woman’s hand holding a adjustable dumbbell

Quad Exercises with Dumbbells

Building muscle requires you to plan optimally, use the right equipment, and focus on form. But with so many avenues to follow, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of promises and recommendations of what works best.

With such a wide array of choices, you need to know which methods and equipment are worth your time and which ones you should skip.

Dumbbells fall into their own special category. Modern exercise equipment comes and goes, but dumbbells are the original muscle-building machines. They offer unmatched flexibility and ease of use, allow for quick transitions between exercises, and are ideal for isolating muscle groups to target specific areas of the body.

Dumbbells are the perfect candidate for quad exercises for these same reasons. Here’s everything you need to know about how to level up your workout with dumbbells with the best dumbbell quad exercises.

Function and breakdown of the quad muscle

To better understand how dumbbell quad exercises strengthen your muscles, it’s helpful to understand the role your quads play in your body.

The quadricep muscle group is found in the thigh and lower hip and consists of four individual muscles: the rectus femoris, vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, and vastus intermedius.

The rectus femoris attaches to the hip bone, partially covering the other three vastus muscles. Below the rectus femoris, each vastus muscle starts on your femur and attaches to the kneecap. 

Together, these muscles help your legs extend when you perform movements like jumps and squats. The rectus femoris also works in tandem with your hip since it attaches to the pelvis and functions during hip rotations and movements.

Because these muscles see so much use, they’re prone to injury, especially when you don’t train them frequently or properly.

The benefits of training your quads

Strength is most productive when the body works together as a unit, and no part of your body needs more strength to move through your life than your legs.

While a lot of exercises focus on lifting more and achieving a specific physique, quad workouts benefit you inside the gym and out. Having strong quads allows you to run, jump, walk, lunge, crouch, and stand better, positively impacting your daily life as well as your workouts.

Even if you isolate your leg muscles when you work out, it can still benefit every other muscle group in your body.

Training your legs, which contain many large muscles, can help you burn significantly more calories and reduce overall body fat, defining the muscle you’ve worked so hard to build. Many beneficial quad exercises also involve the upper body, so you’ll often see second-hand results up top just from doing quad training.

Training your quads is also the secret to protecting the knee and other vulnerable joints in the lower body.

These muscles see a lot of action — if they aren’t strong enough, you could end up hurting yourself. The quadriceps are also instrumental in keeping the knee joints safe, which means having weak quads could increase your chances of developing knee arthritis.

woman’s hand holding a adjustable dumbbell

Can you build your quads with just dumbbells?

Hopefully, you have a better idea of the many benefits of quad training, but the burning question remains: can you build your quads using dumbbell exercises?

You’ll be happy to know that, as with most muscle groups, you don’t need magic tricks or fancy machinery to grow your quads. All you need are the right exercises and a program that allots plenty of focus for working them.

Quad exercises with dumbbells for every level

Dumbbell workouts are popular because of how accessible they are to people at every fitness level. Justin Tardif-Francoeur, Certified PT and RMT and co-founder of Montreal Weights, has detailed recommendations for everyone. You can start working out now regardless of your familiarity with traditional dumbbell exercises.

Tardif-Francoeur recommends the sumo squat with the dumbbell between your legs for beginners. “It’s a great way to start squatting with a single dumbbell,” Tardif-Francoeur says. He adds that “doing a wall chair is an easy and effective way to train your legs.” 

If you’re an intermediate fitness enthusiast, Tardif-Francoeur says you should do “a dumbbell front squat and some wall squats.” These are similar to chair squats, but you’ll pump yourself up and down while maintaining the tension.

“One of the best advanced moves to really target your quads is the sissy squat,” he continues. This squat position is a notoriously intense quad exercise recommended for advanced exercisers because of its difficulty and risk factor. He adds that he’d also include dumbbell lunges in the advanced category of dumbbell exercises. 

How do you get big quads with dumbbells?

Dumbbell quad exercises may strengthen your quadriceps muscles, but how good are they for growing them?

Although there are many options, many fitness professionals agree that using dumbbells is one of the most effective ways to build mass in your quads.

The best dumbbell quad exercises, such as dumbbell squats, dumbbell lunges, and dumbbell leg extensions, will help you optimize growth if you’ve got your sight set on a succulent pair of meat rockets.

Alternative quad exercises

Don’t have your dumbbells handy? Exercises like the barbell back squat, leg press, hack squat, and reverse lunge are perfect if you’re at the gym.

These leg exercises are great for building bigger quads, and you can even perform most of them with dumbbells if you prefer.

woman doing a quad squat exercise while holding two adjustable dumbbells

What are the best dumbbell quad exercises to grow the quads?

These are a few of the best exercises you can do with dumbbells to build your quads. Just don’t forget to warm up first!

1. Dumbbell Goblet Squat

The dumbbell goblet squat is arguably one of the best all-around dumbbell quad exercises, despite often being heralded as more of a beginner’s exercise. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Hold a dumbbell vertically in front of your chest between your palms. Wrap your fingers around the end of the dumbbell and keep your fingers pointed up and your elbows pointed down.

  2. Plant your feet shoulder-width apart, with your toes flared out slightly.

  3. Sit your hips back to initiate the squat. Remember to keep your chest high as you lower and tuck your elbows between your knees rather than letting them rest on your legs.

  4. Push up through your midfoot to return to the starting position.

2. Dumbbell Front Squat

Another exercise for kick-starting your quad growth Tardif-Francoeur recommends is “a dumbbell front squat superset with wall chair to failure.” Here’s how to execute the front squat portion:

  1. Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold two dumbbells in front of your chest with your palms turned in toward your body.

  2. Keep your chin up and torso upright as you lower your hips. At the same time, push your knees outwards to make sure they stay in line with your toes.

  3. Squat until your hips fall slightly below your knees or as low as you can comfortably get them.

  4. Push through your heels and return to a standing position.

3. Wall Chair

Tardif-Francoeur says front squats are his go-to quad-builder, but he adds: “If I’m up for a challenge, I do a superset with a wall chair.” Let’s break down the mechanics of the wall chair:

  1. Press your back against a wall, holding a pair of dumbbells in front of you or at your sides. Keep feet shoulder-width apart and roughly two feet from the wall.

  2. Engage your core and begin sliding down the wall until your thighs are parallel to the ground or slightly lower.

  3. Hold the chair position for ten to 20 seconds.

  4. Slowly return to your starting position and rest for 30 seconds.

4. Bulgarian Split Squat (for next-level quad workouts)

The dumbbell Bulgarian split squat is a high-intensity exercise that demands a tremendous amount of strength, coordination, balance, and muscular endurance. If you’re a beginner, beware.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the uncrowned king of the quad-killers, the Bulgarian split squat:

  1. Stand approximately three feet in front of a sturdy chair or bench and step forward with one leg to adopt a staggered stance. Keep your shoulders back, core engaged, and torso upright.

  2. Place the foot of your left leg on the chair or bench behind you. You can either place the top of your foot on the surface or balance it with the ball of your foot and your toes the way you would in a traditional lunge.

  3. Take a deep breath and keep your chest high as you bend the knee of your right leg, lowering into a one-legged squat.

  4. Use your back foot to balance your weight evenly, and keep the knee of your standing leg aligned with your toes so it doesn’t cave in or out. Continue lowering your center of mass until your knee hovers just above the ground.

  5. Complete the squat by pushing hard through your right foot, exhaling as you do. Finish with your standing leg straight.

  6. Perform the desired number of repetitions, then repeat the exercise on the left leg.

Although the dumbbell Bulgarian split squat is considered an intermediate-to-advanced exercise, it’s nonetheless easy to set up at home with your own equipment, and it can yield fantastic results in no time.

Power up leg day with better gear

You know what you can do with the right dumbbell exercises. Now it’s time to discover what you can do with the right dumbbells — and you don’t need a gym, either.

High-quality dumbbells from Montreal Weights can take your workouts to new heights. Choose from hex dumbbell sets of adjustable dumbells that you can increase in weight easily as you become stronger.

Browse Montreal Weights dumbbells and start building your quads at home today!

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Julien Méthot

Passionate about fitness from a young age, Julien co-founded Montreal Weights in 2020 with the vision of providing Canadians with all the necessary tools to workout & stay fit from home. 

Over the years, Julien has helped build a dynamic team that continuously strives to help create the best possible home gym setups for Montreal Weights customers across the nation. 

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