing facing away from a box (or chair) with weight in left foot, right foot hovering, and arms at sides.
  2. Engage core, bend left knee, and push hips back to sink down into a single-leg squat until butt touches box, simultaneously extending arms out straight in front of body and right foot out slightly for balance.
  3. Once seat taps box, press through left foot to return to standing position.
  4. That’s one rep. Perform 10 on each side.

Pro tip: If needed, gently rest right heel on floor throughout the movement for more stability.


3. Step-Up

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Why it rocks: Whether you're hiking or hauling it up a flight of stairs, this functional exercise builds the quad strength you need to tackle all sorts of daily activities.

How to:

  1. Start standing facing a box or other sturdy, elevated surface with hands on hips. Engage core, then step left foot up onto the box.
  2. Press through left foot to re-straighten left leg while driving right knee forward in front of body and up to hip height, maintaining a 90-degree bend in right knee and coming to balance on left leg on top of box.
  3. Return to starting position.
  4. That's one rep. Perform 10 on each side.

Pro tip: Keep torso as upright as possible and avoid using momentum (like swinging forward or pushing off back foot).


4. Split Squat

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Why it rocks: The perfect intro to single-leg work, the split squat makes your front quad work extra hard.

How to:

  1. Stand tall with right foot forward and left back (as if standing on railroad tracks), hands on hips. Keep both legs straight and lift up onto ball of back foot. This is your starting position.
  2. Engage core, keep torso upright, and bend at both knees to lower body until back knee hovers just above floor or gently taps down.
  3. Press through front foot to straighten legs and return to start position.
  4. That's one rep. Perform 10 on each side.

Pro tip: Press front knee outward throughout the movement to keep outer glutes active and keep hips as square as possible.


5. Squat Jump

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Why it rocks: This plyometric version of everyone's favorite leg-day move requires power, upping the ante for your quads and spiking your heart rate.

How to:

  1. Start in a squat (feet under shoulders, toes facing forward, thighs parallel to floor) with torso upright and hands clasped in front of chest.
  2. Press through feet to straighten legs and jump up off the floor while swinging straight arms behind body.
  3. Land back in a squat position.
  4. That's one rep. Perform 10.

Pro tip: Land softly and keep core tight to avoid stressing lower back.


6. Bulgarian Split Squat

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Why it rocks: This single-leg exercise puts a lot of emphasis on your working side and challenges your balance.

How to:

  1. Start standing tall with right foot forward and the left back, top of left foot resting on a box and hands on hips, or with a dumbbell in each hand for an added challenge.
  2. Shift weight into front right foot, engage core, keep torso upright, and bend at both knees to lower body until back knee hovers just above floor or gently taps down.
  3. Press through right foot to straighten legs and return to start position.
  4. That's one rep. Perform 10 on each side.

Pro tip: Press front knee outward throughout the movement and keep hips as square as possible.


7. Split Squat Isometric Hold

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Why it rocks: Isometric moves put the working muscles under constant tension, which is key for boosting muscular endurance.

How to:

  1. Start in a kneeling position with right toe tucked under, 90-degree bends in both knees.
  2. Lift right knee 1-2 inches off the ground. Stay tall and keep core engaged.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds, then proceed to the next move.

Pro tip:


8. Goblet Squat

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Why it rocks: This must-do move makes loading your squats with weight comfortable (and shows your back and abs some love, too).

How to:

  1. Hold a kettlebell (or the head of a dumbbell) at chest height with elbows bent and close to ribs. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and toes slightly turned out.
  2. Engage core and push hips back as if lowering into a chair. Keep chest upright and spine straight; push knees outward and distribute weight evenly through feet.
  3. When thighs are parallel with the floor, press through feet to reverse the movement and return to start position.
  4. That's one rep. Perform 10.

Pro tip: Keep weight in heels throughout entire movement.


9. Reverse Lunge

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Why it rocks: This beginner-friendly lunge builds single-leg strength for a balanced lower body.

How to:

  1. Start standing tall with feet directly beneath hips and arms at sides. Engage core and take a big step back with right foot.
  2. Keeping front knee in-line with front foot, bend both legs until back knee taps floor directly beneath hip, while simultaneously bending arms and bringing hands together at chest height.
  3. Push through feet to reverse the movement and return to start.
  4. That's one rep. Perform 10 on each side.

Pro tip: Keep core tight to avoid putting stress on lower back.


10. Curtsy Lunge

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Why it rocks: In addition to your quads, this lunge variation hits your inner thighs and outer glute muscles more than most.

How to:

  1. Start standing with feet hip-width apart, a long resistance band beneath arch of right foot, and one end of the band in either hand at chest-height, elbows bent and close to body.
  2. Take a big step back with left leg, crossing it behind right side. Bend knees and lower hips until right thigh is nearly parallel to the floor. Keep torso upright and hips and shoulders as square as possible.
  3. Return to start.
  4. That’s one rep. Perform 10 on each side.

Pro tip: Press right knee outward throughout movement to engage side-butt (a.k.a. glute medius) muscle. No band? No problem. Just clasp hands in front of chest.


11. Squat Walks

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Why it rocks: To keep your chest upright and spine long as you change levels, you have to really engage your core, making this a double-whammy abs blaster too.

How to:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, and cross hands in front of chest.
  2. Slowly sit hips back and down into a half squat position.
  3. Keeping hips stable, lower right knee down to the ground, followed by left.
  4. Bring right foot forward, followed by left, and return to half-squat position.
  5. That’s one rep. Perform 10 reps.

Pro tip: Keep the movement slow and controlled, avoiding the temptation to use momentum to stand up from the knees.


12. Pistol Squat

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Why it rocks: In addition to working single-leg strength, this exercise also challenges your dynamic balance.

How to:

  1. Start standing with feet hip-distance apart.
  2. Lift right leg while sitting hips back and bending left knee, bringing body as low as possible while keeping torso upright. Arms can be held out in front of chest or out to sides for balance.
  3. Driving through left heel, stand up to return to start.
  4. That's one rep. Try for 5 to 10 reps.

Pro tip: Practice using TRX straps for support until you are strong enough to do the bodyweight move.


13. Isometric Squat

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Why it rocks: Seemingly simple isometrics are a great way to really burn out your legs at the end of a workout.

How to: Start standing with feet parallel and shoulder-width apart, arms at sides. Engage core push hips back, and bring arms forward to clasp at chest height. Begin to lower down slowly to the count of five, stopping when thighs are parallel with the floor. Press through feet to reverse the movement in one count and return to start. That's one rep. Perform 10.

Pro tip: Up for an extra challenge? Hold a weight in goblet position.