While the leg extension might seem fairly simple there are a few things to be aware of to be sure of getting the most from the exercise. Full contraction and maximum lengthening of the muscles is necessary. But this can only be achieved by setting up the leg extension machine correctly, not by just loading more and more weight until you develop knee problems and can’t train your legs at all.
What Is A Leg Extension
The leg extension is an isolation exercise for the quadriceps muscles of the thigh (rectus femoris and vastus). It is best done at the start or end of leg workout for pre- or post- exhaustion. The leg extension machine looks pretty straightforward. Adjust the backrest and the pad for the legs and that’s all there is to it. At least that’s what many people think. In reality there a few key points to be aware of to get the most from it without injuring your knees.
The first thing to do with the leg extension machine is to adjust the backrest so that your knees are not too far forward, as this is what can cause injury to the knees. It doesn’t want to be too far back either, as this will prevent you from bending your leg properly. The easiest thing to do is have your knees in line with the axis of the part of the machine that moves during the exercise, which is often highlighted so you know where it is.
Next adjust the pad so that it is comfortably in front of your ankles, locate the handles and hold on, otherwise you might find yourself lifted out of the seat as your work. Some people don’t do this because momentum and bodyweight allows them to add more resistance, in other words cheat, which is also the reason for a small range of movement. While this does depend on the design of the machine you should be able to bend your legs to 90 degrees, then straighten them fully.
How To Do The Leg Extension
1. After setting up the machine correctly, hold on to the handles and extended your legs. Because of the way the resistance is applied it is safe, and most effective, to fully straighten your legs.
2. The easiest, and therefore the most common, thing to do is immediately return to the start position. Instead hold the extended position for a second.
3. Return to the start position with control without allowing the weight stack to crash down because, not only is this losing the tension on your muscles it’s a clear signal to everyone else in the gym that you don’t know what you’re doing. And we don’t want that! Instead do not allow the weights to return to the stack until you’re finished.
Notes For Leg Extension
1. Set the leg extension machine up correctly – knees in line with the axis and pad in front of the ankles.
2. Use the handles to keep yourself fully in the seat. Letting yourself be lifted up is cheating and a great way to damage your knees.
3. Straighten your legs so that you contract your muscles fully and hold this for a second.
4. Return to the start position with control so you get an eccentric contraction that takes 3 – 7 seconds depending on your training goals.
5. The usual foot position is to have them vertical, but by pointing them inwards or outwards slightly you can focus the effort on different muscles of the quadriceps.
6. If you’re wanting to do the leg extension with the greatest range of movement, sit up. Instead of leaning against the backrest sit up so that the quadriceps muscles are shortened, but be sure to keep a good posture and a straight back.
As always, any questions or feedback leave a comment below.