10 Quad Strengthening Exercises Sure to Help Your Back


Quad Strengthening Exercises and Your Back

Woman doing leg extensions at the gym

-Oxford- / E+ / Getty Images

Quad strengthening exercises may make a good addition to your back pain prevention or management program. This is because strong quads can help support the spine.

Up to a point, it doesn't matter which exercise you choose. Rather, the idea is to extend your knee and/or flex your hips. (Quadriceps muscles cross over and work both these joints.)

Of course, if you haven't exercised much, you have spine, hip and/or knee problems, and/or you are coming back to exercise after a time away, start easy. Ideas for that include quad sets (see the next slide for instructions) and the leg extension machine at the gym 

The key to working out with strength machines at the gym is to use light weights until all muscles of your body are strong enough to support you through all your regular activities. At that point, consider upping the weight amount to build more muscle mass. Never train through pain.


Quad Sets

Therapist's isolates the quadriceps muscle at a patients knee.

Quad sets are a fairly easy way to get started working the muscle. All you do is sit with your legs straight in front of you and contract the muscle statically. (Do 1 leg at a time). Try for at least 3 seconds, and repeat in sets of 10-15 (ideally 2 or more).


Wall Squat

A woman performs a quad strengthening wall squat using a fit ball.

Squats against the wall with a fit ball behind your back is another beginner's quadriceps exercise. The wall gives you a bit of stability, which frees your muscles up for better mobility. The ball makes the up and down movement a little easier, too.

Plus, riding up and down on a colorful ball is kind of fun, and may help take your mind off the feeling of the burn.



A woman performs a technically correct squat for quad and other hip, back and core muscle strengthening.
Alan Poulson

If you're serious about getting stronger in your quad muscles, a good squat - done with good technique is a must have exercise in your program. There's a lot to doing this exercise well, so learn how to do it safely.

By the way, squats work more than just your quadriceps muscles. They also strengthen hamstrings, core, back and butt muscles.


Hover Sit over a Fit Ball

Woman squats over an exercise ball to strengthen her quad muscles.

What better way to challenge your quad muscles than by hover sitting over a fit ball? While straddling the ball, bend your hips and knees (always a good practice for backs, anyway) and stay there for several seconds.  The duration you choose to spend like this should depend on how strong your quads are currently. Don't forget to breathe!


Quad Strengthening Exercises Are More Fun With a Partner

Partners squat back to back to strengthen their quad muscles.

Let's face it. Quad strengthening exercises are just more fun with a partner.

Position yourself back to back with your partner to start. Then, both of you should bend slightly at the hips and knees. Support one another by leaning against each other - this may take a bit of the pressure off your legs, allowing you to stay there longer.


Vary Your Standing Quad Strengthening Exercise

Triptik shows woman doing a quadriceps strengthening squat and variations

Every good workout program needs variety. Variety is good for "getting" more muscle fibers and training for everyday functionality. For a standing straddle squat, you might add a little trunk twist by bending over (from the hips and not the back, please) and touching one ankle or toe with the hand that's on the opposite side of your body. A yoga sun salutation is another great choice.


Sitting Leg Extensions

A therapist works with a woman on quad strengthening
Andre Popov

Sitting leg extensions are good for both areas of the quadriceps - hip and knee. Sit on a chair or challenge your balance and posture by sitting on a fit ball. (Use the chair if you are weak or just getting started.) Extend your leg until your knee is straight but not locked. Do about 10 of these with good posture.


Gentle Lunges with a Fit Ball

Woman lunges over a fit ball to strengthen her front quad muscles.

If your back can handle 1-legged challenges, sit lightly on a ball with one leg bent in front and the other straight out behind you. The legs should take most of your weight, and the ball is there to "catch" you if things start to go awry.  

Lean the weight of your trunk forward over your bent leg and hold for 5-10 seconds. Return to the start position and repeat 5-10 times.


Next Level Quad Strengthening

A woman strengthens her quad muscle by balancing on one leg with arms and the other leg extended out in front.

Once you've mastered the previous 9 quad strengtheners, take the challenge to the next level by balancing on 1 (bent) leg as you extend the other out in front of you. You can also try a hip bridge.

Was this page helpful?