Building the powerful muscles on the front of your thigh requires a variety of exercises. It's worth adding a mix of compounds and isolation exercises to your routine when stronger quads are among your main goals.
Leg extension is a robust isolation exercise that focuses on your quads. It is the perfect complement to the leg flexion that isolates the thigh muscles. Together, the duo will go a long way to build the thigh muscles front and back.
However, before we go into your leg extensions, it is important to consider the risks of the exercise as it is one that many people deal with, avoiding knee problems. For information on the potential risks and how to avoid them, we talked to Barry's bootcamp master trainer Sandy Macaskill.
What are the risks of leg extension?
Leg extensions are a fairly simple exercise in terms of technique, which is always positive, but they keep your ACL under tension. If you have weak knees or regularly practice sports that change or jump repeatedly, it is important to stretch your legs carefully and with a manageable weight. To be honest, the same applies to any resistance exercise.
Can you give some technical guidance to reduce these risks?
First lift the light. Start with a light load and go from there. You can always build up, unless you push your knees out of the gate. The technique is fairly straightforward, but still you should do the exercise slowly, focusing on pulling your quads together to move the weight, rather than pulling your feet up. To train the right muscles, you really have to concentrate.
What other exercises could people do to train the same muscles without similar risks?
We work at Barry with free weights, so I prefer the good old squat, which attracts more offspring muscles, allows for a greater increase in stress and is a functional exercise. It also offers more variety in terms of changing angles. As with any exercise, squats also have their own problems here. Start with an unweighted squat, look for the right shape, and continue.
Leg Extension Technique
Sit straight on the leg stretching machine. Imagine you have a seat belt that pulls your waist into the seat. Adjust the pad so that it sits just above your feet on your shins pointing forward. Hold the side bars. Make sure you use your quads to speed up the movement and stretch your legs in front of you instead of rolling up with your feet. Then slowly lower it back to its original position.
Leg Extension Variations
Resistance Band Leg Extension
Typically, leg extension is easy to perform only in a gym. Thanks to its dependency on the leg extension machine, you can also train with a resistance band if you want to concentrate on a quad.
Sit on a chair with a resistance band looped around the ankle and the back leg of the chair on the same side. Raise your leg just in front of your body, take a break, and then lower it slowly, keeping the tension throughout the band.
To get a standing version of the movement, anchor a resistance band behind you and place it to the right around the ankle and stand away from the anchor point so the band is stretched. Ideally, you have a chair or something similar to keep your balance during exercise. Lift your right foot and bend under the control of the knee movement to allow your foot to move back and forth. Use your quad to reverse the moment while keeping your foot high.