Despite having lesser-known alternatives, the leg extension is a workout that trains legs in the best possible way. It is a classic standard extension exercise for which you will need a leg extension machine. Leg extension exercises are sufficient for the whole leg day routine. The leg extension exercise is a basic movement that one can easily add to their beginner’s workout routine. You can also perform them anywhere with a few booty bands and achieve the perfect leg shape!
Doing leg extensions on the leg extension machines primarily targets the quadriceps along with sculpting the legs. Quadriceps muscles are located in front of the thighs—the rectus femoris and the vast muscles. You have to perform the leg extensions in a seated position, but of course, you can try variations as well! You can promote the muscle definition of your legs and improve lower body strength if you add leg extensions to your strength training routine. This article will discuss everything you need to know about leg extensions, so get ready to build toned legs!
Table of Contents
- What Are Leg Extensions?
- The Best Leg Extension Exercises With Variations
- Benefits of Leg Extensions
- Avoid These Leg Extensions Mistakes
What Are Leg Extensions?
Leg extensions are workouts performed on leg extension machines or weight machines. Also known as knee extensions, you practice this exercise by extending lower legs and bending knees upwards to lift the required weight set on the machine. You can add them into your upper/lower split workout on your lower body workout days. Leg extensions allow you to build strong quads and infuse incredible power and strength into muscle groups of the legs. However, understand that this may not be the correct leg workout for you if you have any knee injury or weak knees. It can damage the knee cap to a great extent if done wrong and also harm the anterior cruciate ligament.
However, with some leg extension variations that do not require machines, one can avoid the severity of the exercise. These variations target the lower body and the legs almost with the same intensity as the leg extensions with machines. So if you want to protect your legs from any type of injury, then stay safe than sorry with assist bands. Yes! You read that right. With a pull-up assist band, you can amplify the resistance in your leg muscle workout and reduce the stress of the weight machines on your knees. This simple practice will significantly increase the number of leg extension muscles you put to work in the leg extension exercise. Thus, assist, and resistance bands are safe and suitable ways to build steeled legs with a lesser risk of injury.
Perform The Standard Leg Extension Exercise With These Steps-
Before hitting your legs with the standard leg extension workout, you have to set up your sitting position on the leg extension machine in a way that the machine pad is at the top of your lower legs, nearly at your ankles. At this point, your knees should be at 90 degrees. Next, select a weight that will allow you to have a moderate load at least for 10 to 12 repetitions. Then, you have to follow the below-given instructions to execute leg extensions correctly-
- Hold the hand bars on each side of your arm.
- Lift the weight with your legs, exhaling till the legs are almost parallel to the floor. Do not lock your knees at this point.
- Rest your back on the backrest and do not move or form an arch.
- Exhale again and the weight back down to the initial position.
- Repeat 3 sets with 8-12 reps.
The Best Leg Extension Exercises With Variations
Create a productive leg day routine for you by adding these different leg extension exercises to your workout routine. You can also pick specific suitable leg extension exercises that fit into your pre-existing workout circuits. You can perform all of these exercises relating to leg extension at home as they do not require a leg extension machine. You can perform them as bodyweight workouts as well. However, if you still wish to perform the exercise on the leg extension machine, you can use them as your warmup leg workouts. This way, you can avoid knee injuries.
It will be wise to execute these exercises for at least 3 sets of 8 repetitions. Gradually your legs will become stronger, and then you can go up with the number of reps. If you desire to increase the intensity of leg extension with resistance or assist bands, select stronger resistance bands. It will improve your fitness levels but make sure you do not exert your body to the limit it cannot tolerate. Also, never forget to warm up with some light cardio and stretch before going for intensive leg extensions. Try these variations of the leg extensions and get your legs to work now!
1. Seated Leg Extension
Take a seat but do not relax! Next, take a band and loop it around both ankles for resistance. Now, follow these steps to execute seated leg extensions-
- Keep your back firm against a chair and legs at a right angle with the floor.
- Lift your left foot from the floor and stretch the leg ahead of you.
- Take your foot back to the initial position.
- Change legs and repeat this movement for at least 8 reps.
If you are looking for the easiest leg extension at home, step-ups are just the right choice for you! You only need a knee height bench, box, or stairs, to work out your leg muscles. This is an excellent exercise that offers light cardio along with improving leg mobility too. Perform leg extension at home by following these steps of step-ups!
- Keeping your legs a shoulder-width apart, stand in front of a stair or bench.
- Firmly place your hands on your love handles. Now, lift your left foot and secure it on the stair or bench while your knee stays at a right angle.
- Then, lift your right foot off the ground and stand firmly on the step or bench.
- Then bring your left foot back to the ground, followed by the right one.
- Repeat and alternate the steps with right and left feet with as many reps as you can do. However, remember to lead with the right foot.
3. Standing Leg Extensions
Do this leg extension at home to work both your core and quads as you gradually increase balance and stability. To begin, loop the resistance band around your ankle and then tie the band to powerful support behind your legs to enhance the intensity of this exercise.
- Stand firm with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Slightly lift your left leg off the floor while you bend the left knee a little bit.
- Stretch your left leg forward with the help of the bending knee.
- Finish at least 8 reps of this exercise without lowering the foot on the floor.
- You can change legs and perform repetitions for single leg extension.
4. Resistance Band Squats
Resistance band squats will never disappoint you to build strong and aesthetic legs. Perform leg extensions at home with resistance band squats following these steps-
- With your feet shoulder-width apart, firmly plant your feet on a resistance band.
- Hold the ends of the resistance band up and bring them against your shoulders.
- Ground your body into the squat position.
- Repeat and try to hit at least 8 reps.
5. Bulgarian Split Squats with Resistance Band
Bulgarian split squats hit your glutes and quats like no other move! It is a single squat movement but is highly effective in strengthening leg muscles. Prepare for the move by getting a resistance band and a low-level bench to rest one leg and then follow the below-given steps to practice this leg extension at home easily-
- With your feet shoulder-width apart, stand firm with your back facing a bench.
- Firmly stand on one end of the resistance band and loop the other end over your shoulders.
- Lift your other leg and place the foot behind you, and rest it on the bench.
- Bend your knee until your thigh becomes parallel to the floor.
- Simultaneously, keep bending your back knee till it rests against the floor. Do this with your back foot placed firmly on the bench.
- Return to the opening position and repeat.
- Change legs after 8-12 reps.
Benefits of Leg Extensions
With all-round development of legs, leg extensions top the list for leg workouts. Just like the big biceps workout and triceps workout focus on the endurance of the upper body, leg extensions target the strength of the lower body. The fundamental reasons why you should incorporate it in your workout routine are-
- Open Chain Movement- In technical language, Leg extensions can be called “ open-chain kinetic” exercises. During regular squats, your legs are on the ground, making them a “closed chain kinetic exercise.” On the other hand, while you do leg extensions, your legs move to raise the padded bar, so your legs are not stationary; therefore, the chain of movement is open in leg extensions, unlike squats.
- Optimum Quads building- Leg extensions build quads in a balance, unlike mild cardio like walking or running where the focus is on hamstrings.
- Better athletic performance- With strength in the legs and feet, you bolster your kicking movements. So ultimately, your performance at sports such as soccer, martial arts, etc., gets better.
Avoid These Leg Extensions Mistakes
To derive the optimum benefits and avoid strains, take care of these mistakes when you perform leg extensions-
- Heavy lifting– Pick weights as per your fitness level and take suggestions from your trainer. Initially, hitting heavyweights can cause strain and injury; therefore, be particular about your weight selection when you go for leg extension.
- High Repetitions– Target your quads with moderate-weight leg extension of 3 sets with 8-12 reps. Remember that you do not require endurance sets on the leg extension machine.
- Speed– High speed in this leg workout really does not has any effect on the efficacy as you use momentum for speed and not muscle engagement.
- Keep the legs straight– Do not lock the knees during leg extensions as it can cause strain and injury in the knee joint.
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Precautions For Leg Extensions
- If you have any knee, thigh, or ankle injuries, seek prior advice from a doctor, physical therapist, or training expert before adding leg extensions to your workout routine.
- In case you wish to avoid any leg strain, experts say you can go for full-depth squats instead of leg extensions.
- Be mindful of the form you use for leg extensions and mix it with other quads workouts to ensure the correct form. Stop performing this exercise immediately if you experience any pain or injury in the knee or ankle.
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The Takeaway For Leg Extensions
You can try leg extensions either on the leg extension machine at the gym or try all of these leg extension variation exercises at home without a leg extension machine. Leg extensions are excellent for working on multiple leg muscles, build a strong lower body, and improve your overall fitness using these effective exercises. Create a terrific leg day for you by adding these leg extensions at home. All you need is resistance bands, the right guidance, and a lot of motivation!