3 Outer Quad Exercises for Sculpted Legs & a Striking Leg Sweep

outer quad exercises

The outer quads are essential in showing off the aesthetics of a bodybuilder’s lower body. 

Research indicates that leg training stimulates the release of growth hormones and testosterone (1). For bodybuilders and lifters looking to put on muscle mass, this bears significance as these hormones aid in overall muscle mass development throughout the body. In addition, leg development is critical for an aesthetic lower body. In particular, the outer quads are essential for a leg sweep during bodybuilding posingThis article examines why you should pay more attention to your outer quads. We also include three exercises to help you hit those outer quads to build legs you’re proud of. 

Quad Anatomy 

Your quadriceps femoris get their name because they’re made up of four big muscles: rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius. Since all these muscles work together to extend your knees, training them involves doing exercises where you extend your knee, like squats, lunges, and leg extensions.

Out of these four quad muscles, the vastus lateralis is the muscle that comprises your outer quads. This gives you a leg sweep with your legs flaring out in that impressive bow shape. A great quad sweep will give you the illusion of bigger legs with full and wide-looking quads. Add this to your V-taper, and you’ll have the ultimate X physique that professional bodybuilders have. 

3 Outer Quad Blasting Exercises to Try

You can’t isolate your outer quads entirely because your entire quads function as a unit. However, it’s possible to do your quad exercises in a way that emphasizes your outer quads a bit more. A narrow stance will achieve this effect for many exercises that train the quads. Below are three effective movements that work your quads and outer quads.

Leg Extension

The leg extension is an isolation exercise that primarily targets your quads. This is because while other movements involve multiple joints, leg extensions only move the knee joints. To do this exercise, you use the leg extension machine.

Leg extensions are easy to master and learn for beginners. To focus on the outer quads with this exercise, use a narrow stance by placing your feet at a distance closer than shoulder-width apart. Below is a step-by-step guide to doing this routine.

  1. Choose an appropriate weight and sit in the leg extension machine. The pad should be just above your ankles.
  2. While holding the handles, ensure your legs form a 90-degree angle at the knee. Your legs should be closer than shoulder-width apart to emphasize your outer quads. This is your starting position.
  3. Using your quads, flex your knees to raise your legs while ensuring the rest of your body is stationary.
  4. Pause when your legs are fully extended at the top, and squeeze your quads.
  5. Slowly return to the starting position by lowering your legs to complete the rep.

Hack Squat

The hack squat is another exercise that primarily targets your quads but also works on your glutes, hamstrings, calves, and core. This exercise extends your knees and hips; knee extension means quad work. Hack squats are great for beginners as the machine assists with the weight, allowing you to focus on your form.

Your foot placement on the hack squat machine will affect whether this exercise focuses on your quads or other muscles. To effectively target your outer sweep, the best foot placement is a narrow stance with your feet low on the hack squat platform. Below is a step-by-step guide that you can follow.

  1. Choose the appropriate weight and stand on the hack squat platform with your feet close to the bottom. They should also be closer than shoulder-width apart, with your toes pointing inward. 
  2. Put your back against the backrest and your shoulders against the pads, then extend your legs to release the safety catch of the machine. This is your starting position.
  3. Bend your knees to squat down while keeping your back against the machine. Your feet should be flat against the platform at all times. Pause when your knees are at 90 degrees or lower. 
  4. Straighten your legs by driving through your feet to return to the starting position and complete the rep. 

Barbell Front Squat

Barbell front squats are one of the best exercises you can do for your quads. To do this exercise, you hold a weighted barbell across the front of your shoulders rather than your back. For this reason, many find it a more back-friendly alternative to the back squat.

The barbell front squat is great for your core strength and mobility. It also targets your outer quads more than other types of squats, and to emphasize your sweep further, you can use a narrow stance. Here’s a step-by-step guide that you can follow. 

  1. Unrack the loaded barbell and place it on your chest below your neck. Your arms should be shoulder-width distances apart.
  2. Take two steps back from the squat rack and then position yourself with your foot closer than your shoulder-width distance part. This is your starting position.
  3. Bracing your core, descend by bending your hips and knees while keeping your torso stable.
  4. Drive through your feet to stand back up and return to the starting position to complete the rep.

Using These Exercises for Outer Quad Development

These exercises can add to your leg day routine or form an outer quad workout alongside other exercises. To do them for hypertrophy, research recommends using a rep range of around 8-12 reps for each set (2). Combine this with a diet rich in proteins, eating healthy, and avoiding processed foods to get the best results for a killer leg sweep. 

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  1. Shaner, A. A., Vingren, J. L., Hatfield, D. L., Budnar, R. G., Jr, Duplanty, A. A., & Hill, D. W. (2014). The acute hormonal response to free weight and machine weight resistance exercise. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 28(4), 1032–1040. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000000317
  2. Schoenfeld, B. J., Grgic, J., Van Every, D. W., & Plotkin, D. L. (2021). Loading Recommendations for Muscle Strength, Hypertrophy, and Local Endurance: A Re-Examination of the Repetition Continuum. Sports (Basel, Switzerland), 9(2), 32. https://doi.org/10.3390/sports9020032
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and ISSA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.