Best Exercises For Quad Separation

best exercises for quad muscles bodybuilding

Having big legs is one thing, but having big and defined legs is a far more gratifying and head-turning feat. 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 individual head or section, this is known as quadriceps separation. Are you chasing those tear drop 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 important to breakdown 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. Don’t just absent-mindedly move through each exercise; feel and focus on how the exercise is activating 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 tear drop cut in their quads, this is the section they are referring to.

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

Rectus Femoris: This is the front and center section of the quadriceps, and it actually 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. Not sure of the difference? Read our article on the difference between knee sleeves and knee wraps.


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


  • We recommend using these to warm up. You can also use these as a burnout exercise at the conclusion of your workout.
  • Adjust the padded bar so that it sits on the top of your foot.
  • Using your quadriceps, NOT your feet, push the padded bar up.
  • Focus on the contraction of the quadriceps muscle using your hand to feel it moving.
  • Pause at the top, then slowly lower to the starting position.
  • Do not allow the weights to touch the stack; immediately go into the next repetition.


  • Position a barbell on the front of your deltoids – You can also use dumbbells or weight plates.
  • Bend the knees and drive the hips back.
  • Keep your chest up and core tight.
  • Once your thighs reach parallel or below parallel, pause and immediately return to the starting position.
  • Drive the hips forward then begin the next repetition.

Read more about how to master the squat.


  • Holding a pair of dumbbells, tighten the core.
  • Kick back the right foot on to a bench and extend the left foot slightly in front of you.
  • Keep the chest up as you lower the right knee towards the ground. Once the left thigh is parallel with the ground, pause and return to the starting position.
  • Focus all of the contraction if your quadriceps, but don’t worry if you feel it in your glutes and hamstrings as well.


  • You can use a hack squat machine, but we recommend using a barbell.
  • Step in front of a barbell on the ground or a low rack and squat down by bending your knees and driving your hips back.
  • Grab on to the barbell.
  • Before standing up, make sure your chest is up and your core is tight.
  • Now stand up with the barbell behind you. Don’t arch the back.
  • Drive the hips forward, then immediately go into another squat.
  • Don’t put the barbell on the ground until you’ve finished your set.


  • Sissy squats are an excellent high repetition burnout exercise. You can also use these to warm-up in place of leg extensions.
  • Stand tall and hook your feet into a sissy squat bench.
  • Keeping a tight core and your chest up, sit back.
  • Once your butt gets near the ground, pause and slowly stand back up.
  • If you stand up explosively, that’s okay, but be sure slowly sit down.
  • At the top of the movement, drive the hips forward and begin again.


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

You can also apply this twice-a-week format to other parts of the body for better results. 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.


  • 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)


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


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


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


  • 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!

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