Having strong quadriceps to perform your everyday activities is important and one of the best ways to strengthen your quadriceps is through leg extensions. Located at the front of the thigh, the quadriceps are some of the hardest working muscles in the body. Each time you walk, run, stand up, sit down, squat or jump, your quadriceps are hard at work stabilizing your leg and extending your knee. By combining compound and isometric exercises (including variations of the leg extension) you will protect your knees and develop strong, sculpted legs.
The leg extension is one of the most commonly performed exercises for strengthening the quadriceps. An isometric exercise, the leg extension isolates (or focuses on) the quadriceps. Traditionally performed on a leg extension machine where you work both legs together (as shown in the video below), you can also perform leg extensions singularly (especially during rehab) or with a towel or resistance band.
The leg press is a more functional version of the leg extension and is performed on a leg press machine, either lying on your back or with your hips at a 45 degree angle. The leg press focuses on the quadriceps while also activating the glutes and hamstrings, giving your legs a full workout. As with the leg extension, the leg press can be performed with both legs together or as a single leg press as shown in the video below. The leg press makes a wonderful alternative to squats, especially for beginners or anyone wanting to increase the resistance they use with their legs but who has trouble holding a heavy barbell across their shoulders.
Single Leg Bench Getup
The single leg bench getup is a combination of a squat and leg press and is a fantastic way to target your quadriceps in a similar way to the leg extension. The single leg bench getup involves standing up from a sitting position but only using one leg (the other leg is held slightly in front of you). This video below is an excellent example of how to perform it correctly and really focus on strengthening the quadriceps without any additional weight. This is a great exercise to build up strength for the pistol squat below.
If you really want to challenge yourself, build strength and focus on your quadriceps, you can’t go past the pistol squat. One of the more advanced leg exercises available, the pistol squat is perfect for anyone who is looking for a new and challenging exercise. The pistol squat is performed by holding one leg out in front of you while you perform a full squat on the other leg. It is similar in nature to the single leg bench getup but far more intense.
Leg extensions are a wonderful way to create strong, toned and defined legs. By combining leg extensions with the three alternatives above, you can develop the type of leg strength that will allow you to handle almost anything. Start with 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions and you’ll soon notice the difference to your legs and your fitness.