Orthopedics Leg, Foot & Ankle Print The Best Quadriceps Exercises to Build Stronger Thighs By Laura Inverarity, DO Updated June 16, 2019 Medically reviewed by a board-certified physician More in Orthopedics Leg, Foot & Ankle Causes of Pain Treatment & Surgery Sprains & Strains Fractures & Broken Bones Physical Therapy Orthopedic Surgery Osteoporosis Pediatric Orthopedics Sports Injuries Shoulder & Elbow Hip & Knee Hand & Wrist Assistive Devices & Orthotics Medication & Injections View All The quadriceps (or quads) describe the four muscles located on the front of the thigh. They contract together to help flex (or lift up) the hip and extend (or straighten) the knee. The quads often become weak after an injury is sustained or surgery is performed on the lower leg or thigh. For this reason, it is important to learn how to strengthen this muscle group for a complete recovery. People with certain conditions often exhibit quadriceps weakness. These conditions may include: Patellofemoral stress syndromeIliotibial band friction syndromePatellar tendonitis or tendinosis Typically, a specific area of your quad called the vastus medialis obliqus (VMO) may be weak or inhibited from contracting properly in these conditions. Your PT can show you how to perform these quad exercises with a special focus on the VMO for maximal effect. Some quad strengthening exercises place significant stress on your knee joint. Your physical therapist can show you ways to minimize joint stress while still strengthening your quadriceps. Be sure to check in with your doctor before starting these—or any other—exercises. Straight Leg Raises Ben Goldstein The straight leg raising (SLR) exercise is a simple way to get your quad muscles working properly. Here is how the SLR is done. Lie on your back on a flat surface.Bend the knee of your uninvolved leg (the one that wasn't operated on) to a 90-degree angle and keep your foot flat on the surface. Keep your involved leg straight without the knee bent.Slowly lift the involved leg 12 inches off the floor by contracting the front thigh muscles. Hold for five seconds.Slowly lower your leg to the floor. Relax and repeat 10 to 15 times. Things to Keep in Mind The knee of the raised leg should remain straight throughout this exercise. Totally straight. Focus on lifting by using the muscles on the front of your hip joint. This exercise can be made more challenging by placing a two or three-pound cuff weight on your ankle before you lift or by placing a resistance band around both ankles. How to Do a Straight Leg Raise in Physical Therapy Short Arc Quads Ben Goldstein The short arc quad (SAQ) exercise is a great way to really focus in on properly contracting your quadriceps muscles. Here is how you do it: Lie on your back and use a small paper towel roll or basketball to prop your knee up.Slowly straighten your bent knee until it is all the way straight.Tighten your quad muscle and hold it tight for five seconds.Slowly lower your leg down.Repeat for 15 repetitions. Things to Keep in Mind Be sure to lift and lower your leg in a slow, steady fashion and make sure the back of your knee stays against the bolster. When your knee is fully straight, try to contract your quad and straighten your knee all the way. You can also make this exercise more challenging by adding a small two or three-pound cuff weight to your ankle. How the Short Arc Quad Can Improve Quad Strength Wall Slides Ben Goldstein The wall slide exercise works multiple muscle groups including your quads, glutes, and calf muscles. Here is how you do it: Stand upright with your back against a wall and feet shoulder-width apart.Slowly bend your knees, sliding your back down the wall for a count of five until your knees are bent at a 45-degree angle. (Do not bend too much further than this, as it will cause increased strain on your knees.) Hold this position for five seconds.Straighten your knees by slowly sliding up the wall until you are fully upright with knees straight.Repeat the above steps 10 more times. Remember, stop if you feel any increased pain or difficulty with this exercise. Things to Keep in Mind Be sure you lower and lift yourself in a slow, steady way. Make sure you do not squat too low; doing so may place excessive stress and strain on your knees. Squatting too low can also make it difficult to rise back up. Holding onto two dumbbells while you do the wall slide can make the exercise more challenging. Terminal Knee Extension Ben Goldstein Terminal knee extension (TKE) is a simple yet effective way to strengthen your quads in a standing position. The TKE is considered a functional exercise, as your quads will be working while supporting your body weight. To perform the terminal knee extension exercise, you must first obtain a resistance band, like a Theraband, from your physical therapist. Once you have a band, you should be ready to start the exercise. Here's how you do it: Tie your resistance band around a stable object so it is anchored around the height of your knee. (The leg of a table is a good place.)Step into the loop with the leg you wish to exercise.Face the anchor point with the resistance band looped around your knee and your knee slightly bent.Slowly straighten your knee, placing tension on the band. The resistance band should provide some resistance as you try to fully straighten your knee.Once your knee is straight and the band has tension on it, hold the position for three seconds.Slowly allow your knee to bend slightly once again.Repeat the exercise for 15 repetitions. How to Do The TKE Like a Pro When performing the terminal knee extension exercise, be sure to move in a slow and steady fashion. Be sure your knee moves directly over your toes; it should not deviate from the plane of motion over your toes. Doing so can place excessive strain on your knee. You can make the TKE more challenging by placing a small foam pad underneath your stance foot. You can also make this a balance exercise by doing it while standing only on one foot. A Word From Verywell Working to keep your quadriceps strong can help you maximize mobility and may decrease your risk of overuse injury in sports. Check in with your PT, and learn which quad exercises you should be doing. How to Stretch Tight Quads Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Dealing with joint pain can cause major disruptions to your day. Sign up and learn how to better take care of your body. Click below and just hit send! Email Address Sign Up There was an error. Please try again. Thank you, , for signing up. What are your concerns? Other Inaccurate Hard to Understand Submit Article Sources Powers CM, Ho KY, Chen YJ, Souza RB, Farrokhi S. Patellofemoral Joint Stress During Weight-Bearing and Non-Weight-Bearing Quadriceps Exercises. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2014;44(5):320-7.