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Sweep up the Competition – How to improve your outer quad sweep

By Ron Harris

When you train your quads, what’s your goal? Chances are you’re forever attempting to make them grow. This is bodybuilding, and the motto we lift by is ‘bigger is better.’ But hopefully raw bulk is not your only concern. We also want to have aesthetically pleasing shape to our physiques. There are plenty of Strongmen, powerlifters, and even NFL linemen with similar degrees of muscle mass as top bodybuilders. Why do the bodybuilders ‘look’ better? It’s the overall structure and shape they display that distinguishes them. When it comes to the quads, sweep-up-the-competition-ron-harrissheer bulk alone doesn’t cut it. The most impressive quads also have an ‘outer sweep’ that flares out from the knees to the hips in a bow shape. Think of the quads of men like Tom Platz, Paul ‘Quadzilla’ DeMayo, Branch Warren, and Jay Cutler. All of them shared that sweeping curve of the outer thighs. Certainly, part of that shape is genetic. Yet you can also maximize your quad sweep by directly targeting the vastus lateralis portion of the quadriceps. Here are some excellent ways to do just that.


Hack squats have been a staple for decades for bodybuilders seeking to build up their sweeps. The most effective variation of them was performed by the man with the greatest legs of all time, Tom Platz. Tom did these with his feet together and all the way at the bottom of the platform, pushing off from the balls of his feet and keeping his hips off the pad. DO NOT go heavy on these, especially if you have any knee issues.


The most effective way to target the outer quads, or the vastus lateralis, is with a very close stance. – as in feet completely together. If you can place your feet low on the leg press platform without pain, do so. Otherwise plant them in the middle.


Most of us would never be able to maintain balance on squats with a close foot stance. Luckily, squatting on a Smith machine, where the bar moves along a track, does not require said balance. You can also set your feet forward to really hammer the outer quads.


Finally, the leg extension machine can be used to selectively target different segments of the quadriceps by changing the angle of your feet. Toes straight ahead works the entire quadriceps equally, but turning your toes in towards the midline of your body will force the outer quads to bear the brunt of the resistance. Just as with the Platz hacks, heavy loads are to be avoided here. Try a moderate weight for sets of 15-20 with a pronounced squeeze at the top of each rep. If you’re feeling really adventurous and want to torch the sweeps, superset these with any of the above compound movements.


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2018-05-10T22:22:53-04:00 May 10th, 2018|Ron Harris, The Press|

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