Working out your legs is not everyone’s favorite part of their workouts. Sadly, most people spend more time on their upper body and biceps, pecs, etc. However, your legs and lower body are the load-bearing part of your body, and it should be your primary focus to keep your legs and lower body strength. If you have weak legs or a weak core, the strong arms won’t matter!
If you have one of the best leg extension or curl machines you probably have already tried some exercises to tone your legs. However, there are some interesting and beneficial leg extension and curl exercises and tips you can try to enhance your leg workout session. Not all of these will work on all machines, but it is simple to figure out how to customize them for your machine if you get creative.
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Seated Leg Curls
Leg curls are well known for being excellent exercises to develop and strengthen the hamstrings. Hamstrings are critical leg muscles that are used in almost every leg movement. The leg curl is so good for the hamstring it is also called the hamstring curl. Depending on your machine this may be done slightly differently than I describe it here, but you should be able to understand which adjustments need to be made for your situation.
Adjust the weight to the proper amount for your legs. Curls can be harder than extensions so you may have to back off the weight a little bit more than with extensions.
- Sit down on the seat of the machine with your back against the backrest.
- Stretch your legs out straight so that the lower back of your shins (calves’ area) is resting on the pad.
- Curl your legs down toward the ground, bending your knees.
- When your legs are nearly perpendicular to the ground, bring them back up.
- Each time you do this is counted as a single rep.
Leg extensions are excellent for adding muscle mass to your quads. When doing leg extensions, your form is more important than how much weight you are using. The reason form is so important is that s small shift in how you are sitting can take the focus off your quads and shift it to your other muscles, and place unnecessary strain on your back and legs.
Start easy with lightweight and try to work on keeping perfect form. The ideal form is to push your chest out while keeping your spine straight while holding on to the handles.
- While sitting down on the machine, grip the handles.
- Make sure your form is correct with the back straight and chest out.
- Place legs/ankles under the pad with legs about shoulder-width apart.
- Slowly lift the weight until your legs are straight out in front of you.
- Return your legs down to the starting position.
- Each time you repeat this is counted as one rep.
Like normal leg extensions, single leg extensions when done correctly benefit your quads primarily but also add some resistance to the rest of your leg. The cool thing about single-leg extensions is that they can be done with much less weight, making them easier to do while still giving you the benefits you get with double leg extensions.
The form is also important with single let extensions, probably even more so. Keep your back straight and your chest out, while using only one leg to lift, and keeping the other off the pad.
- Adjust the weight to be half or less than half of what you do with both legs.
- Sit on the sitting pad and grab the handles
- Make sure your off leg is sitting off to the side with your foot flat on the floor.
- Your lifting leg should be securely under the pad, with the pad resting between your shin and ankle.
- Lift the weight out in front of you slowly until your lifting leg is nearly parallel to the floor.
- Bring the weight back down to starting position.
- Each time you do it is a single rep.
Standing Leg Curls
Standing leg curls are one of the most effective exercises for your hamstrings. This activity will place the focus on the back of your legs and the hamstrings, giving your hamstrings a full workout. Seated leg curls are similar to standing leg curls, but the incline and way you are positioned while standing focus your hamstrings in a different way (better, in my opinion).
This exercise is much like lying leg curls, only it focuses on the hamstrings in a slightly different way. When you perform this exercise, you will only be doing one leg at a time, unless you can levitate!
- While standing up, look toward the leg curl machine.
- Place your non-lifting foot flat on the ground for stability.
- Grab the back of the chair section of the machine for added stability.
- Place the back of your ankle against the pad.
- Slowly lift the weight upwards until the pad touches the back of your thigh.
- Bring the weight back down to starting position.
- Each one counts as one rep.
Back extensions are not something everyone does in their normal routine, but they should. This is a fantastic exercise that will improve your movement in the lower back. They also help you get a much stronger back overall and help you get better posture. The other overlooked benefit of back extensions is that they help you prevent back injury in the future by strengthening overlooked muscle groups in your back.
Not many people have back extension machines in their home gym setup, but some leg curl machines can do them.
- Adjust the amount of weight on the machine, usually, it should be about the same as the ab crunch weight or a little bit less.
- Sit down on the seat facing the backrest.
- Allow your legs to go under the backrest with your feet on the floor below.
- Cross your arms across your chest like when you do sit-ups.
- Place the pad so it is just below your shoulder blades, about mid to upper mid-back.
- Push your back against the pad and lift the weight as you force it down toward the ground.
- When you have fully extended your back, return to the starting position.
- Repeat this action with one rep counted each time you return to starting position.
This exercise is not possible with every kind of leg extension or leg curl machine, but it works well with some of them like the Xmark. Ab crunches need no introduction as they are one of the most popular exercises. However, performing them on a leg curl machine is not something everyone knows about, and many people have never tried it before. It is possible, and it is just another way to get the most out of your leg extension machine investment.
- Adjust the pad to be the correct height so that it will rest on your chest
- Adjust the amount of weight on the machine, start light, too much weight can hurt your back.
- Scoot to the very front edge of the sitting pad.
- Place both feet flat on the ground and start with your back straight.
- Place both arms on top of the pad, cradling it for stability.
- Bend down forward toward the ground while holding the pad against your chest.
- Return to the starting position slowly.
- Each time you do this, you can count one rep.
Vertical Leg Presses
Vertical leg presses are maybe the most beneficial of the leg presses because they place the focus on the hamstrings and glutes. If you are someone who does a lot of jumping or running, the hamstrings and glutes need to be strong and in shape. Doing vertical leg presses are extremely advantageous to anybody working out at home, but they are especially important to runners, jumpers, and swimmers.
There are stance variations with this exercise, like narrow stance, and wide stance, etc. In the case of these instructions, we are focusing only on the narrow stance, because that is the easiest to do with a leg curl machine.
For this exercise, it is helpful if you have a mat you can use to place some padding under your back.
- Start by adjusting the weight to a comfortable level, you will be using both legs so you can put a decent amount of weight on the machine.
- Lay down with your back flat against the ground.
- Keep your legs together with knees touching or nearly touching each other.
- Place the bottom of your feet on the pad.
- Push up straight against the pad, lifting the weight up.
- Once your legs have extended, return them to starting position.
- Count one rep each time you complete these steps.