Your legs are the pillars of your body. The stronger they are, the more unmovable you will be. Strong legs will also allow you to lift heavier things, move faster and be more agile.
The key to strong legs is powerful quadriceps. The first thing strong quads will do is to strengthen your knees, helping to avoid the knee pain that plagues so many people. In this article, we lay out four must-do exercises for strong knees and quads.
Exercise #1: Slant Board Cable Squat
The slant board squat places your body in a biomechanically ideal position to work the quads and protect the lower back. This version will preferentially work the vastus medialis (VMO) muscle that supports and strengthens the knee.
How to Do It:
- Set up the pulleys on a double cable pulley machine at their lowest setting. Position the slant board about three feet in front of the machine.
- Stand on the slant board with both feet completely on the board and relatively close together. Your toes should be pointing forward. Grab hold of the cable handles.
- Shift your entire body back as your pelvis tucks under the torso slightly.
- Maintaining this stacked position, with your rib cage over your hips, and inhaling. Then descend directly down to a bottom full squat position.
- Without a pause, exhale as you drive back to the top position.
- Keep your weight back through the heels as you perform a smooth, piston-like action to complete your rep count.
Exercise #2: Leg Extension
The leg extension is an excellent quad exercise that moves the quadriceps through their full range of motion, with particular emphasis on the VMO muscle that strengthens and supports the knee. To avoid any knee strain when doing the exercise, I recommend keeping within the middle 80 percent of the range of motion, foregoing the top and bottom 10 percent.
How to Do It:
- Adjust the settings on a leg extension machine for your height. Set the seat angle as low as possible.
- Sit on the seat and hook your shins under the shin pads.
- Grab the side handles as you bring your legs up. Stop 10 percent short of locking the knee.
- Lower under control to 10 percent short of the start position.
- Continue to move smoothly up and down with this 80 percent range of motion to complete the designated number of reps.
Exercise #3: Slant Board Sissy Squat
The sissy squat is an awesome exercise to isolate the quads. This bodyweight exercise brings knees well out over the toes to really make the VMO work hard to get you back to an upright position. By holding a rope in your hands that is secured to a solid upright, you will be better balanced to bring the knees forward and squat lower.
How to Do It:
- Secure a rope to a secure upright at shoulder height.
- Place the slant board about three feet back from the upright.
- Place both feet fully on the slant board at a shoulder-width distance and grab the rope with both hands.
- Descend into a full squat as you bring your hips and knees forward. Your torso should be leaning back slightly as you go down.
- In the bottom position, your knees should be well over your toes. From there push through the heels to return to the start position.
Exercise #4: Slant Board Patrick Step
The slant board Patrick Step is another exercise that does a great job of targeting the vastus medialis head of the quads. This is a unilateral exercise, so it allows you to work each quad independently. Working each muscle by itself is the best way to ensure even strength and muscle development.
How to Do It:
- Set up a platform on the floor that is about six inches high. Stacking a couple of 20 kg (45-lb) weight plates will work nicely. Now sit your slant board on top of the platform.
- Stand on the slant board.
- Bring your right foot down and slightly forward to touch the heel to the floor. Do not bend your knee. As you go down, your left knee should track over the toe.
- Push through the left quad to return to the start position.
The four exercises just described can be combined into an effective workout to boost your quads into renewed strength and muscle gain. I recommend using a range of repetitions, to both want up the working muscles and engage both fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers. Train your quads twice per week for best results.