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Nothing completes a physique like having tree trunks for legs. For bodybuilders, an intense leg day is arguably the biggest chore because it requires the most energy output. A lot of bodybuilders, whether amateur or professional, seem to neglect their legs which results in a top-heavy physique. Throughout this article, we’ll discuss the bodybuilders with the best quads of all time. Rest assured, you will not want to skip leg day after this one!
Before we dive in, it’s important to know the criteria for analyzing quad muscles. Note that this is subjective, but also fairly standard across the board in bodybuilding.
- Mass – the amount of noticeable muscle mass on the quads.
- Volume – takes into account the “fullness” of the quads.
- Shape – are the quads aesthetic looking and representative of anatomical expectations?
- Separation – is there clear separation between all four muscles of the quads?
- Conditioning – pertains to how lean, dry, and grainy the quads appear. Positively correlates to separation.
Tom Platz is widely considered to have some of the best quads of all time, hence his nickname of “The Quadfather”. He began his bodybuilding career in the 1970s when the golden era was just beginning.
Platz’s leg development is legendary in the bodybuilding world. His thighs were incredibly muscular and well-defined, mostly due to his emphasis on heavy squats and leg presses. Unsurprisingly, his leg workouts were grueling and intense, and he often pushed himself to the absolute limit.
Deep squats were one of Platz’s signature exercises. He went extremely heavy and often squatted below parallel to fully engage every major muscle group. Squats are a compound leg exercise, so they contributed greatly to his development. Platz was also known for incorporating drop sets. He would start with heavy squats and gradually decrease the weight until his muscles were exhausted.
It goes without saying that Tom Platz maintained a strict diet to achieve the legs he had. He adhered to a high-protein, low-carb approach which contributed to his leanness and separation.
Kai Greene accomplished a lot throughout his bodybuilding career, yet he’s still often overshadowed by the men who defeated him in several competitions. One thing’s for sure – he had legs that were leagues above the competition in terms of conditioning and mass. His striations, in particular, made his quadriceps pop and look very defined.
Despite never actually winning the Mr. Olympia, Kai Greene had the potential to win several times. His legs, in particular, were a muscle group that always impressed the judges because of their distinct shape. Like others on this list, Greene emphasized heavy squats and leg presses to put on substantial mass in his lower body.
Ronnie Coleman is a staple on any list that talks about the best of bodybuilding. He still holds the title for the most Mr. Olympia wins, and his physique is still talked about due to the sheer amount of mass he had. Although Ronnie was praised for the completeness of his physique, there’s no doubt that his legs stood out.
Coleman was a mass monster in every sense of the term, but his conditioning is what won him a plethora of shows. When comparing him to other bodybuilding greats, it’s evident that his legs had a much larger circumference and were more defined than his peers. His ability to put on a lot of mass is likely linked to his genetics, but Coleman also trained heavier than most bodybuilders. The famous phrase “light weight, baby!” was no gimmick. Heavy squats and leg presses to failure were key to his success.
It’d be difficult to write an article about the best quads in bodybuilding without mentioning Jay Cutler. Cutler won the Mr. Olympia several times throughout his prime in the 2000s, and his legs were key to his success. In his peak years, Cutler would train his legs to exhaustion, focusing primarily on hack squats to target the quadriceps.
Unlike other names on this list, Cutler focused on highlighting his legs through his posing. He popularized the famous “quad stomp” pose which brought attention to the quads via a dynamic movement. Despite not having the most aesthetically pleasing physique, Cutler’s amount of mass gave him an edge against his competitors. It’s likely that his legs contributed to his four Mr. Olympia wins.
Lee Priest had one of the most aesthetic physiques of his era. His muscular development and proportions were considered top tier from a very young age. Priest was blessed in the sense that he had a short stature and great muscle insertions, so his quads reaped the benefits.
Throughout his peak training days, Lee Priest was known to incorporate every major squat variation. He focused primarily on heavy back squats but frequently included front squats and hack squats in his routine. His squat was one of his strongest lifts, likely because his size required less range of motion to properly perform the movement. In addition to several squat variations and lunges, Priest was a fan of doing pyramid sets on leg presses.
Kevin Levrone is an IFBB Hall of Famer who was popular throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. Throughout his career, he won a total of 23 professional competitions, including the Arnold Classic. Although he never won a Mr. Olympia competition, he placed runner-up four times over a period of 10 years.
Levrone’s quads were one of the best aspects of his physique due to their size and symmetry. He differed from many bodybuilders from the ’90s because he wasn’t solely focused on being a mass monster. By all accounts, Levrone represented a good balance between size and aesthetics. His quads were built primarily through heavy squat variations; however, he believed that isolation exercises were key to achieving maximum leg definition.
Chris Cormier was another bodybuilder from the ’90s and 2000s with an impressive resume. He had a successful bodybuilding career, and he was arguably the king of runner-up finishes. Between the years of 1996-2001, Cormier placed second at the Arnold Classic five times, and second at the Ironman Pro three times.
Chris Cormier was similar to Kevin Levrone in the sense that his physique embodied size and aesthetics. Both men competed in the same era and largely shared the same strengths in terms of their physiques. Cormier’s quads, in particular, were very defined and showed separation even when he wasn’t in peak shape. His vastus medialus (the tear drop muscle in the quads) was especially prominent. The bulk of Chris Cormier’s leg development came from heavy squats, quad extensions, and hamstring curls.
Paul DeMayo’s quads were so massive that they almost looked cartoonish. Despite having a relatively short career, DeMayo inspired many people with his physique and by opening up about his personal struggles. He never won a major pro bodybuilding show, but his legs were nonetheless amongst the best of all time. Although he didn’t have the greatest v-taper, Paul was able to put on enough mass to be competitive for several years.
The most remarkable aspect of DeMayo’s physique was his massive vastus lateralis muscles. The vastus lateralis is the largest muscle of the quads, extending down the outside of the leg. DeMayo seemed to put on a lot of mass in this area, and this was evident by how wide and voluminous his quads were. Unfortunately, Paul DeMayo passed away at the age of 37 due to substance abuse complications. He was taken far too young, but he’ll always be remembered for his astonishing legs.
Far too many gym-goers neglect training their legs even though they remain a crucial aspect of a balanced physique. Throughout this article, we’ve covered professional bodybuilders who are considered to have the best quads of all time. Whether you’re looking for inspiration or simply trying to take a walk down memory lane, we hope this article was beneficial.
One thing that the bodybuilders with the best legs have in common is that they emphasized heavy compound lifts. When in doubt, focusing on squats and leg presses will help you develop your legs to a great extent. In addition, doing isolation exercises will help you grow and get any lagging muscle groups up to speed.