WEAK POINT WEDNESDAY: QUADS
Even though most trainees fall for the skip leg day meme, your quads are a muscle group that will not only make you look strong, but are used in most movements along with the posterior chain. If you can’t motivate yourself to get bigger legs and not look like you have a pair of toothpicks instead of legs, then nothing will.
The muscles that form the quadriceps femoris unite proximal to the knee and attach to the patella via the quadriceps tendon. In turn, the patella is attached to the tibia by the patella ligament.
The 4 muscles that form the quadriceps are:
Vastus Medialis (VMO)
Vastus Lateralis: Extends the knee joint and stabilises the patella.
Vastus Intermedius: Extends the knee joint and stabilises the patella.
Vastus Medialis: Extends the knee joint and stabilises the patella, particularly due to its horizontal fibres at the distal end.
Rectus Femoris: The only muscle of the quadriceps to cross both the hip and knee joints. It flexes the thigh at the hip joint, and extends at the knee joint.
Obviously, the squat and it’s variations are going to be the key movements when training the quads.
Simply look at Olympic weightlifters and notice how big their quads are, as well as Tom Platz and his enormous legs.
Free squats will emphasize the quads a bit more over the hamstrings and posterior chain, especially when paired with a raised heel and/or the knees traveling past the toes.
Cyclist squats, a movement popularized by the late Charles Poliquin, are a specific variation making use of a slanted board, therefore allowing the knees to travel forward and place greater stress on the quads.
Although the debate between whether the knees should travel past the toes has lasted decades, anatomically you should be able to do so. If you see a toddler squatting down to reach a toy off the floor, what you’ll notice is that the knees will travel past the toes.
The same thing happens when you walk up and down some stairs, when sprinting and when performing vertical and horizontal jumps.
Obviously the posterior chain is extremely important for all those athletic movements, however we can’t neglect the fact that if we want to have supreme performance we should be able to use our knees at their full capacity, in order to excell at sports and to avoid injuries.
Sissy squats, hindu squats, Peterson/Poliquin step ups and leg extensions will somewhat “isolate” the quads, while cyclits squats, front squats, hack squats, trap bar deadlifts, reverse lunges, leg press and belt squat variations will put greater emphasis on the quads over the posterior chain.
In the case of belt squats, there’s a significant spine decompression, therefore allowing to add extra volume/tonnage without impairing recovery.
From an injury prevention standpoint, targeting the VMO (in conjunction with the hamstrings and foot arches) is key if you want to have strong, healthy knees and to reduce the chances of having an ACL tear. To achieve that the knees must go over the toes. Do you have to go full range of motion since day one? Not necessarily. The goal here is to progressively increase the range of motion and aim to be able to perform these movements pain free.
The go to moves to progressively start rebuilding your knees would be reverse nordic curls, peterson step ups and sissy squats. In a future Become Bulletproof thread I’ll expand more about how you can build strong, healthy knees while improving your athleticism.
As with every other muscle group, a combination of heavy weights for lower reps and moderate weights for higher/ultra high reps is key. Another important aspect is training frequency, where like every other muscle group you should be aiming for 2-3 training sessions per week for every body part.
Besides utilizing heavy weights and maxing out on squat variations, sticking to a 4-8 rep range for the heavier movements would be a good rule of thumb, with less complicated accessory movements at higher rep ranges. One of my favorites is AMRAP (as many reps as possible) or AMRAP for a 2 minutes straight on the leg press, sissy and hindu squats as well as belt squats.
Sissy and hindu squats would also be an ideal choice for Nucleus Overload since they can be performed anywhere without the need for any equipment, while also providing an amazing pump to the quads.
Last but certainly not least, giving the good ol’ 20 rep breathing squats a go will most definitely increase your quads size, as evidenced by the goat Tom Platz and various other bodybuilders of the Bronze, Silver and Golden Era.
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