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Seated leg extensions allow you to work both legs together.
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Leg extensions target the quadriceps muscles on the front of your thighs. As indicated by the name, four muscles make up the quadriceps group. All four straighten the knee, the action involved in leg extensions. You can perform leg extensions while either seated or standing. Both variations offer benefits, making them worthwhile additions to your leg workouts.
Seated Leg Extensions
To perform a seated leg extension, adjust the seat back of the leg-extension machine so that your knees align with the axis of the machine. Sit on the machine and adjust the height of the ankle pad so that it rests against the front of your ankles. Select an appropriate resistance by setting the pin in the weight stack. Grasp the handles if available. Straighten your knees to lift the lever, then bend your knees to return in control to the starting position. Keep your back in contact with the seat back throughout the exercise.
Standing Leg Extensions
Leg extensions may also be done standing with a cable-pulley machine. Select an appropriate weight by placing the pin in the weight stack of a cable column. Attach the padded cuff to the low pulley. Stand facing away from the column, with the cuff around your right ankle. If available, hold the machine's bar to maintain your balance. Raise your right knee, bringing your thigh to a 45-degree angle. Without moving your thigh, straighten your knee, then bend your knee to return to the starting position in control. Repeat with the left leg.
Both seated and standing leg extensions strengthen the quadriceps muscles. Standing leg extensions work each leg independently, while seated leg extensions allow you to work both legs together. However, you can also work each leg individually in the seated variation by straightening one knee at a time. Because the standing variation requires you to stabilize your body, it helps to develop balance and strengthens your core musculature as well. The seated variation isolates the work to the quadriceps. Individuals with tight hamstrings may find the standing version difficult. If so, lift the thigh to less than 45 degrees to allow you to straighten your knee fully.
To develop strength, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends choosing a resistance that allows you to perform two to four sets of eight to 12 repetitions. Rest two to three minutes between sets of leg extensions and allow at least 48 hours for recovery between strength-training workouts. To stretch your quadriceps, stand and bend your right knee. Hold a bar or wall with your left hand to help with balance. Clasp your right foot with your right hand hand and pull your heel toward your buttock, keeping your knee pointed toward the floor. Hold at the point of a mild stretch in the front of your thigh for 10 to 30 seconds, then repeat with the left leg.