Train This, Not That: The Leg Edition

The best way to get long shapely legs is to do at least 75 reps in the abductor/adductor machine followed by 75 more reps in the leg extension machine, right? Wrong! Although not necessarily lethal, some of these machines should be avoided to reduce the risk of injury. Plus, there are simply better—and safer—options. 

Once again, we are reviewing some common exercise selections and identifying which ones may not be the safest option for helping your clients achieve their goals.  Here are some potentially dangerous leg exercises and along with better options for a safer and more effective replacement. 

1. Seated Leg Extension

seated leg extension

What makes the leg extension machine a potential hazard? Because the load is on the far end of the leg near the ankles, it places a tremendous amount of torque on the knee, which can potentially cause injury to ligaments and cartilage in the knee.

Goal: Strengthen the quadriceps

Replace With: Squats


Not only do squats target the four muscles of the quadriceps safely and effectively, they recruit even more leg and core musculature than leg extensions. This aids in proper coordination and functional movement to protect the knees and hips for the long run. Plus, adding the double hip extension also works the glutes.

With the feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, lower the hips down and back, keeping the back ankle and shin angle parallel. Choose a depth that is safe for your client’s knees and hips, yet still challenging (this will vary from person to person). Engage the glutes and drive up from the floor. (Options: Body-weight squats or unloaded squats with a suspension trainer) 

2. Seated Hip Adduction/Abduction

seated hip adduction

Contrary to popular belief, spending the afternoon sitting in this machine will not reduce the size of your thighs. While these machines can make the muscles burn, the only way to shrink the fat on the legs is through proper diet and overall conditioning. Furthermore, training these movements from a seated position has little functional use in real life and can put an excessive strain on the lower back. 

Goal: Strengthen the hip adductor group and hip abductor group. 

Replace With: Step-ups and Side Band Walks 


Fitnovatives Blog — Courtesy “American Council On Exercise” (ACEfitness.org)

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