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March 12, 2022 10 min read

The vastus lateralis, also known as the vastus externus, is the largest and strongest quad muscle in your thigh. It works with other quad muscles to control leg movements and stabilize you.

Many exercises are designed to work your leg muscles- especially your quads- but provide little to no isolation of the distinctive muscles in your legs. Isolating your vastus lateralis is vital for stronger and bigger thighs. Below, we have highlighted the ten best exercises for the vastus lateralis.

What Is The Vastus Lateralis?

The body is a system of intrinsic muscle groups. These muscle groups, major and minor, work together to ensure the proper functioning of your body. The quad or quadriceps femoris muscle is one of the most prominent major muscle groups of the body. It is located on the front and side of your thighs and forms the bulk of the flesh on your legs. The quads are mainly targeted in compound or leg exercises. Even while it is being activated during a workout, it is done as one large muscle. In reality, the quad is not one muscle but a larger muscle group made of four different muscles. 

The rectus femoris,  vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermediate are the four heads that form the quads. These muscles vary in thickness, length, position, and functions during your movement. Regardless of these differences, the muscles sync together in smooth function. The vastus lateralis is also sometimes called the vastus externus. It is the largest and strongest head of all four heads of the quads. Because of these features, the vastus lateralis also produces the bulk of the leg power needed for activities.

The vastus lateralis muscle is found on the outside of the thighs. Like the other heads, the vastus lateralis originates from your femur or thigh bone. It begins as a flat bunch of tendons and attaches to the side of your kneecap. It joins the other quad muscles and passes over the knee to join the tibia. The vastus liberalism, together with the iliotibial band, comprises the lateral wall of the thigh.

What Does The Vastus Lateralis Do?

The primary function of the vastus lateralis is to extend and straighten your knee, thereby lifting your lower leg. It is a functional feature important in daily activities that involve standing, walking, standing from a seated position, climbing stairs. The vast is late rails also work with the vastus medialis muscle, another quad member, to stabilize the kneecap during movements saving you from possibly crippling injuries. The vastus lateralis is a superficial muscle. Working out to directly target and stimulate this muscle is a great way to give your leg muscles some extra tone and definition.

In addition to this, you would get to straighten your legs which will not only help you to navigate your daily activities easier but also help you scale up your fitness goals in the gym. Your legs are a big part of your day and significantly contribute to the driving power needed in exercises. Therefore, it makes sense to hone this muscle and increase your performance. Like any other exercise, vastus lateralis exercises also prompt joint stability, strengthen your joints, increase your bone density, and burn calories. So, what exercises are great for the vastus lateralis?

10 Best Vastus Lateralis Exercise And Stretches

When targeting the vastus lateralis, perform exercises that most engage your leg muscles, especially the quads. While it is impossible to isolate the vastus lateralis fully, few movements ensure that the muscle receives total stimulation. Below, we have provided the ten best Vastus lateralis exercises that belong in your workout routines.

1. Close Stance Leg Press 


 

The close stance leg press is also called the narrow stance leg press. It is a machine-based exercise that activates the leg muscles, particularly the quad. The close stance leg press targets the muscles of your hips and outer quads, making it the perfect exercise for engaging the Vastus lateralis. The close stance leg press builds strength in your lower extremities. While it is excellent for the Vastus lateralis, it also engages your glutes and hamstrings in some of the action. This exercise is an intense lower-body muscle-training exercise that makes a perfect accessory exercise to compound exercises like squats. It can also be performed as a finisher exercise at the end of your usual workout routine.

To perform the close stance leg press:

  • Sit in the leg press machine.
  • Place your feet on the platform in front of you.
  • Keep your feet together or less than 3-inches apart.
  • Your toes should be turned slightly outward.
  • Straighten your back and slightly push your chest outward.
  • Lower the safety bar to release the weighted leg press from its locked position.
  • Keep your neck neutral and tuck your chin as if you are holding an egg with your chin.
  • Ensure that your back remains in contact with the back pad.
  • Press the platform forward until your legs are fully extended. Your torso and legs should form a 90-degree angle.
  • Inhale as you bend your knees to lower the plate until your knees almost touch your chest.
  • Pause and exhale as you push the platform back to the starting position using the heels of your feet and your quads.
  • Keep your knees in line with your toes throughout the movement.
  • This is one repetition. Complete as many reps as you can.

2. Dumbbell Lunges

 

The Vastus lateralis muscle is engaged in movements that involve extending the knees. This is why the lunge is one of the best exercises that helps to target the Vastus lateralis. The dumbbell lunge primarily targets the quads. It does this by challenging your balance and mobility in your legs. The dumbbell lunge not only targets your quads but also works your glutes, the stabilizer muscles of your back, the smaller muscles in your legs, the gluteus maximus of your butt, the adductor magnus of the inner thigh, and the soleus of the calf.

Essentially, the dumbbell lunge is a compound exercise that improves your performance in functional and sports activities. The dumbbell lunge can be done in the comfort of your home or the gym, given that you have dumbbells and a large area as you will need to take giant steps. To do the dumbbell lunge:

  • Choose dumbbells with weights that you can control for the number of sets you aim to complete.
  • Stand straight with one dumbbell in each hand.
  • Keep your arms fully extended at your sides with your palms facing your body.
  • Keep your chest proud and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Inhale and take one giant step with your right leg.
  • Bend at the knee until your right thigh is parallel to the floor.
  • Keep your right knee behind the tips of your right toes.
  • At the lowest point of your movement, your left knee is nearly grazing the floor.
  • Hold this position before standing and stepping your right foot back to the starting position.
  • Repeat on the left leg for an equal number of reps.

3. Barbell Front Squat

 

The squat is a prevalent exercise known for conditioning the muscles in the lower extremities. However, the front squat ramps up the intensity of theconventional squat, helping you to strengthen the muscles in your hips and legs, particularly the quads and glutes.

In this weighted squat variation, the barbell is placed across the front side of your shoulders instead of directly on your upper back. It is easier on the spine and one of the best exercises for toning and strengthening your legs. To perform the front barbell squat:

  • Unrack the barbell and place it on your upper chest, slightly lower than your neck.
  • Hold the barbell with your palms shoulder-width apart.
  • Grip the barbell, so your fingers go under and around the bar while your elbows point forward and away from the body.
  • Push your chest forward, so it supports the barbell and straightens your back.
  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width and toes pointing outward.
  • Keep your feet flat and distribute your weight evenly.
  • Maintain an upright spin as you lower into a deep squat.
  • Go as low as you can or until your hamstring hovers above the back of your calves.
  • Hold this position for a second.
  • Drive through your feet back to the initial position.
  • Complete as many reps as possible.

4. Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat


The dumbbell Bulgarian split squat exercise combines both a lunge and a squat. It is an easy yet effective way to target the vastus lateralis muscle as the exercise primarily works the quads. The dumbbell Bulgarian split squat is a compound single-leg exercise that activates the quads, glutes, and hamstrings. It challenges your balance and mobility, strengthening your legs and improving stamina. To perform the dumbbell Bulgarian split squat:

  • Find a sturdy bench, chair, or step.
  • Hold a pair of dumbbells in each hand with your palms facing your body.
  • Stand with your back towards the bench and your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Walk two to three feet away from the bench.
  • Keep your chest forward, and shoulder blades slightly pinched together.
  • Keep your neck neutral, and chin tucked.
  • Extend your left foot backward and place the top of your left foot on the bench, so your left knee is pointing downward.
  • Distribute your weight evenly and balance on your right foot.
  • Lower your hips and bend at your right knee into a semi lunge and squat.
  • Your left knee should be pointing at the floor while your right knee is at a 90-degree angle.
  • Your right thigh should be parallel to the floor.
  • Pause and drive through your right heel back to the starting position. 
  • This is one repetition.

5. Machine Hack Squat

 

The hack squat is a splendid exercise that targets the outer quads, core, and other major muscles in the lower extremity. It is a beginner-friendly exercise and a great way to introduce your muscles to weighted squats. The hack squat is done using the hack machine, which safely supports the weight, leaving you to make the movements with your legs. It provides stability and assists you with your form, so you don't have to worry about nuances in your body alignment. To do the hack squat:

  • Load the machine with a weight that you can control throughout your sets.
  • Position yourself in the machine, so your shoulders and back are against the pads.
  • Place your legs on the platform with your feet hip-width apart and toes are pointing forward.
  • Keeping your back in contact with the pads, release the safety bar.
  • Press your feet into the platform and extend your legs. This is the starting position.
  • Slowly bend at your knees until your thighs are at a 90-degree angle or lower.
  • Drive through your feet to reverse the movement and return to a standing position.
  • This is one repetition. Complete as many reps as possible.

6. Sissy Squat

 

The sissy squat is an advanced exercise that involves leaning back at the knees while your feet are locked in a position. It is a superb way to build your quads, strengthen your core muscles, and condition the muscles in your hips and legs. For understandable reasons that often hinge on its complexity and the insane degree of stamina to perform it, many gym enthusiasts usually steer clear of the sissy squat. The sissy squat is a difficult feat to perform without support, so to achieve this, you use a sissy squat bench. To perform this exercise:

  • Step onto the platform of the sissy squat bench.
  • Place your feet shoulder-width apart underneath the adjustable support bar.
  • Lock your feet in position using the lock pin and support bar.
  • Push your shoulders back and place your hands on your hips for extra balance.
  • Bend at your knees and lean back as far as you can while keeping your back straight.
  • Pause at the bottom of the movement before returning to the starting position.

The sissy squat is a demanding exercise and requires all the energy and concentration you can muster. Pair your training with our  AMPED-AF pre-workout formula for mind-body connection acuity and extreme energy to train for longer. While exercises are great, stretching is crucial for releasing tight vastus lateralis muscles. Some exercises you can perform include:

7. Kneeling Quad Stretch

 

The kneeling quad stretch is an easy and effective stretch for loosening the quad muscles and hip flexors. It doesn't require any equipment and can be done anywhere, at any time. To do the kneeling quad stretch:

  • Place an exercise mat on the floor if necessary.
  • Get on your knees while keeping your upper body straight.
  • Place your right foot in front of you, so it forms a 90-degree angle.
  • Reach your left hand back and hold your left foot.
  • Pull your left foot towards your glutes.
  • Hold this position for about 20 to 30 seconds.
  • Repeat on your left leg for as many reps as you like.

8. Hero Pose

 

The hero pose is a yoga pose designed to improve flexibility in the knees, ankles, and thigh muscles. It stretches the quads, hams, and claves, giving you a much-welcome relief from tight and cramped muscles. The hero pose is also a great way to counter lousy posture gotten from bending over desks or sitting all day. To perform the hero pose:

  • Start in an upright kneeling position.
  • Keep the tops of your feet flat on the floor/mat.
  • Keep your knees together and spread your feet wide laterally with your toes pointing straight back. This will open a space for your butt to come between your feet.
  • Keep your back straight, neck neutral, and gaze forward.
  • Push your chest out and shoulders back.
  • Exhale as you lower your glutes and sit between your feet without changing your position.
  • Place your palms in your lap.
  • Hold this position for one minute or more.

9. Reclined Hero Pose

A reclined hero pose is an advanced form of the hero pose that requires you to lay on your back in a full hero pose stretch. It provides a more intense quad stretch than the hero pose does. To perform this stretch:

  • Settle in the hero pose position. You can get comfortable by placing folded towels or a yoga block under your butt.
  • Place your palms on the floor by your sides.
  • Walk your hands backward and get comfortable.
  • Lean backward and come down on your forearms. 
  • If you are comfortable going deeper, continue to lean backward until your back touches the floor.
  • Hold this position for about 15 to 20 seconds.

10. Standing Quad Stretch

 

The standing quad stretch loosens the outer quad sweep, making it a great way to stretch the vastus lateralis. It improves flexibility and is a great warm-up or finisher stretch. To perform the standing quad stretch:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Keep your back straight and head up.
  • Push your chest out and your shoulders back slightly.
  • Balance on your right leg and bring your left foot to your butt. You can practice this part with sturdy support like a chair or wall.
  • Reach behind with your left hand and grab your left foot.
  • Stand straight and hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds.
  • Alternate your feet.

All the exercises elicit muscle response for more significant quad muscle mass and better strength in the legs. To help your vastus lateralis muscle grow faster, couple your exercises with our  MASS STACK to build lean muscle and muscle fullness.

Get Your Vastus Lateralis Working

If thick, strong, and toned thighs are top on your gym wish list, you need to start working on your vastus lateralis muscle. This can easily be done by engaging in exercises that focus on engaging the outer and side of your thighs, also known as the Quad outer sweep.

These ten exercises we have provided are guaranteed to provide you with bulkier thighs. Add these exercises to your keg day routine to expedite your chance to get muscular thighs more befitting to your physique. For better results, pair these exercises with the  ten best quad exercises for super strong legs.