Walk into any big-box gym, and you’ll probably be told you’re “quad dominant” as part of your cookie-cutter fitness assessment. This sales tactic is designed to encourage you to purchase some training sessions with a dude who will work to “balance you out” and “wake up” your glutes and hamstrings and make them pull their own weight — and yours.
Send that salesman back to his cubby because truthfully, your quads should be the dominant muscle group in your legs. And while you should not ignore your glutes and hamstrings by any means, you should not focus on them to the detriment of your quads.
Made up of four large muscles (vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, rectus femoris), your quadriceps contribute mightily to any and all lower-body movements. They are responsible for extending the knee and are one of the main powerhouses for running, jumping, kicking and pretty much any other athletic movement you can think of. Weak quads can obstruct strong deadlift and squat numbers, and having powerful quads can actually help prevent knee pain because they act as shock absorbers when decelerating. Developing an X-frame physique also requires great quad development — specifically, in the outer sweep of the leg (vastus lateralis) — and since they are such a large muscle group, training them will further encourage the release of muscle-building hormones.
When developing a training program for your quads, it’s useful to examine the programming used by athletes with traditionally quad-dominant sports: cycling, speedskating, skiing and Olympic weightlifting.
For cyclists, skiers and speedskaters, their crazy quad development comes from high training volume and extended time under tension, which leads to incredible muscular endurance and, yes, thighs that could crush a coconut. For Olympic lifters, a freakishly high volume of front squats monopolizes their training schedule, since the power clean and the clean-and-jerk require excellent front-squat capacity because it is an essential base component of both those lifts. Moreover, Olympic-lifting shoes have an elevated heel, which forces the knees over the toes while keeping an upright torso, causing even greater reliance on the quadriceps.
With all this in mind, here is the perfect quad-training program: a hybrid of strength and hypertrophy work that uses the front squat for volume and the remainder of the moves for growth, shape and endurance. Consider this your absolute permission to be quad dominant.