If we made a list of our favorite leg movements, Leg Curls and Leg Extensions would be pretty high up on the list. If you’re new to working out, new to lifting at a gym or just haven’t played around with machines very much, you may or may not be aware of the magic that is the Leg Curl Machine and Leg Extension Machine.
When coming from a CrossFit / Functional Fitness background, using machines might feel super foreign and unappealing. Trust us, we get it! If you happen to have machines available at your gym, we can’t recommend enough to add these to your weekly leg routine.
Due to the way these exercises target your leg muscles, they can be beneficial for aesthetics and also offer incredible carry-over to other lifts you already love doing. For example, since Leg Extensions work the quads, they can help improve your squat. Reversely, Leg Curls do a great job of working the hamstrings and thus will help you improve at things like deadlifting.
Both the Leg Curl and the Leg Extension are isolation movements, which means they focus on or target very specific muscle group(s). In a compound exercise like a squat, it’s difficult to target specific muscles because the lift requires work from the glutes, the hamstrings, the calves, the core, etc.
When we incorporate isolation movements into our workout routines, we are able to focus on the activation of those muscles on their own, and that helps us build strength in the areas that might not get the most attention during our compound lifts.
Leg Curls (Hamstring Movement)
Benefits of Leg Curls:
– Targets hamstrings
– Can be done seated or lying down
Tips for Using the Leg Curl Machine:
– Set the machine so knees can hang free
– Move with a controlled tempo in both directions
– Avoid jerking the hips off the pad
At-Home Leg Curls:
– Try laying on your back and using a rolling surface (Concept 2 Rower, exercise ball, skateboard, etc)
– Anchor your body on your back/shoulder blades
– Feet on the rolling surface, booty in the air, then slide that surface back and forth – boom!
Leg Extensions (Quad Movement)
Benefits of Leg Extensions:
– Targets quads
– Directly targets the Rectus Femoris (the biggest quad muscle on our legs)
– Squats and similar movements can hit the *other* 3 quad muscles of the leg EXCEPT for the rectus femoris (since it goes from hip to knee)
Tips for Using the Leg Extension Machine:
– Set machine so knees hang free, leg pad rests on or above ankles
– Use machine handles to pull yourself down on the machine as you complete reps
– Move with a controlled tempo
At-Home Leg Extensions:
– Sit on a flat bench with a foam roller or yoga block under your knees, with your legs hanging off the end of the bench
– Place a dumbbell on top of your feet or hold it between your feet
– Anchor yourself by holding the bench/roller in place and extend your legs upward
– Maintaining the position of the dumbbell will force you to move slowly and focus on your tempo and form
Try This Sample Workout
Next time leg day rolls around, try adding this little burner to your routine (:
Leg Curls OR Leg Extensions:
1-2 warm-up sets (increasing in weight)
1 Challenging Set x 15 Reps
Rest 2-3 minutes
Complete 30 Reps in as few sets as possible
Rest 15-20 seconds between sets
Need A Better Program?
@paragontrainingmethods = the life-changing workouts, coaching, + online fitness community you’ve been searching for to help you build muscle, achieve your goals, and look/feel your best.
Whether your goal is to run AND lift, workout 3 days per week, lift from home, enjoy things that you love (CrossFit, Olympic Lifting, Peloton), or simply just want to look/feel your best, we have fun and effective remote workouts that will get you there!