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You Asked: What to Do For Weak Quads?

You're asking, and I'm answering.

Hi FitSugar,
I am working really hard to lose weight and get in shape for the first time ever. I've been working on this goal all Summer, and I've lost 21 pounds and many inches. However, I'm trying some forms of exercise for the first time and need a little help. I've heard that using the elliptical machine and spinning class are easier than running; however, I find it much easier to run three miles. After about 10 to 15 seconds of those activities, my quads can't take anymore. Is that unusual? Or am I just extremely weak? What can I do to improve?
Thanks so much!
— Not a Thigh Master

Congratulations on getting in shape and losing both pounds and inches. I think it is great you are trying to diversify your cardio workouts. To see what I have to say about your quads, just


Since you are running, which tends to strengthen and tighten the hamstrings (muscles on the back of the thigh), having weak quads puts you at risk for developing runner's knee. Runner's knee is an overuse injury that causes pain around the knee, especially when going down stairs. It is a condition you want to avoid, for it can seriously derail your fitness regimen. For this reason alone I strongly recommend you strengthen your quads. Also, the quads are an important muscle for everyday activities like lifting, since you want to lift with your legs, not your back.

I would begin with basic quad strengthening exercises like the wall sit, which you can do anywhere there is a wall to lean against. I would start with three sets of 20 seconds, and do two sets during a workout. Each week add five seconds to the sits. The leg extension machine is a great quad strengthening exercise since it works the quad muscles through a large range of motion. Squats, the classic exercise many people love to hate, are a great exercise for strengthening the legs. Start with no weights, and gradually work to holding hand weights while squatting. Since you are looking to try new forms of exercise, yoga is full of many poses that work the quads. You should try Warrior One or Fierce pose.

Also, don't avoid the elliptical (press with your toes to work your quads more), the StepMill, or spin class. You need to take these classes to build endurance in your quads as well. If spin class is too intense, work on an exercise bike to build up to the class.

One last bit of advice: make sure that your hamstrings are not overly tight. Since the hamstrings and quads are opposing muscle groups, if the backs of your legs are tight, your quads won't be able to work through their full range of motion. Here are some stretches for your hamstrings. Good luck and keep up the good work!

If you have a quad exercise to share, do so in the comments section below.


Join The Conversation
stefsprl stefsprl 8 years
This is awesome -- I've been going through this too and this was a great help. Thanks, Fit!
goatimpact goatimpact 8 years
Thanks Martini! I'll look those up and give them a try.
urban-chic-101 urban-chic-101 8 years
Of course the new activities are going to be hard silly... :) Yeah it will totally suck in the beginning but that is because you build up endurance and strength! I used to be to be the same way, but you have to realize the slogan, "No pain, No Gain" was created. You have to push yourself when the Lactic Acid (burning sensation)is bringing you down. Once you get over that it is easier to get through the workout. I personally LOVE spin class, elliptical, arc-trainer and like lunges and squats, because they work. But I am working on the running on the treadmill and learning to love the stairmaster. Basically, you have to switch things up because your body is smart and it adapt and get used to it.
Martini-Rossi Martini-Rossi 8 years
goatimpact you can try Power Squats and the Adduction machine
DesignRchic DesignRchic 8 years
Since I recently had a baby, I haven't been to the gym. So at home, I do the sitting squats (against a wall) and lunges. It's amazing how you can get an effective workout with just your body weight. :)
goatimpact goatimpact 8 years
Is there a way to strengthen inner quads more so than outer ones? My quads are imbalanced but when I try to strengthen them, the outer ones get stronger and the inner ones stay weak so I end up injuring them fairly often.
mondaymoos mondaymoos 8 years
My quads are probably one of my weakest muscles too. Since I hurt my leg, I don't have to worry about over doing it on a weight workout and hurting my run times. I did 36 squats with no weights on Saturday and thought I was going to die. :P
Martini-Rossi Martini-Rossi 8 years
my legs are my problem area so I work on them everytime Im at the gym I use and do the following: I usually do 3sets/12-15reps - I alternate days Leg Press machine 240lbs( two different kinds, either or is fine) leg Extension machine 95lbs Dumbbell Squats Dumbbell Lunges Split Squats 20-25lbs dumbbells Power Squats with a weighted bar Step Ups with weights Treadmill Elliptical Step Mill (not too often anymore) Jump Rope Yea my legs are pretty strong.
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