The Importance of Quad Training

By Dain Soppelsa

I was always been lead to believe that you don’t need to train your quads as a powerlifter, especially if you use multi-ply equipment. I didn’t do any direct quad work for probably the first 13 years that I competed. I was taught right from the beginning to make my posterior chain as strong as possible and the front side of your lower body wouldn’t really matter. Bodybuilders need quads, but they are only decorative for a powerlifter, right? I never really put any thought into it and I didn’t think I experienced any negatives from not working my quads. My perspective has definitely changed since then. As I’m typing this, it seems silly to have thought that you wouldn’t need a balance of the muscles on both sides of your legs to lift efficiently. I’m here to tell you that that is definitely false. An equipped lifter would definitely benefit from adding quad work to their training program.

Something I have always had trouble with during squatting is balance and control out of the monolift. No matter how strong I have been, I always felt like a newborn calf when I unracked a big weight. I would shake all over and wobble back and forth. This did not instill confidence in me before attempting PR squats. Many times I was able to squat well despite my troubles out of the monolift, but not always. I definitely caused myself a lot of stress and frustration because of this issue. I could not for the life of me figure out what was causing my issue. I tried all several different ways of unracking the weight and it seemed to not make a difference. I thought that maybe it was something I would just have to deal with indefinitely. 

As soon as I started utilizing the principles of 10/20/Life, I realized that I had a huge quad deficit. Any assistance work that had a quad focus was atrocious and very difficult for me to perform. It was humbling to say the least, but I trusted that strengthening these muscles would be beneficial to me. After a couple months of training my quads regularly, I started meet prep. I noticed right away, especially after the addition of cues for flexing my quads at the top of the lift, that my squats felt rock solid. No more newborn calf syndrome out of the monolift. Due to this, I became much more confident and I could now focus on the squat as a whole, not about just getting the bar out of the rack.      

I feel that quad work really helps my overall stability throughout the squat. In the past, my hamstrings have been very strong and my quads were essentially non-existent. I always felt shaky and off-balance during the entire lift. I felt like I really had to fight with my hamstrings to stay in the my groove. This imbalance I had unknowingly developed had caused me to get thrown forward numbers times. Once I addressed this imbalance, I now feel much more stable and balanced during both my descent and my ascent. I could never put my finger on the reason for my balance issue until I began utilizing quad work. I noticed a huge difference in my stability almost right away. This was an unplanned bonus of adding in quad work. It now a staple in my training and my lower body is very well balanced today.

 

Another benefit to strengthening my quads is that of a stronger lockout. At the top of the squat, strong quads make the lift easier to finish and hold until I receive the rack command. Overall balance of lower body strength comes into play again here. When squeezing your glutes and hips at lockout, it helps to be able to flex strong quads and push back against that strong posterior chain. You’ll feel like you can hold it at the top forever. There won’t be a panic because you won’t feel like you’re losing the weight forward. Control and balance are very important. I’ve learned it the hard way in the past. Anyone who tells you your quads aren’t important is definitely misinformed.

There are many people and training philosophies available to you that will try to tell you that quad work isn’t necessary for a multi-ply lifter. Trust me when I tell you that this is not accurate advice and you don’t want to realize this on competition day. There’s nothing more frustrating than being strong enough to move a weight, but not able to control it. I’ve lifted in meets where weights flew, up but I let the weight throw me forward, or backward because my quads weren’t strong enough to balance the weight. It’s frustrating to say the least. You also want to be able to have a chance of muscling through a lift if it gets out of groove one way, or the other.  It’s great to have strong hamstrings, but you want to have a good balance between your quads and hamstrings. You want them to work together for you while lifting, not against each other.

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Dain Soppelsa

Dain comes to the PowerRackStrength Team with many years of competitive experience. He started competing in southwest Michigan in 2001 and has primarily lifted multi-ply since then. He has totaled pro in 3 weight classes; 2304@275, 2435@308 and 2500@SHW. His best lifts include a 1060 squat, 800 bench and 715 deadlift.
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