Cyclist Squats: The Ultimate Guide!


There are many different ways to squat to build big, strong legs. One of the most effective squat variations for training your quads is called the cyclist squat, AKA the “quad squat.”

Cyclist squats are an advanced exercise variation popularized by Charles Poliquin where you squat with your heels close together and slightly elevated. Cyclist squats allow you to squat with a more upright spine and forward knees which forces your Vastus Medialis and the rest of your quadriceps muscles to work harder than normal.

Here is a perfect demonstration of the cyclist squat:

As you can see the athlete is squatting with his heels elevated and close together. The combination of raised heels and a narrow stance forces you to squat with your knees further over your toes and a more vertical spine. This increases the stress on your quads and takes some of the stress off your lower back, glutes and hamstrings.

There are three different versions of the cyclist squat that you must know about:

  • The cyclist back squat
  • The cyclist front squat
  • The cyclist dumbbell squat

The cyclist back squat is the most popular type of cyclist squat. You just squat with a barbell on your upper traps.

The cyclist back squat is an AWESOME choice if you want to train with higher rep ranges. The cyclist back squat can be slightly tough on your knees if you train with lower reps but if you are using sets of at least 8 reps then this is nothing to worry about.

In my experience the German Volume Training program works perfectly with cyclist squats. German Volume Training is a program where you perform 10 sets of 10 reps with the same weight on each set. Most people need to use their 20-rep max to complete all 10 sets.

Here is a sample German Volume Training leg workout featuring the cyclist back squat. Check it out:

German Volume Training Cyclist Squat Routine

  • A1: Cyclist back squat, 10 x 10, 4/0/2/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Bilateral lying leg curl (feet plantar flexed / pointing straight), 10 x 10, 3/0/2/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Alternating stationary DB lunge, 3 x 12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: 45 degree back extension (holding DB at chest), 3 x 12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

If you are new to cyclist squats then this is an awesome routine to try out. Just make sure you stay conservative with how much weight you use on the squats. Most trainees are surprised at how hard cyclist squats are when you use a true 4/0/2/0 exercise tempo.

Another great variation of the cyclist squat is the cyclist front squat. The basic idea is to perform a front squat with your heels elevated and close together. For example:

This exercise is even more effective than the cyclist back squat for training the quadriceps. It also makes it easier for you to squat with an upright torso.

The one drawback of the cyclist front squat is it should only be performed for a maximum of 6 reps. If you try to perform more than 6 reps on a front squat then your upper back muscles will fatigue faster than your legs and you won’t be able to hold the bar on your back.

Here is a simple cyclist front squat workout that you may want to try. Check it out:

Cyclist Front Squat Workout

  • A1: Cyclist Front Squat, 4-5 x 6, 3/2/X/0, 90 seconds rest
  • A2: Unilateral seated leg curl (feet plantarflexed / pointing out), 4-5 x 6, 3/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B1: Front foot elevated split squat (holding DBs), 4-5 x 6, 2/1/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: Standing barbell good morning, 4-5 x 6, 3/0/2/0, 90 seconds rest

Here are the training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

This workout is perfect for anyone who wants to build bigger, stronger legs.

The last variation of the cyclist squat that you should know about is the cyclist goblet squat. The basic idea is to perform a cyclist squat while holding a dumbbell at chest-height with two hands. For example:

The cyclist goblet squat is more of a beginner-friendly version of the cyclist squat. If you are not very strong on the squat or just want a simple, straightforward way to perform the cyclist squat then this is a great choice. It also works well at the end of a hypertrophy or fat loss lower body workout when you don’t need to use a lot of weight because your legs are pre-fatigued.

The bottom line is cyclist squats are easily one of the most effective squatting variations for building big, strong quadriceps. I highly recommend you start using them in your lower body workouts.

“When you promise yourself something, make a commitment, you can’t give up. Because when you’re in the gym, you have to fulfill the promise you made to yourself. The people who can self motivate – in any field – are usually the ones who win. Regardless of talent.”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

Thanks for checking out my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen and I'm the founder of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to reach your size and strength goals faster then you've come to the right place. My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world. So grab a seat, kick back and relax. There's never been a better time to lift weights or to learn the art and science of strength training program design.

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