Training Your Quadriceps And Calves

The term “quads” is short for the group of muscles in the front of the thigh, collectively known as the quadriceps. This muscle group includes the rectus femoris, vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, and vastus intermedius. The main job of the quads is to straighten or extend the knee. The rectus femoris is a unique muscle because it crosses two joints: the knee and the hip. The other muscle groups in the quads only cross the knee joint. So, the rectus femoris also assists in flexing the hip.

Together these muscle groups help you perform activities such as walking, running, jumping, and sitting. This muscle group tends to hold a lot of tension for people who sit for the majority of their days. The reason for this is that when you sit, your quadriceps are in constant contraction, and the constant contraction pulls your pelvic bone forward, which also results in lower back pain. It’s a good idea to warm up the quads before engaging in explosive activities like running, jumping, and biking. And if you sit quite a bit throughout your day, it’s important to stretch your quadriceps often.

The calves are the muscles in the back of the lower leg. These muscles include the gastrocnemius and soleus. Together they are responsible for pointing and flexing the foot, along with turning the foot inward and outward. The calves are constantly working to maintain your balance and posture while standing or walking; therefore, they’re often tight and should be stretched regularly to relieve tension. They’re especially active during explosive activities such as running and jumping. The calves are also subject to excess strain if you wear shoes with a heel often, so it is also recommended to stretch and foam roll your calves after wearing heels as an extra self-care practice.

Before You Lift:

Remember to keep your core engaged while executing the movements in this chapter. You can also perform each of these movements in front of a mirror, or record yourself, to double-check your form.

BUTT KICKER

This is a great dynamic warm-up that stretches the quads by forcing them to relax as a result of explosively using the hamstring muscles to flex the knees. This is based on the principle of reciprocal inhibition, which means that one muscle group can’t be active while the opposite or opposing muscle group is in use.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and place your hands, palms facing out, on your bottom.
  2. Kick one foot up so that your heel smacks the palm of your hand slightly. Then return the foot to the ground and repeat on the opposite side.
  3. The motion can be done either jogging in place or while moving forward.

GOBLET SQUAT

ADDITIONAL MUSCLES WORKED: Core, Glutes, Hamstrings

Goblet Squats are a great way to perfect your squat form. The counterbalance of front-loaded weight keeps your body from shifting too far forward when you squat. This is because the weight forces your hips to sit back. Think of this motion as sitting down and standing up like you would if you were to sit on a chair—that will help you understand what the movement should feel like.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and toes facing forward, holding a dumbbell with both hands in front of your chest.
  2. Push your hips back and imagine yourself sitting down into a chair as you bend at the knees and lower yourself down into a squat position.
  3. Stop at the bottom of your squat when your knees and hips form a 90-degree angle.
  4. When you’re ready to return to standing, press down through your feet and drive up out of the floor to stand, squeezing your glutes at the top.

Lift Safely: Keep your back straight and chest high, and your weight evenly distributed in the middle of your feet throughout the movement. Keep your knees tracking in the same direction as your toes but make sure they stay behind your toes. This is to protect your knees and prevent injury or pain. It also ensures that you are engaging your glutes properly. You can play around with making your stance wider or narrower, or try turning your feet out slightly. Find whatever foot position is optimal for your body type so that you can squat without your spine rounding at the bottom. If you start to feel any discomfort in your back, reduce your range of motion and do not squat as low.

Make It Easier: Put a chair behind you to sit on as you get used to the squatting pattern. You should only feel this exercise in your legs, and in your arms from holding the weight. If you feel any discomfort in your lower back, put the weight down and work on squatting with just body weight.

Home Workout Hack: You can use any item that you have at home as a makeshift weight, including a purse, your baby, a gallon of water, a backpack, a garden pot, heavy books, pet food—get creative!

FORWARD LUNGE

ADDITIONAL MUSCLES WORKED: Glutes, Hamstrings

This exercise is a functional way to work your quads and calves because it is a similar movement pattern to walking. Lunges also help work your legs unilaterally (one leg at a time). Building strength unilaterally will help your bilateral exercises (squats and Deadlifts) become stronger.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and toes facing forward. Hold dumbbells in both hands down by your sides with your back straight and shoulder blades squeezed together. If using a barbell, place it across your upper back along your shoulders.
  2. Take a large step forward and bend both legs to 90-degree angles. Your back knee should hover just above the ground.
  3. Drive out of your front heel to step back and return to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side.

Lift Safely: Make sure your front knee stays behind your front toes as you lunge forward. Your front knee should track in the same line as your ankle and foot. Keep your back straight and chest high as you perform the movement.

Make It Easier: Do your lunges in place and without weight to learn the movement pattern. You can also put your hand against a wall or hold a stick for balance as you learn the movement.

Make It Harder: Perform walking lunges by stepping forward instead of returning to the starting position. To make it even harder, walk continuously without resetting in the middle of the movement by bringing your back leg straight through into another Forward Lunge.

LATERAL LUNGE

ADDITIONAL MUSCLES WORKED: Glutes, Hamstrings

It is important to perform exercises in various planes of motion to mimic real-life movements. This exercise is similar to the Forward Lunge, but because it is in the frontal plane (moving side to side), it allows for different muscle activation. You will work more of your outer glute muscles and inner thighs.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your toes facing forward. Hold dumbbells at your sides in both hands with your back straight and shoulder blades squeezed together. If using a barbell, place it across your upper back along your shoulders.
  2. Without turning your body, take a step out to your right and plant your right foot, toes facing forward. Bend your right knee to a 90-degree angle as you lower your hips back and down like you’re sitting in a chair. Keep your left leg straight and left toes pointed forward as you do this.
  3. Push off the floor with the right foot, putting the weight in your mid foot, and return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat on the left side.

Lift Safely: Keep your back flat and chest high as you perform this exercise. Keep your knee behind your toes and tracking over your ankle as you lunge. Your foot should be straight or slightly turned out when you step to the side, and your shoulders square. (Avoid bending your spine in the direction that you’re lunging.) You want to keep your hips, knees, and ankles in alignment throughout the movement.

Make It Easier: Perform the exercise with no weights. You may also use a stick or wall to help balance yourself as you learn the movement. Adjusting the depth of your lunge so that you are not lunging as low will make the movement easier as well.

Make It Harder: Perform walking Lateral Lunges instead of staying in place. You can also increase the weight to progress this movement.

BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT

ADDITIONAL MUSCLES WORKED: Glutes, Hamstrings

This exercise is just a fancy way of saying that the movement is an in-place, elevated lunge. (The name originated from the Bulgarian weightlifting system.) The elevation requires more balance, which is a great way to work your calves a little more. It also helps develop more strength in each leg independently to help keep your legs balanced in muscle and strength.

  1. Stand in front of a chair or box with your feet hip-width apart and facing forward. Place a barbell across your back along your shoulders. If using dumbbells, hold them at your sides or hold one in both hands in front of your chest.
  2. Carefully place one foot on the chair behind you so that you are in a split stance. The foot on the chair can be either flat and facedown or the toes can be tucked under, whichever provides you with more stability.
  3. Bend your knees and sink into a lunge. Your back knee should hover a few inches from the floor. Both knees should be close to a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the movement.
  4. Press into the ground with the heel of your front leg and return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat on the opposite side.

Lift Safely: While performing this movement, keep your back straight and chest up. Also, keep your front knee behind your front toes, and your knee tracking in line with your ankle and foot. Make sure the area around you is clear just in case you lose your balance. If you feel discomfort in your knees while performing this movement, adjust your feet and also your depth from the chair. You do not need to go all the way to a 90-degree angle if you don’t think you have the stability or strength to do so.

Make It Easier: Choose another chair or surface that’s lower to the ground. The higher the chair, the more difficult the exercise will be. To further regress this exercise, perform it without weight.

SUITCASE SQUAT

ADDITIONAL MUSCLES WORKED: Core, Glutes, Hamstrings

This is another functional movement, as it is similar to how you move when picking up groceries or your suitcases from the floor. It teaches your body how to maneuver a load closer to the ground as opposed to a load closer to your center of mass, like with the Goblet Squats.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and toes facing forward. The dumbbells should be on the ground on either side of your feet.
  2. Squat down and grab the dumbbells off the ground. Keep your back straight, chest high, and shoulder blades squeezed together as you squat. Drive out of your feet to return to a standing position, holding the dumbbells.
  3. Squat back down to about a 90-degree angle while keeping the dumbbells at the sides of your knees and close to your body. Your weight should be evenly distributed between and in the middle of your feet as you carry the load.
  4. Squeeze your glutes and bring your hips forward to return to the upright position, still holding the dumbbells.
  5. Repeat this movement for the specified number of reps, then carefully squat down to place the dumbbells back on the ground once you’ve completed your set.

Lift Safely: Make sure to keep your knees behind your toes and tracking with your ankles as you perform this movement. If you feel discomfort in your lower back, place the weights down and adjust the position of your feet. You may also reduce the depth that you are squatting. Pay attention to your first and last reps. These are when you’ll be picking up the dumbbells and putting them back down, and people most often injure themselves doing the first or last rep of a loaded exercise.

Make It Harder: Perform the movement with only one dumbbell. This will force your core to activate more in order to counteract the effects of the dumbbell only weighing down one side of your body.

Home Workout Hack: Practice this at home with your groceries or suitcases the next time you go shopping or travel.

SINGLE-LEG GOBLET SQUAT

ADDITIONAL MUSCLES WORKED: Biceps, Core, Glutes, Hamstrings

This movement is a modified pistol squat. It is great for challenging your balance and for unilateral (single side) strength. The regular Goblet Squat works bilateral (both sides) strength, so this a progression of that exercise.

  1. Stand in front of a chair or box with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in front of your chest with both hands, or a barbell across your upper back along your shoulders.
  2. Raise one foot into the air and carefully lower yourself down to sit in the chair. To raise your leg, you can either lift your foot and bend your knee or lift your entire leg out in front of you without bending your knee. Use whichever method is easier.
  3. Keeping the same foot elevated and using your other leg, stand up out of the chair.
  4. You may place your foot down on the floor to regain stability before continuing on to the next repetition.
  5. Repeat on the other leg.

Lift Safely: Be sure to control your momentum as you squat down to the chair. Don’t just flop down on the chair. Keep your knees behind your toes and tracking with your ankle as you squat down and stand up, and keep your foot pointed forward.

Make It Easier: You can choose a taller chair or place a book on the chair to make it easier to stand up. You can also regress this exercise by not using the weight. Additionally, you can stand up with both legs and sit down with one leg until you have the strength to stand up with only one leg.

Make It Harder: You can use a shorter chair to make this more difficult. You can also lose the chair and just do pistol squats while holding the weight.

CURTSY LUNGE

ADDITIONAL MUSCLES WORKED: Glutes, Hamstrings

This is another exercise that works your muscles in a different plane of motion: the transverse plane. Rotational movements are done in the transverse plane and include basically any twisting action. This movement also helps strengthen your vastus medialis oblique, which is a thigh muscle that is often underactive. Strengthening this muscle can help reduce the risk of knee injuries in females, especially female athletes who play sports that involve cutting movements, like soccer, basketball, and tennis.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and toes facing forward. Hold dumbbells at your sides with your shoulder blades squeezed together and neck relaxed. If using a barbell, hold it across your upper back along your shoulders.
  2. Take one foot and cross it behind the other foot as you lower yourself down into a lunge. You should feel like you’re curtsying to the Queen of England.
  3. Aim to have both of your knees at a 90-degree angle with your hips at the bottom of your lunge.
  4. Return your back foot to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side.

Lift Safely: Keep your hips, knees, and ankles in alignment throughout the movement. Your front knee should track with your ankle and toes as you lunge —without extending beyond your toes—and your shoulders should remain square and facing forward. There should be no rotation in your back or hips when performing this movement. Keep your back straight the entire time.

Make It Easier: Keep your feet in a fixed curtsy position and practice the lunge in place to learn the movement. You may also hold on to something to help bear some of your weight as you learn the movement.

STANDING CALF STRETCH

Use this standing stretch to release the tension in your calves as you cool down after performing the previous exercises so that you avoid cramping post-workout.

  1. Stand with one foot flat on the ground, in front of the other, and flex your front toes toward the sky.
  2. Bend forward and grab your front toes. Keep your knees as straight as possible.
  3. Pull your toes toward your shin until you feel a stretch in your calf. You may also feel a stretch in your hamstrings, which is fine.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side.

STANDING QUAD STRETCH

The quads are a large group of muscles that tend to be very active in women. It is important to stretch them after a leg workout. This stretch is an easy one that you can do anywhere.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Bend your right knee so that your right leg lifts from the ground and moves toward your butt.
  3. Grab your right ankle with your right hand. Pull your foot toward your butt until you feel a stretch in your right quad.
  4. Carefully release the foot and return it to the floor.
  5. Repeat on the opposite side.

Do You Have to Take Supplements with Exercises For Quadriceps And Calves?

Some people might use natural fat burners as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle to increase metabolism or decrease appetite. When combined with a healthy diet, it will further increase the loss of excess body fat – and may also have other beneficial effects.

Resurge is of the most popular weight loss supplements that promise to help you shed pounds and sleep better. Because studies have shown that sleep deprivation is associated with deficiencies of growth hormone and elevated levels of cortisol, both of which contribute to obesity.

While other supplements promote nutritional factors, meal replacement forms, appetite suppression, or similar effects, Resurge boosts your body’s metabolism by increasing your core temperature. However, before making any purchases, you might want to read some Resurge reviews because the supplement industry is rife with scams.

Besides, it should be noted that supplements are ineffective on their own and are hardly a solution to obesity. Pills or supplements only work when combined with a healthy weight-loss diet and regular exercise.

In any case, it’s always best to talk with your doctor before you start taking a supplement, especially if you are taking medications or have any health concerns.

Leave a Comment