Strong quadriceps and hamstrings not only look great, but also go a long way to improve your performance in sports, recreation and even day-to-day activities. Strong thighs are also very important for keeping your knees healthy and injury free. The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends performing two to six sets of no more than six repetitions of each exercise two to four nonconsecutive days per week for strength development.
Squats, especially when done with weights, are an effective exercise for strengthening the quadriceps and hamstrings group. Place a barbell on a squat rack, load it with a challenging weight and attach weight collars. Stand beneath the bar so that it rests across your upper back and shoulders. Secure it in place with an overhand grip. Stabilize your abdomen, straighten your back then lift it off the rack. Walk clear of the rack and adjust your feet to shoulder-width. With your torso still stabilized, look straight ahead and inhale as you bend your knees and hips to lower into the squat. Continue down until your thighs are horizontal and your knees are at 90 degrees. Press through your heels as you exhale and return to the standing position.
Walking lunges are a dynamic quadriceps and hamstring group strengthening exercise. Using smaller steps during the lunge works your quadriceps even more intensely than large steps. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and begin with your legs slightly apart. Contract your abdomen, straighten your torso and take a step forward with your right leg. Lower your body by bending your right knee and hip until your left knee touches the floor. Use your left foot to assist your right leg to pull your body back up to a standing position. Repeat the lunge with your left leg. Continue to alternate legs until you've completed the desired number of repetitions.
Leg extensions are the best exercise for isolating the quadriceps muscles. This is a good exercise for beginners to develop adequate strength for more advanced exercises. Sit at the leg extension machine and adjust the weight. Grasp the handles and place your legs beneath the roller pads. Exhale and press your shins into the pads and raise your legs to horizontal. Pause at the top of the movement then slowly lower back to the starting position.
Lying Leg Curls
This isolation exercise strengthens the hamstrings group. Lie face down on the leg curl machine. Adjust the weight as needed, grasp the handles and place your legs beneath the roller pads. Exhale and bend both legs simultaneously to bring your heels toward your buttocks. Pause at the end of the movement then slowly lower back to the starting position.