Outer Quad Exercises: 7 Must-Do Exercises

Outer quad exercises 7 must-do exercises

You know what they say—never skip leg day. To do so will mean missing out on big quad gains and getting that quad sweep that sees your outer thigh flare out in an impressive bow shape.

So, if you want to build your outer quads, it’s not enough to just do a generic lower-body workout. You need to maximize your muscle gains with specific exercises.

The 7 best outer quad exercises are:

Let’s dive into these exercises in more detail!  But first, here’s a bit more information on the muscles that make up the outer quad.

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What Is The Outer Quad?

What Is The Outer Quad.jpg

The muscle at the front of your thigh is the quadriceps.

Your outer quad, in particular, refers to the vastus lateralis muscle, which is only one of the four quad muscles in your body.

The vastus lateralis is responsible for stabilizing your thigh and kneecap position when you’re moving such as walking or running. It also helps to extend your knee joint.

Having a defined outer quad makes your legs look bigger, wider, and more muscular.

Most people refer to this as the outer quad sweep which is where your quads form a bow shape from your hips all the way down to your knees.

Check out our other leg day resources: 

7 Must-Do Outer Quad Exercises

If you want the outer quad sweep or if you just want to become stronger in this muscle, then definitely add these 7 exercises to your leg days.

However, these are just to get you started. If you want a full leg day routine, which breaks down these exercises into sets, reps, rest, and tempo, then download the FitBod app (click to try free workouts).  By setting your personal goals, FitBod will then generate a customized workout plan just for you.

In the meantime, take a look at these exercises:


Front squat.jpg

One of the best exercises that you can do that’ll target your quads while also giving you a killer burn is the front squat.

  • With the barbell racked, get under the bar, placing the barbell on the front side of your shoulders.

  • Bring your elbows forward so your fingertips are under the bar, shoulder-width apart. However, some people may need a wider grip which is okay as well. Another alternative is to cross your hands to the opposite shoulder, forming an X-shape with your arms.

  • Unrack the bar and take a step out from the rack.

  • Keep your feet as wide as you’re comfortable with squatting. As with your feet, some people need a wider stance while others prefer a more narrow one. This is your personal preference.

  • Breathe into your belly and brace. Engage your lats and keep your torso tight.

  • Squat down, bending at the knees and pushing your hips slightly back. Keep squatting as far as you can go, aiming to go at least parallel to the ground.

  • Once you’ve hit your depth, push through your heels and stand back up as fast and explosive as possible.

  • Repeat.

Related Article:  Are Squats Cardio or Strength Training?


Leg Extension .jpg

For this exercise, you need to use the leg extension machine.

  • Sit on the leg extension machine and adjust the pad and height as necessary. The bottom pad should be above your lower legs at the ankles while your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. Choose your desired weight.

  • Gripping the handles for support, lift the weights with your legs until they are nearly straight. However, don’t lock out your knees completely; keep a slight bend in them.

  • Pause for a moment at the top.

  • Exhale and lower the weight back to the starting position.

Notes: To make this even more quad-dominant, turn your feet inwards at a slight angle. However, be warned, doing this will put more pressure on your knees so if you don’t want this high-impact on your knees, then place your feet in a neutral position.

Related Article: Low Impact Strength Training: 15 Exercises For Beginners


Leg Press.jpg

The leg press is such a versatile machine to target different areas of your lower body by placing your feet in different positions on the platform. We are going to show you how to make the leg press more quad-dominant.

  • Sit on the seat with your back against the rest, knees bent and your feet flat on the platform. Your feet position should emulate your feet placement when you squat. For some, it may be slightly higher than neutral, for others it may be neutral.

  • Unlock the platform and push it away from you until your legs are nearly straight. Be careful not to lock your knees out completely though. Your legs should always have a slight bend to it.

  • Hold the top position for a moment.

  • Then, slowly, bring the weight back to the starting position, until your knees are bent and are at your chest.

  • Brace and drive through your heels to push the platform away from you. Remember, go as far as you can go to increase your range of motion without completely locking out your knees.

  • Then, bring the platform back in again and repeat.

Related Article: Does Cardio Count As A Leg Workout? (Yes, Here’s How)


Hack Squat.jpg

The hack squat is an exercise that targets all the areas of the lower body. However, with a few tweaks, you can really target your quads in particular. To do this movement, you need a hack squat machine, which essentially just looks like a reverse leg press machine.

  • Stand on the platform. Unlike the leg press, this platform is fixed so it doesn’t move.

  • Maintain a straight back against the seat, with your shoulders beneath the pads. Grip the handles above the pads with your hands.

  • Move your feet slightly lower on the platform than the neutral foot placement to target the quads more. Also, take a narrow stance so that your feet are closer than shoulder-width. Your toes should be pointed straight ahead.

  • Inhale, brace and engage your core as you bend at the knees, performing a squat. Try to get parallel to the floor if you can.

  • In a smooth, explosive movement, stand back up to the starting position as fast as you can.

  • Repeat.

Related Article: How To Get Rid of Skinny Legs (Complete Guide)


Barbell Walking Lunges.jpg

Lunges are another versatile lower-body movement that targets different areas of the lower body. However, you can shift the emphasis to your quads with a few slight modifications.

  • Find a clear area that you can walk in with enough space for a barbell as well.

  • Get under the bar, placing it across your traps. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.

  • Unrack the bar while engaging your core.

  • When you’re ready, take a step forward with one leg while simultaneously bending both knees so you’re in a lunge position.

  • Keep bending until your back knee touches the floor or as close to it as possible.

  • Then, stand back up while moving your back leg forwards, until it becomes the front leg.

  • Once again, simultaneously bend both knees so you’re lunging.

  • Repeat until you reach the end of the walkway. Then, turn around and come back to the starting position.

Notes: To make the barbell walking lunges more quad dominant, take smaller steps. This will shift the weight forward and depend more on your quads to do the work. Larger steps will make this exercise more glute-dominant.

Also, if the barbell is too difficult to carry, then you can do this exercise holding two dumbbells in either hand or a plate or kettlebell to your chest.

Related Article: 18 Lunge Variations For Glutes, Quads, Bad Knees, & More

Looking for a workout program? Try using the Fitbod App, which will design your program based on your logged training data and goals. The workouts will adapt automatically to your levels of recovery and rate of progress. With over 600 movements and exercises videos, you can be sure to perform the movements correctly for optimal results. Take the guesswork out of your workouts. Try Fitbod for free.


Dumbbell Split Squat.jpg
  • Hold two dumbbells of equal weight in one hand each.

  • Your feet should be in a staggered position, with one in front of the other, like you’re about to lunge. Your toes are pointing forwards.

  • Brace by breathing in deeply and turn on your abdominal muscles. Then, bend both knees, descending into a split squat.

  • Keep bending until your back knee gently touches the floor. Your front foot should remain flat on the floor while your back foot is on your toes.

  • Come back up by pushing through your feet and standing up.

  • Repeat with the same leg in front and complete the set before switching sides.

Notes: Similarly to the barbell walking lunge, a shorter stride distance between your feet can make a difference between a quad-dominant and glute-dominant split squat. For more emphasis on your quads, shorten the distance between your feet.

Related Article:  3 Leg Workouts To Build Muscle Without Weight


Sissy Squat.jpg

The sissy squat is a great way to move the target in your lower body to predominantly the quads. Your glutes and hamstrings will still be worked, just at a lesser degree than your quads.

  • For the sissy squat, your heels are going to be elevated. Place a weight plate under each heel to stand on, so it’s at a higher level than your toes. You can also just perform this exercise while balancing on your toes instead without the use of a plate. Just make sure your heel is off the ground. Your feet should also be shoulder-width apart with your toes pointed straight ahead.

  • Bend your knees, engage your core and lean your torso back so that there is a straight line from your knee to head. Your body should be slightly tilted backwards. This is your starting position.

  • Now, lower yourself into the squat, bending your knees until your shins are parallel to the ground and your knees are past your toes. Your upper body to your knees should still be in a straight line with a slight tilted. You may need to use a wall or chair for balance while executing this move.

  • When you reach as low as you can go, don’t bounce back up. Instead, shift your hips back and move your weight to your heels so you’re squatting. From there, you can safely stand back up.

  • Repeat.

Notes: This exercise is particularly hard on the knees so if you have issues in this area, then it’s best to try one of the other outer quad exercises in this article instead.

Related Article: 10 Knee Friendly Quad Exercises (Form Tips For Safe Knees)

3 Quad Stretches To Loosen Tight Muscles

After a killer outer quad exercise, you need to ensure that you adequately stretch out those quads. As well as foam rolling, here are a few quad stretches that you can include in your workout routine so you can minimize soreness and speed up recovery.


Kneeling Quad Stretch.jpg
  1. Get into a high lunge position, with your left foot forward. Ensure that your front knee doesn’t go past your toes.

  2. When you’re balanced, bring your back foot up (on your right side) and grab it with your right hand.

  3. Pull your foot into your glutes, deepening the stretch. Relax the quad so that it isn’t tense.

  4. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds.

  5. Switch sides.


Hero Pose.jpg
  1. Kneel on the ground with your knees touching. The tops of your feet are flat on the floor so your heels are to the ceiling. Your feet should be slightly separated with your big toes angled towards each other. In the space between your feet, you should be able to rest your buttocks comfortably.

  2. Shift your weight back so you can feel the stretch in your quads. Move your hands behind you to support yourself.

  3. If it’s accessible to you, you can go back even further until you are completely lying down on the ground with your lower body still in the same position, giving you a bigger quad stretch.

  4. Rest in this position for 30-60 seconds before carefully returning to your starting position.


Half Frog.jpg
  1. Lie on your stomach on a mat with the tops of your feet touching your mat. Come onto your forearms so that your upper body is off the floor and your elbows are directly beneath your shoulders.

  2. Cross your right arm in front of you so that your fingertips are pointing to the left. Then, lift your left leg up and grab it with your left hand. The closer you pull your leg towards your glutes, the more of a quad stretch you’re going to feel.

  3. Hold this post for 30 seconds.

  4. Slowly, release your left leg and switch sides.

Final Notes

While a leg day will definitely work your quads, if you want the quad sweep in your outer quads, then you need to include these exercises into your routine. This way, you can shift the focus from quads being a secondary muscle being worked to the target dominant area. Also, remember to take care of your quads post-workout as well so that you can maximize your gains.

About The Author

Emily Trinh

Emily Trinh

As a health and fitness writer, Emily combines her two passions—powerlifting and writing. With a creative writing degree under her belt, she spends her mornings lifting weights, her nights putting pen to paper, and eating too many snacks in between.