Lunges are a compound leg exercise that can be done in many ways. Find out what modifications you can make to work your quads more.
The quadriceps are mainly responsible for knee extension which means that lunges with a larger range of motion in this joint are typically more effective for training quads.
At the same time, you also want to be able to add a lot of resistance without losing your balance. The quadriceps are relatively strong muscles that you need to pressure a lot to see results.
1. Smith machine reverse lunge
The smith machine is a gym machine where a bar follows a rail system. Additionally, you can rack the bar at different heights thanks to the attached hooks.
This weighted reverse lunge variation is great for working your quads. Take the following steps to do a smith machine reverse lunge:
- Put the smith machine bar at about chest height and load it with the desired amount of weight.
- Step under the bar, put it under your shoulders, push it up, and turn the bar to unrack the hooks.
- Compared to a regular barbell reverse lunge, you want to lean slightly more backward and put your feet slightly in front of the bar. Thanks to the rail system, you don’t fall backward.
- Slowly take a step back and lower your upper body as far as comfortable. Your back leg will not have to do much but can offer some extra balance.
- Raise your body again in a controlled motion.
- Repeat the same number of repetitions with your other leg.
Reverse lunges are already a bit more useful to work your quadricep muscles than regular or walking lunges.
Additionally, using the smith machine instead of any other weights allows you to focus even more on your quadriceps.
Thanks to the rail system you can put your body at an angle where you engage your glutes and hamstrings less. You also don’t have to worry about falling forward or sideways thanks to the rail system.
On top of all these things, you can load a smith machine bar relatively heavy. That means even more experienced lifters should be able to give their quadriceps a really good workout.
2. Deficit reverse lunges
Another way to make reverse lunges focus more on your quadriceps is changing up the surface you do them on. For this lunge variation, you will need an elevated platform like a low plyo box or jerk block.
Once you have the right surface, take the following steps to do a deficit reverse lunge:
- Stand up straight on the edge of the box with your back toward the open space.
- Slowly step back and down with one leg and lower your body as much as comfortable. You want your body and back upper leg to be about upright/only slightly tilted forward. Your back foot leans on the ground with its front part.
- Raise your body again in a controlled motion until you are back in the position of step 1.
- Repeat the same number of repetitions with your other leg in front.
Compared to the regular version, deficit reverse lunges allow your quadriceps to go through a larger range of motion.
Additionally, you can stay somewhat more upright which reduces to what extent you use your glutes and hamstrings.
If you need even more of a challenge you can even combine this and the previous variation. Deficit smith machine reverse lunges will definitely offer a lot of quad muscle growth and strength progress.
3. Walking lunges with short strides
Regular walking lunges already work your quads a nice amount but by making an adaptation in your technique even more so. Take the following steps to really work your quads:
- Stand up straight.
- Take one small step forward and lower your body as much as comfortably possible.
- Raise your body again and lean slightly forward to take the next step.
- Repeat from step 2 but with the other leg first.
By making your steps smaller, you go through your knees more and hip hinge less. These things make the walking lunges focus more on your quadriceps.
To make the bodyweight version more challenging, you can do weighted lunges like the barbell, weighted vest, dumbbell, safety squat bar, and kettlebell variations.
One small downside of walking lunges to keep in mind is that each leg gets a bit of extra rest in between your repetitions. Generally, completing a set on one side with shorter breaks is a bit more effective.
Additionally, these smaller steps are generally a bit more challenging in terms of balance. Especially if you use a type of resistance that rests at shoulder height.
4. Front walking lunges
To do this next lunge variation you need enough room, a barbell, weight plates, and preferably a squat rack to get the bar in position. Once you have the required gear, take the following steps to do front walking lunges:
- Rack the barbell at about chest height and load it with the desired amount of weight.
- Stand under the barbell with the bar resting on the front parts of your shoulders. Keep the bar in place with your fingers under the bar and your elbows pointing forward. Push up the bar and step to where you have enough room for the following steps.
- Take a step forward and slowly lower your body until your knees are at about 90-degree angles. Your back foot rests on the ground with its front part.
- Raise your body up and forward in a controlled motion to take the next step.
- Repeat step 3 but with your other leg forward.
If you don’t have a rack, you could also clean up the bar to shoulder height but that is a more advanced way to do this barbell quad exercise.
Similar to the previous variation, front walking lunges alternately work your leg muscles which is not ideal but can still be effective.
These things aside, by putting the barbell on the front parts of your shoulders, you have to lean forward for balance less compared to a lunge with a barbell on your back. In turn, this allows you to work your quads a bit more.
You can get a similar effect by holding other types of resistance somewhat more forward. However, variations like goblet lunges could fatigue muscles besides your quads too fast.
5. Resistance band reverse lunges
Smith machines and barbells can be effective ways to add resistance to lunges but there are also more at-home-friendly equipment options. Take the following steps to do resistance band reverse lunges:
- Anchor a big loop resistance under one foot.
- Take a big step back and slowly lower your body. To work your quads you want to keep your weight above the front leg as much as possible.
- Loop the other end of the resistance band around the back of your shoulders.
- Push yourself back into the position of step 1 in a controlled motion. This time, you have the resistance band looped around your shoulders.
- Repeat a certain number of repetitions with the foot with the resistance band in front.
- Repeat the same number of repetitions with the other foot in front.
Reverse lunges are simply a great variation to work your quads. Resistance bands are great pieces of at-home fitness equipment in that they are budget-friendly, compact, and yet still offer a lot of resistance.
If you can do so in a comfortable and convenient way, you can also loop the band around the front parts of your shoulders to make this even more of a resistance band quad exercise.
This allows you to keep your body just a bit more upright and in turn, targets your front thighs a bit more and glutes, hamstrings, and erector spinae a bit less.
6. Landmine side lunges
A landmine setup is basically a barbell anchored to the ground on one side. You need one of these to do the next lunge variation. With the required gear, take the following steps to do a landmine side lunge:
- Set up the landmine and put the desired number of weight plates on the free barbell sleeve.
- Clean the end with the weight plates up to chest height. At this point, you stand up straight with your face toward the anchor and the barbell sleeve in both of your hands.
- Take a big step sideways and slowly fold the leg that took the step as far as comfortable. Keep the other leg more or less stretched. Try to keep your upper body as upright as possible without losing your balance.
- Raise your body again into the position of step 2 by stretching the folded leg.
- Repeat the same number of repetitions with your other leg taking the steps.
This weighted side lunge focuses a lot on your outer thighs too. If you are only interested in working your quads as much as possible the other exercises on this list will generally be better.
Additionally, you can also do side lunges with other types of front-positioned resistance to work your quads a good amount.
Even so, doing this leg exercise with a landmine setup allows you to keep your body slightly more upright in relation to your legs by leaning forward. In turn, this allows a tiny bit more focus on your front thighs.