Building strong and defined quadriceps through targeted exercises.

Having big legs is one thing, but having big, defined legs is far more gratifying and head-turning. When you see bodybuilders step up on stage and proudly display all four heads of the quadriceps muscle, you're looking at an incredible amount of strategy and hard work.

When you have those cut lines in your thighs that show each head or section, this is known as quadriceps separation. Are you chasing those teardrop cuts? It begins by using the proper movements and workout. Let's review the best exercises for quad separation.


Before we jump into the best exercises for quad separation, it will be essential to break down the quadriceps muscle.

The better you understand the muscle, the greater the mind-to-muscle connection you will form. This is essential for seeing serious results. Refrain from absent-mindedly moving through each exercise; feel and focus on how the exercise activates your quadriceps.

Here are the four sections of the quad to focus on:

Vastus Lateralis

Beginning at the side of the knee, the Vastus Lateralis runs alongside the outer part of the thigh and to the hip.

Vastus Medialis

Originating from the inner side of the knee, the Vastus Medialis extends along the inner part of the thigh. When people say they want a teardrop cut in their quads, this is the section they are referring to.

Vastus Intermedius

Mostly covered by the rectus femoris, the Vastus Intermedius is between the other two sections above.

Rectus Femoris

This is the front and center section of the quadriceps, and it overlaps the other sections mentioned. All quadriceps-focused exercises will target this muscle because of how much it covers.

All of the sections above connect to the knee. If you experience knee pain, consider using a knee sleeve or knee wrap. What is the difference? Read our collection page on the difference between knee sleeves and knee wraps


Here are the best exercises for quad separation that target each section of the muscle.

Leg Extensions: Leg extensions are great for warming up your quads or using as a burnout exercise at the end of your workout. Here's how to perform them correctly:

  • Adjust the padded bar to rest on the top of your foot.
  • Engage your quadriceps muscles, not your feet, to push the padded bar up.
  • Focus on feeling the quadriceps muscle contraction, using your hand to sense the movement.
  • Pause briefly at the top of the movement and then lower the weight back to the starting position in a controlled manner.
  • Avoid letting the weights touch the stack; keep the muscles tense and proceed to the next repetition.

Front Squat: The front squat is a powerful exercise for quad separation. You can use a barbelldumbbell, or weight plate for this exercise. Follow these steps for proper execution:

  • Position the barbell or other weight on the front of your deltoids (shoulders).
  • Bend your knees and push your hips back, keeping your chest up and core tight.
  • Lower your body until your thighs are parallel or below parallel to the ground.
  • Pause briefly at the bottom of the squat and then return to the starting position with a controlled movement.
  • Drive your hips forward to begin the next repetition.

Bulgarian Split Squat: Targeting the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings, the Bulgarian Split Squat is an effective lower body exercise using dumbbells and a bench. Maintain an upright chest and tighten your core while performing this movement to enhance lower body strength and stability.

  • Stand with a pair of dumbbells, tighten your core, and kick back the right foot onto a bench.
  • Extend the left foot slightly in front.
  • Lower right knee towards the ground, keeping chest up.
  • Return to starting position when the left thigh is parallel to the ground.
  • Focus on quadriceps contraction; feel free to engage the glutes and hamstrings.

Hack Squat: Engaging the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, the Hack Squat is a versatile lower-body exercise. Opt for a barbell for better muscle engagement and follow these steps to build lower body strength.

  • Use a barbell; stand in front of it, squat down, and grab the barbell.
  • Ensure the chest is up, the core is tight before standing up.
  • Stand up with the barbell behind you; avoid arching your back.
  • Drive hips forward and immediately go into another squat.
  • Don't put the barbell on the ground until the set is complete.

Sissy Squats: Ideal for high-repetition burnout or as a warm-up, Sissy Squats target the quadriceps and knee extension. With no equipment needed other than a sissy squat bench, this bodyweight exercise is great for improving muscular endurance and defining the quadriceps.

  • Hook feet into a sissy squat bench and stand tall.
  • Sit back with a tight core and chest up.
  • Slowly stand back up without explosiveness.
  • At the top, drive your hips forward and begin again.


If you want to start seeing quad separation, use the following workout twice weekly. On one day, you'll focus on higher repetitions and lower weights; the other day will be heavier weights and lower repetitions. For example, use the Day 1 workout on Monday and the Day 2 workout on Thursday.

You can apply this twice-a-week format to other muscle groups for better results. Please read our article on how often you should lift to build muscle.

Give this a try for two months, take before and after pictures, then tag us on Instagram to show us your results.

Leg Extensions

Use this as your warm-up: 2 sets of 12 to 20 repetitions

Day 1: Working sets: 2 x 8 to 15 (use lighter weight)
Day 2: Working sets: 2 x 6 to 10 (use heavier weight)

Front Squat

Day 1: Working sets: 2 x 8 to 15
Day 2: Working sets: 2 x 6 to 10

Bulgarian Split Squat

Day 1: Working sets: 2 x 8 to 15
Day 2: Working sets: 2 x 6 to 10

Hack Squat

Day 1: Working sets: 2 x 8 to 15
Day 2: Working sets: 2 x 6 to 10

Sissy Squats

Use this as your final burnout exercise:

Day 1: Working sets: 2 x failure
Day 2: Working sets: 2 x failure


Will you start using this quad separation workout? Not sure how to perform one of the exercises listed above? Let us know on our Facebook!