These exercises will work to strengthen your quads by providing great support to your knees.
Let’s start with this. How many of us run, even if occasionally? Think about the pain you might experience in your knees afterwards. It can be unpleasant. How many of us squat and perform powerful sport specific movements in efforts to advance our training? Probably more than the first question. Yet still, think of the pain you may have after. While a lot of this pain may revolve around muscle soreness, which is of course normal when it comes to working out and working hard, for those of us with smaller, weaker knees, this will catch up to us in the long run. When it comes to the physical health of our lower bodies, our knees deserve the best attention they can get and in doing so, focusing on exercises to strengthen both our knees and quads can really help.
Knee pain can be a result of a number of things, but it can be avoided at the same time. For many of us, especially those of us bodybuilders who focus a lot of our attention on working our muscles equally, if there is a muscle imbalance, that can lead to knee pain. Having to compensate for that weaker muscle can force us to use rely on our knees in ways we may not want in order to get that exercise or workout done. Tightness, overworking the muscle, and problems with the alignment of our legs can all play into knee pain but thankfully, there are ways to avoid this.
Let’s take a look at some great exercises to strengthen our knees and work on quad growth. By focusing on our lower body, we allow for great potential when it comes to lifting big and really pushing our bodies to the limit.
Benefits of Big, Strong Knees
One of the main benefits to big, strong knees is balance and stability. As the main point of connection for our lower body, having that strong connection will enhance our ability to stay grounded during big lifts, but also during more advanced movements that can result in tough impact around the knee joint. Building up the muscles around the knee can also work to effectively protect that joint when it comes to these movements that often force a lot of pressure on these joints as is. This will keep you healthy for whatever workout, training session, or performance setting comes your way (1).
Why Having Strong Quads Matter
Since our lower body is essential for all aspects of our training and performance, the benefit to having strong quads will work to grow your squatting ability, enhance sprinting, boost balance, and aid in power production, all things necessary to be as explosive and beastly in the gym. With strong quads, you work to protect those vulnerable knees joints and this will pay off in the long run for your physical health and fitness longevity (2).
Best Exercises To Strengthen Your Knees
Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift
This is a great exercise to correct any muscle imbalances, work to build strength, and aid in balance and stabilization. Using a weight allows you to continually increase strength and this exercise is certainly a great challenge to try as it will also help with posture.
How to: Standing on one leg, grab your desired weight in a dumbbell or kettlebell and let it hang in one arm. As you engage you core, bend so your torso moves to the floor as the leg off the ground will start to lift behind you. Once you feel that pull in your hamstrings, work to slowly extend back to the starting position until your hips are locked out again. Repeat for your desired number of reps.
We all know and love front squats as they will work on that leg growth while helping with posture and aiding in our technique when it comes to other lifts, like the back squat. Since this is typically done with lighter weight, as opposed to the back squat, you’ll find you can work on mind-muscle connection and time under tension as well (3).
How to: Stand with the bar close to your neck, resting on the muscle near your collar bone. With your grip around shoulder width apart, your fingers will be under the bar, but you will want the weight to rest on your body as opposed to a vice-grip with your hands. Unrack the bar and gently lower into a squat, keeping your head and chest up, core engaged, and legs grounded. Once at the bottom, drive through your legs and work to get that weight up to the starting position. Repeat for your desired number of reps.
Wall squats will allow you to perform a bodyweight exercise while putting some resistance to your quads, glutes, and knees, thus allowing some time under tension to increase strength and work some of the smaller muscles.
How to: With your feet about shoulder width apart, stand with your head, back, and hips flat on a wall. Step out a step or two and slide down into a normal sitting or squatting position. Hold for your desired amount of time and repeat for your desired amount of reps.
The benefit of lunges in general are great as they are a versatile and functional exercise great for building mass, balance, and posture. Adding a weight, being a dumbbell, kettlebell, or plate, will only add extra resistance so your muscles are forced to grow.
How to: With your feet together, step one in front of you and bend at the knee. Your knee will be about parallel with your ankle. Hold for a second or two and return to the starting position. Repeat for your desired number of reps.
When it comes to our physical health, in particular that of your lower body, it is important to focus on our knees and quads, as they are pivotal for connection, strength, and protection of the vital knee joint. Working on strengthening your knees and surrounding muscles will work to keep you in the gym longer and will give you confidence when going into a big lift. Check out these exercises and really work to get those big knees you want and need.
*Images courtesy of Envato
- Alonso, Angelica C.; Ribeiro, Samia M.; Luna, Natalia M. S.; Peterson, Mark D.; et al. (2018). “Association between handgrip strength, balance, and knee flexion/extension strength in older adults”. (source)
- Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy (2014). “Knee Pain: Safely Strengthening Your Thigh Muscles”. (source)
- Gullett, Jonathan C.; Tillman, Mark D.; Gutierrez, Gregory M.; Chow, John W. (2009). “A Biomechanical Comparison of Back and Front Squats in Healthy Trained Individuals”. (source)