With gym closures around the world, leg days and quad development has taken a back seat to lackluster homemade exercise programs.
The coronavirus has hit everyone hard. Some harder that others, granted, but there’s no excuse to lose all of one’s gains in the process.
Some lifters, amid gym closures, will have access to limited equipment. I, for example, have access to around 400 pounds of weight, but no squat rack.
As a big squatter — who loves squatting — the lockdowns and a back injury have shut off one of my favorite destressing outlets: squatting.
My legs are a natural strong point, but you gotta use ’em or lose ’em.
Now, squatting isn’t the be all and end all of quad development–although it helps tremendously.
Quads and No Squat Rack
Leg pressing, here, isn’t an option either.
This short post has lifters with barbells/dumbbells, but no rack; thus limiting the total load they can handle.
Assuming that you can at least clean 1/3 of your maximum squat onto your back, you can get some considerable quad volume into your training.
Remember: leg movements involving any knee flexion recruit quadricep activation.
All of these exercises can be done with just a barbell, although a few of them can feel a little more comfortable with dumbbells instead.
Without much further ado, here are my favorite 10 movements to hit my legs without a squat rack.
- Walking Lunges
- Bulgarian Split Squat
- Snatch-grip Deadlift
- Sumo Deadlift
- Bodyweight Knee Extensions
- Overhead Squat
- Jump Squats
- Jefferson Squats
- Russian Step Ups
- Side Squats
Most of these exercises don’t require superlative loads for a decent workout.
The first two–walking lunges and Bulgarian split squats–are common leg day exercises to be performed after squats for many-a leg day.
Snatch-grip deadlifts are perhaps the best quad-dominant deadlift stance. Not only will your quads and posterior chain get a decent workout, but your upper back will enjoy much isometric activation. Likewise, sumo deadlifts will also help add size almost everywhere. These deadlifts are technical and require some training plus a decent level of mobility to perform safely.
Bodyweight knee extensions are fairly difficult to perform if you’re not already somewhat in shape. By kneeling, tilt your extended body backwards until you feel a light stretch in your hip flexors. Then, mimicking a machine leg extension, kick your body forwards until you’re upright at the knee.
Jump squats and Russian step ups are mainstays in many athletic programs to develop explosive power. And while it’s more recommendable for rep ranges to be kept lower for these exercises to focus on explosive power, they can be added as warm-ups or finishers.
Side squats and Jefferson squats are less commonly used. Some athletes use side squats to develop a motor-pattern-focused movement specific to certain sports. Discus throwers, shot-putters, rugby players, etc, use this movement to improve sidestepping speed. Some bodybuilders such as Kai Greene use the uncomfortable-looking contorted-deadlift-squat hybrid threaded through one’s legs.
A decent workout example focusing on the quads could include:
Warmup: Jump Squats
3×5 Snatch-Grip Deadlift
3×20 paces Walking Lunges
2×15 Bodyweight Knee Extensions
2×10-15 Jefferson Squats
Of course, too much single-leg work can quickly end a leg workout due to overstimulation. Single-leg work should, ideally, be reserved closer to the end of the session. Ease into single-leg work–you’ll thank me in the days following your workout.
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